mercredi 30 juillet 2014

Watch : Sleepy Hollow Season 1, by Alex Kurzman and Roberto Occi.

Following a mission from George Washington, Ichabod Crane beheads a Hessian soldier, and in the process looses his life. He is resurrected two and a half centuries later, as the Headless Horseman is summoned.
Lieutenant Abbie Mills starts investigating the Headless horseman, following the decapitation of her mentor, the Sheriff August Corbin.  Ichabod and Abbie's destinies will be closely intertwined, as they try to resolve the mysteries and strange events suddenly happening in Sleepy Hollow.

I don't want to give away too much about this tv show, as it would spoil it ;)
I really love the Ichabod and Abbie's relationship. Ichabod is  catapulted into modern Sleepy Hollow, where everything has changed. He brings an interesting point of view on things, as much as he is freaking out or revolted about how things have changed. For example, he is shocked that the doughnut holes cost $4.95 (and he's really shocked by the tax).
He gets surprised about how many Starbucks there are in town, or that you have to pay for bottled water.
He has a very pertinent eye on things.
Ichabod's story, we will discover, is more linked than he initially thought to the headless horseman.
I love the fact that he keeps his antique costume for most of the series, but for an episode where he tries the "constrictive" skinny jeans.  Needless to say, Tom Mison's accent and voice are a little extra

Abbie is a very interesting female lead. She was initially going to become a member of the FBI, but decides to stay in Sleepy Hollow to resolve her mentor's death. She happens to be the witness of the apocalypse. She has a sister, Jenny, who was sent to an institution following one of their childhood events. Abbie will have to cope all the first season with the fact that she tried to avoid facing her past, out of fear of being instutionalized too. But Abbie Mills will prove to be brave, resilient and quick witted. Her sister, Jenny (Lyndie Grenwood), is a tough woman who had to live a secluded life, and felt betrayed by her sister, which creates a tense atmosphere between the two.

Ichabod and Abbie will build a friendship based on loyalty, and maybe more. Their relationship reminds me a bit of Mulder and Scully in The Xfiles (ah beloved 90's tv show!).

The Headless horseman himself is a wonderful character, he adapts himself to modern weaponry and when his identity is revealed its such a big shock!

Katrina, Ichabod's wife, is stuck in a Limbo, where Moloch, the main antagonist, keeps her prisoner.
Once Ichabod discovers this fact, he will do anything to find her back.

Captain Irving (Orlando Jones) is a great character, you cannot help but wonder whose side he is with for the first few episodes. In the season finale, he has to make a terrible choice, which might compromise our two protagonists's future.

John Cho plays the agent of the evil forces, who is tortured between his feelings for Abbie, and his fear of the evil forces. He tries to gain redemption by helping Abbie resolving the cases.

John Noble is the cherry on the cake. He plays Henry Parrish, the Sin Eater, a much more complex character than you could think. I just think he is brilliant in that role, and I cannot wait to see how is character develops during season 2.

The costumes are brilliant, and so is the whole city of Sleepy Hollow, including the past version. There is a whole mythology of monsters and creatures, artefacts, and boobytrapped places, which make me enjoy each episode as much as a good old Indiana Jones.
The sense of quest and fight between good and evil is here, but nothing is black or white.
The season ends in an epic season finale, which will leave you in an agony to wait for season 2 . You will be lucky, if you just discover Sleepy Hollow, and will just have to wait a little bit less than two months for season 2.

OH ! in other Sleepy Hollow related good news, Noelle Stevenson, the creator of Nimona ( GO AND READ IT!), will be working on the comic book version, it makes me so happy!

Next season 22 of September!

vendredi 25 juillet 2014

Read: THomas Alsop, by Chris Miskiewicz and Palle Schmidt -Boom Studios

Thomas Alsop is the current “Hand of the Island,” a title handed down from generation to generation. He guards Manhattan from evil, using his family’s prowess for magic. Being a thoroughly modern warlock, he deals with something even more evil than demons… reality television! (resume by Boom Studios)

Thanks to Dave's binge reading lately, I have discovered this very original graphic novel.
I love the title character, as he is an overmediatized warlock, behaving like Charlie Sheen. He is overundulging into alcohol, and having a tendency to blow up things. He has inherited his ancestor's title of Hand of the island (which happens to be Manhattan). To help him, he has a room full of artifacts, which I hope to discover more and more about.
I find it interesting to mix two polar opposites: Reality TV's superficiality and novelty, opposed to the secular knowledge of supernatural and magic.
It swings nicely between humor and dramatic.
Evil entities are present, and build up into an evil organisation in volume two. I wonder how it is going to tie in to the present.

What really caught my eye was  Palle Schmidt 's art, made in watercolour and brushes. There is so much depht in the colours, and the drawings are blending perfectly with Chris Miskiewicz's story.  Sometimes it turns to dark lavis, for flashbacks about Richard Aslop, the first hand of the island. And suddently there is a splash of red.
It's really letting place for imagination, and I love that sometimes, frames are left without any text needed, making the island itself a character (I sometimes find american comics can be overloaded and don't let place for silence, here it's not the case).

The issue number two leaves us on a cliffhanger absolutely incredible and dramatic, which might be a life changer for Thomas Alsop.
I'm looking forward to read issue three, it's going to be hard to wait!
                                                          Original cover by Palle Schmidt

EDIT Here is the website for THomas Alsop, thank you Palle Schmidt!

samedi 19 juillet 2014

Eat: Wild Plum and lemon thyme clafoutis.

Following yesterday's foraging of wild plums and lemon thyme, I have decided to make a typical summer french recipe: a Clafoutis!

 Clafoutis  is a dessert originated from Limousin, in France, and was created in the 19th century.
It is initially made with black cherries, and you cook it with the pits, as they will give a nice almond flavor. I'm used to make it without the pits, as it drives my father crazy. If people eating with you are more patient, keep the pits, it will make a big difference!

The base of a clafoutis is a kind of flan, I think there is nothing more simple, and as enjoyable.

My grandad used to make it with cherries from the garden, and sprinkled it with that chouquette sugat (grain sugar). It's the kind of cake, where I cannot control my appetite, it's so moorish and comforting. I loved sitting in the veranda with my family, after a day playing in the garden, and eat grandad's clafoutis. Of course my grandad always kept the pits, to my dad's despair hehe...

125 g flour
300 g pitted wild red plums
75g melted butter
50 g sugar
250 ml of double cream ( if you are lactose intolerant, replace by soycream, it will still be gorgeous)
3 eggs
6 g baking powder (or half a sachet baking powder)
1 Pinch of salt
4 flower heads of Lemon Thyme (yes, it is a variety of thyme, with a powerful lemon flavor)
Grain sugar, as much as you wish! (I never succeed to find some sadly, but that's what grandad uses for his clafoutis!) . If you don't find it, replace by sugar.

Preheat the oven at 150 degree celsius

Dispose some flour in a mixing bowl.
Make a volcano.
Add the cream, the sugar and the salt.
Mix well.
Add the melted butter, the thyme and the yeast.
Butter a 20 cm round cake tin. Sprinkle with flour.
Pour the batter into the cake tin.
Dispose carefully your fruits. I like to have the red top of the plums appear, it looks like gems!
Sprinkle with grain sugar.

Bake until a blade comes out clean!

vendredi 18 juillet 2014

Eat: A bag of wild plums, sage, and chives...

When I was a kid, my grandparents used to have a gigantic garden, with many fruits growing in it...pears, cherries, red currants, strawberries, figs. It was just heavenly  to go outside and pick whatever we wanted to nibble on instead of candies. The way my grandad and parents were setting it was very traditional.
But one of our favorite things was to go out of this garden, and go into the wild of the Mount Cesar, and pick things we found...that must have beem some of my first experiences of foraging.
It went from mushrooms (with the supervision of my family), blackberries, hazelnuts or even asparagus!( I'm quite lucky in the fact that our grandad and our parents know amazing things about plants, and they are always teaching me so much every time I see them. They taught a lot because I had the bad habit of eating whatever I found berry or mushroom wise...)
It was to us children, a kind of treasure hunt, when we found something, it was like finding the Holy Grail. And as we came back home, there was the pride of eating what we had found, in sometimes very sneaky places ( back then it was quite easy to crawl to get asparagus beneath trees).

Then I moved to Rennes, and had to give up on these treasure hunts, but for some occasions, I could sometimes find hidden gems. I was dearly missing these moments of freedom in the countryside.

As I moved to Manchester, and most precisely, in Levenshulme, Dave and I discovered Highfield Park. This place is a gem for foraging, you can find anything, from wild plants, that you would consider to be weeds, but are actually edible, to mushrooms, blackberries, Hazelnuts....
We thought we had discovered everything!

So, today, I was supposed to do some printing with Jo, and she had the amazing idea to go outside to make some sketches! And there we went to highfield, armed with our sketchbooks and drawing supplies. We sat a while drawing in the sunshine, and it was blissful.

Then we had a nice walk, and I showed her the secret little forest, all mossy and with small weird trees. Generally we find mushrooms, but today this beautiful forest was covered with red wild plums!

It was a kind of magical moment, we were just so surprised to find it, and discover this at that very same place , where last year there was nothing...
So we opened  our handbags, and filled them with plums! Some plums had hedgehog bites on them. (You need to hear once in a lifetime a hedgehog eat a plum)

Right now I'm sitting home, with the heavy scent of these beautifully juicy and ripe plums. I'm still hesitating between just enjoying them raw, making a crumble, or a many possibilities with this beautiful harvest.
Foraging season has officially started!!!

dimanche 13 juillet 2014

Watch/Read: Adventure Time, with Finn and Jake

                                                    Adventure Time, with Finn And Jake

In 2010, a cartoon series created by Pendleton ward started on cartoon network. It quickly became a sensation. I discovered it during free comic book day ( at Travelling man), and luckily enough, Netflix has its first season.

This cartoon is set in a post apocalyptic world of Ooo. Finn the Human is the last of his race, and he lives with his adoptive brother, Jake the dog. Both have decided to live a Hero lifestyle, saving people as they try to complete their quests and treasure hunts. Recurrent characters are  Princess Bubblegum, a  DR Frankenstein like character, who has created the candy kingdom citizens, Marcelline, the vampire Queen, a music enthusiast, and the ice King, a villain you just end up loving to bits, even if he has the bad habit of kidnapping princesses.
The Ice King likes writing fan fictions, where he creates feminine Alter Egos of our two heros, Fionna and Cake. This character has a tragic back story (which I still need to discover).

I really like the world created here, very much inspired by Dungeons and Dragons (ah childhood). It is a weird and sweet show, with a dark sense of humor. Sometimes you will be totally surprised by a dark twist, or some scary scenes (definitely not a tv show I would show to young kids).

Love every character features, some being quite not so important in the story, but still having their place, like Treetrunks, the elephant who bakes apple pies, or BMO, the gameboy who has a personality disorders.

I really enjoyed the episode, where Finn, wanting to be a bit more anomymous, disguises himself with a mustache As Davey Johnson, and ends up believing he is that alternate personality.
The episode where Marcelline's dad tricks her into wearing a necklace which transforms her into the evil ruler of the nightosphere is a really powerful one, with an important message.

Music plays an important role in this TV show, I dare you not to get a few of the silly tunes stuck in your head!

Adventure time is a surprising cartoon, a perfect little show to watch during breakfast, or for a cheerful sunday...

Have a good week!

mercredi 9 juillet 2014

Read:" THe stress of her regard" and "Hide me among the graves", by Tim Powers.

One of the lovely things about moving in with a gentleman, is to discover his books (and also for him to discover your own books).
 Dave recommended me these two books: :The stress of her regard" and "Hide me among the graves". I just wonder how I could not notice them (huh, a bit like I did with Game of thrones...).

The first book follows the story of Michael Crawford, who is about to marry. On a stormy night, before his marriage with Julia, he puts the ring on a statue, to avoid losing it. When he goes to retrive it, the statue and the ring have disappeared.
The day after his wedding, he wakes up next to the mutilated remains of his wife.
Little did he know he has married a Nephilim, and Nephilims are deadly jealous. As he flees from London to Swizerland, he will meet Lord Byron and Percy Blysse Shelley, who are also linked to the creatures. All the way he is pursued by Julia's insane sister, Josephine, who wants to avenge her sister's death.

Hide me among the graves is a follow up of the first book. You then follow John Crawford, who years ago, lost his son and wife. We discover the Nephilims are back, even more powerful. One day, a woman whom he had met on a a bridge, visits him again, and reveals they had a daughter, and she is now prisoner of one powerful Nephilim: Polidori.
Their destinies will be intertwined with Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriele Rossetti, and John Edward Trelawny the adventurer. Lurking are, Polidori, a Giant Woman, and a dead child with long arms and  a wicked smile.

I cannot really dissociate the two books from one another. I devored "The Stress of her regard", spending some sleepless nights, as I was so taken by this book.
In the first book, every page was a surprise, alternated with historical facts concerning real characters like Byron and Shelley. The tragedies in their lives are caused by the vampires/ muses. I really felt I was following the characters in the locations, and it made me want to read about these pillars of litterature.
One of the most powerful characters in this book is without a doubt Josephine. She let a very strong impression in my mind. She is deranged, somehow crazy, and its quite incredible to see how her character evolves in the book. I think it is one of the strongest female characters I've read about in years!

Hide me Among the graves, was much more horrific, there was a much stronger sense of dread.
I liked seeing Boddiccea as a Nephilim, she is truly terrifying in all appearances. The ghost boy is also gritty and spooky. I loved finding Michael Crawford's son years after the events of the first book, and discovering a new strengh. Mc Kee is again a strong female character, who is  leading the hero through their adventures, and he does not hesitate to follow her one second. I love the link with the Rossettis, this incredibly talented and cultivated family. The character of Christina wakes up Polidori, through some of her father's schemes. Her secluded religious life is explained by the fact she gave herself to a Nephilim when she was 14.
The scenes in the sewers are deranging and breath taking, but there is a certain beauty in wandering through these places. the action is epic and there are real moments of bravery!

There is that sense of attraction/repulsion which is dealt with in both books. Is inspiration worth all the suffering? is creativity the most important thing?

I highly recommend these two books, if you like fantasy, horror, and history.

Have a good read!

lundi 7 juillet 2014

Eat: Ginger's Comfort Emporium quirky ice creams...

Even before moving to Manchester, I had heard about Ginger's Comfort Emporium.
David was raving about "Chorlton's crack", a savant mix of Peanut butter and salty caramel. I was thinking, it couldn't beat Bertillon in Paris, but I was wrong!

For a person who has been living a bit more than 12 years in Brittany, THE place for salty caramel, and also an avid peanut butter addict, I absolutely melted with the first spoon.

Ginger's Comfort Emporium is a Manchester based business, created by Claire Kelsey and Dan Manicolo. It all started in a lovingly decorated van, which reminds me of Vintage Circuses and candy shops...
The van itself is a character, with its pink and burgundy decoration, gold leaf details and a beautiful golden wooden framed menu blackboard.

But what truly surprised me on my first experience, was the surprising flavors, just the names made me dream! "Marmalade on Toast","Extra Virgin Olive oil"," Lemon and Orange Blossom", "Green Meanie" (with Absynthe), ...the most surprising being the occasional "Camel Milk" flavor!
I once stopped there with French visiting friends (Pauline and Kevin) and the service by Dan was caring and smiling, he was a real sunshine

These are definitely ice cream for grown ups, but kids will still ask for more! (of course avoid any alcohol ice cream for kids).

They now have a shop in the famous Affleck's Palace, with a beautiful view on the city. Just going to Affleck's is an experience in itself. You pass through the Vintage clothing shop, and here Ginger appears...The place is cozy and quirky, and keeps its beautiful color palette...
You can stand on a high chair at the counter, or sit in the comfortable theater like sofas...
They have gleaned giant suitcases, retro record player, and even a massage chair ;)
I quite like the fact that the music is not over loud (because heh, when you eat with friends, you want to be able to have a good chat?).
 They serve their range of original ice creams, but also milkshakes, and a well balanced coffee.

When you eat in the shop, the ice cream is served into a cup, with a cone! a good extra, as generally, these are missing when you eat on site. The cone itself is crispy and full of flavor. The portion is  generous for one scoop. The prices are reasonable when you consider the high quality and selection  of unusual ingredients (around 3,50 a scoop if you are siting in). There is a real savoir faire.

I tried this time the delicious Extra Virgin olive oil. The balance of flavors is perfect, as the olive oil brings a green bitterness which is absolutely surprising, then it lets space for the sweet creamy flavor, with a nice pinch of salt.
Of course, David had his usual Chorlton Crack, in all its peanut buttery and caramely decadence...

Good news for you, now you can also buy the ice cream in 500 ml pot (Between 7,50 and 8 pounds a pot), if you want to bring a nice treat home for a movie night, with friends, or alone!

If you are too far away, why not trying their book "Melt"? you will be able to prepare at home delicious gourmet ice creams.

Give it a try, you will leave with a big smile on your face!

Edit the10th of July: Making a Summer 2014 re-entrance - FENNEL POLLEN with it's fragrant notes of honey and anise. Also LAVENDER from their garden, and on the sorbet front, PEAR & HIBISCUS, YUZU FRUIT, and GRAPEFRUIT & ORANGE BLOSSOM! So much goodness for you over summer. Levenshulme Market Camp & Furnace Beatherder Festival, Secret Garden Party Festival. Altrincham Market

vendredi 4 juillet 2014

Eat: Pandan Sundae

Summer is here, and I'm craving for ice cream!
But I have become so disappointed with mass produced ice creams, that lately, either I run to Ginger Comfort Emporium (, or I end up making my own...

This recipe is initially made with Vanilla extract, but I found it a bit random, so i decided to try it with Pandan Extract.
Pandanus Amaryllifolus is a plant of the screwpine genus. You can either use the leaves, to create teh famous bright green pandan extract, or eat the fruit (which tastes a bit like mango).
Pandan extract has a very nutty/biscuity taste...try to remember these gorgeous green chinese rice cakes! When I was a kid, my parents used to bring me to a Vietnamese restaurant, l'Orchidee, where they served these delicious cakes, made of sticky rice and Mungo beans for dessert. I miss this restaurant, which my friend Kim held for a few years. I think it started my passion for east asian food :)

For this quick pandan ice cream, you will need:

175 ml sweet condensed milk
450 ml double cream (I recommend a good quality jersey cream)
2 Teaspoons of Pandan extract

* Mix all the ingredients together.
* Let it cool in the refrigerator. This will help rise better when whipping.
* Whip your preparation until soft peaks form. Don't over beat it, otherwise it will curdle!

Freeze for 3 hours.

If you have an ice cream maker, like a magimix for example, just follow the recipe, and then whip it in your ice cream maker just before serving! it will be very light and fluffy!

As it freezes, prepare a very simple chocolate fudge sauce.

50 g dark chocolate
4tbsp water
120ml condenses milk
25g Butter

* Put all the ingredients into your pan and let is melt.
*Cool down

Now prepare your sundae cups! I always put the serving cups in the freezer before serving, so the ice cream does not melt too quickly.
 Scoop your ice cream, between each scoop you can add exotic fruits and  Nata de coco. Nata de coco is a translutent jelly issued from the fermentation of coconut water, it has such refreshing taste, and the texture goes so very nicely with ice cream!
Then add whipped cream, and decorate with fruits and a waffer, if you are really cheeky.
Finally drizzle with the chocolate fudge sauce.

If you don't like chocolate, make a simple fruit sauce, by blending for example  225g  mango, the juice of one orange,  50gr or less sugar.

Mr Carden asks for this recipe frequently, and I quite like to make it if I have friends visiting and I want something simple but still bursting with flavor!

I hope you will enjoy,

take care,

Elisabeth Neveux

mardi 1 juillet 2014

Watch: Bram Stoker's Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola

THis week, the trailer for "Dracula:Untold" has aired, so I decided to treat myself with  Bram Stoker's Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola.

This version of Dracula is closely based on Bram Stoker's classic novel of the same name. A young lawyer (Jonathan Harker) is assigned to a gloomy village in the mists of eastern Europe. He is captured and imprisoned by the undead vampire Dracula, who travels to London, inspired by a photograph of Harker's betrothed, Mina Murray. In Britain, Dracula begins a reign of seduction and terror, draining the life from Mina's closest friend, Lucy Westenra. Lucy's friends gather together to try to drive Dracula away. Written by Goth <>

Gary Oldman as Dracula
Winona Ryder as Wilhemina Murray Harker
Anthony Hopkins As Dr Abraham Van Helsing
Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker
Tom Waits as Reinfield!
Sadie Frost as Lucy Westenra
Carie Elwes as Quincy P Morris

Evertthing starts in 1462.  One of the first sequences of the movie, which is treated like a shadow puppet theater, on a red blood sky. This scene is so graphic and cleverly made, it takes away some of the violence, because as you guess, you see Vlad tepes Impaling a man during war. Every time I saw this movie , I was thinking it reminded me of Mike Mignola's work , for its statues and really sharp shadows.
Until one day, when looking absent mindedly the end credits, I discovered Mike Mignola had worked as an illustrator on the movie, and also the comic book adapted from it. My mind was blown!

The story itself is really closely inspired by the original novel by Bram Stoker.  There are some changes, like for example Mina Being the reincarnation of Elizabeta, Dracula's wife .

About Dracula's appearance, I love the different phases Oldman goes through. From livid with victory rolls alike hairdo, robed into a crimson kimono richly embroidered. He is decayed and terrifying, he has a snake like appearance.
I love how is shadow is so important in the movie. You can see it prey on Jonathan Harker, and also on Mina and Lucy during the party.
He is a wolf like creature, after the shipwreck, when he rapes and bites Lucy Westenra.
When he moves to London, his appearance changes to that of a thin youthful man, with a sharply cut victorian suit. He also adorns a top hat, and to add to his strange appearance, he has long curly hair and blue sunglasses. He becomes all seduction, and then says the words "See me now" to Mina Murray (hence ending the hyptonic transe he started when he was raping Lucy).

Mina is a character I can sometimes find annoying, but as soon as she comes to meet Dracula , she takes some depth. As her memories from her previous life re-emerge, a lingering sensuality develops between her and the Prince Vlad. I still find she becomes much more interested when she discovers he is a prince hehe ;) ( an Elizabeth Bennett Syndrom?)
 I can kind of understand she falls for Dracula, who is voluptuous and much more tactile than Harker.
You can notice it in that scene where the wolves comes to the cinematograph, and where their hands intertwine in the wolf's white furr.

 Harker  (Keanu Reeves) is a character which does not catch any sympathy, he is maybe the most boring of all. He has a certain kind of coldness , and maybe is he a bit too perfect (even if he had a very special time with the three brides of Dracula).

Reinfield  (Tom Waits) is impeccable, he brings the creepiest out of that character, all in subtelty. the scenes in the asylum are grimy, and the blue lighting effects, with strong shadows, are really stricking! He becomes a subject of study to Jack Seward, who tries to decipher his violen habits, but also his peculiar food tastes.

The seduction and erotism play such a big part in this movie. The colours show it vividly, alternating for dark blue/grey/greens, to bright red.
Bright red you find in that scene where Dracula and Mina drink Absinthe. Her dress is luxuriously red as blood, when before she used to be dressed up in light colours in the cold hue.

 Even if Dracula admits to Mina that he killed Lucy, her best friend, she cannot help but love him, and give in to him in such an abandon ("Take me away from all this death").

The rest of the events will be a fight against time to avoid Mina's transformation. Lucy's ex suitors will team with Harker and Van Helsing to save her from turning too....

I don't want to give away too much details, as to me it would ruin the movie.
I think this movie is really incredible. i love the fact that Coppola decided to use traditional special effects, instead of going CGI. He worked in a very traditional way, and I think this is what gives that movie such a soul.

The storyboard artist Peter Ramsey created was inspired by classical art. 
Special mention for Eiko Ishioka (who sadly passed away). She was the costumer, and largely contributed to the shape of the characters. Her costumes were like jewels.
Her Dracula's armour is as if made of red muscles. It makes Dracula's appearance terribly menacing and impressive.

 I recommend warmly the 15th anniversary dvd, as there are bonuses about the movie's making off, it's a real treat. The cover itself is regal, with a splendid photo of Dracula in his red kimono.

What did you think of that movie? I think this is one of the movies people love or hate...