The Three-Step Capsule Wardrobe: Getting Started


I received a few requests after my wardrobe editing posts to write something more specific about why I purchased certain things, how I settled on a color palette, and how I coordinated items. I hope this answers those questions sufficiently and isn't just a rehash of previous posts, but I have to say, it was sort of an accident. I didn't do a spreadsheet or employ precise methodology, I thought about what I already liked wearing and what I wanted to wear.

For spring, take colors you feel good in and wear them together, whether they theoretically match or not. Try treating favorite colors or patterns as neutrals- for instance, you can mix red, green, purple, and leopard with anything- then add a few accents and statement colors for variety. Once you figure out what colors you like wearing, you can organize a functional capsule wardrobe. Note: This is not advocating capsule wardrobes necessarily. I myself don't have a capsule wardrobe, I just don't own many clothes.


I. Select Key Pieces


Before relocating, I got rid of clothes that screamed "I'm a tourist" and weren't practical for my new life- giant heels, loud prints, fragile coats and sweaters. Later, I gradually parted with things that didn't fit my changing body or new lifestyle, keeping favorite, "signature" pieces, pictured above. Key pieces are the ones you love best. For me, these are the items that fit well, garnered the most compliments, and were comfortable, versatile, and durable. Don't fixate on a particular number, only focus on everything you truly enjoy wearing.

II. Choose Complementary Basics


Fleshing out the rest of my closet took time. My clothes were pretty drab, so working off the colors in the sunglasses, I subconsciously lightened my wardrobe over two years, countering dark pieces with blush tones. To me, basics are all the clothing and accessories you need to carry you through everyday life. Whether shopping your own clothes or purchasing new-to-you secondhand items, select things complementing both your lifestyle and existing wardrobe.

I'm not going to preach about quality or investment pieces. Sometimes, you need a pair of shoes, and don't have the cash or time to wait around for "perfect" ones. I've bought less-than-satisfactory placeholders before, and so will you. Try to buy as little as possible with the object of wearing as long as you can. Brand names don't always guarantee quality- clothes are best when they're not overly precious anyway.

If the idea of basics doesn't excite you, define your own. Not everybody needs a white shirt. Look for items with variation in texture or detailing, well-constructed pieces in beautiful fabrics and non-neutral shades.

III. Add Extras


It's nice to have some pieces that serve no purpose other than to make you look and feel good. Here's where to experiment with new trends, or indulge in impulse items within reason. People think I follow some self-imposed ban on shopping, but I let myself browse and buy things secondhand. I allow more than ten items per season, I just know I won't wear anything else. My wardrobe already feels complete. 

This capsule approach isn't extreme. Many people don't have as many clothes as I do. Others have specific work clothes or outfits they wear regularly; I have friends with seemingly endless closets, who often repeat the same favorite pieces. My standard formula is a dress or t-shirts with a skirt and jeans, which I mix up by switching footwear and layering. I get the ease of a uniform, and the variety of a larger wardrobe. I like deciding what to wear every morning! To see my whole closet, click here.

Paris to Go

The Simple Wardrobe, Part III: Pants


Like Lady Gaga, I didn't wear pants for years. I was anti-pants. Too much work- you have to close the fly, button the tab, choose a top, pull it over your shoulders, tuck the hem in. Exhausting! Dresses were easy. One zip, and I had a complete outfit. There's an old picture of me and a college classmate, garbage bags in hand, gloves on, cleaning the campus for our school's environmental awareness association. It was dirty, time-consuming work, but we're both wearing dresses.

When I came to Paris, this became the subject of several jokes. Friends hashtagged photos of me to reflect my aversion to pants. Some thought I forgot to pack them. Others knew the truth- I didn't own any at all. Before moving here, I bought four pairs at a thrift store (over a period of two years), inspired by Parisians walking to work in slim cropped trousers. As a corn-fed Midwesterner, I couldn't pull it off. I longed for the freedom and ease of a tailored skirt.

My faithful jeans, however, looked and felt better the older they got. I kept discovering new ways to wear them. When buying clothing, I try to look for blank canvases, items that interchange and transform easily from season to season. The denim wash is neutral enough to wear year round. The moderate flare tucks nicely into boots (people think I'm wearing skinny jeans) yet feels Emmanuelle Alt-ish on its own. The jeans don't sag or bunch, and a lack of rips / fades / embellishment makes them easy to dress up or down. I'm using the pronoun "them," but it's really just one pair. I don't need more.

 

I'm not tempted to get duplicates, though I patch the frayed hems periodically, and air-dry / wash them inside out. There are lots of "perfect" jeans out there. After more than a decade of thrift shopping, I'm not traumatized when I wear an item to death or can't find another like it. First came Junya Watanabe jeans, $0.50 at Village Discount Outlet, with banded knees and a curved seam in the seat. They got too big, eventually; I've never seen them again, but I moved on to Current/Elliott Stilettos, then finally the Heartbreaker bootcut above. When clothes don't dictate your life, you adapt to new styles and silhouettes. In this respect, tiny wardrobes help you try different things and are more fluid and versatile than overstuffed ones.

The pants you choose might be very different from mine, depending on lifestyle, location, and occupation. I don't prescribe arbitrary numbers for other people's closets, but one logical ratio is twice as many tops as you have bottoms. I have three tops and two bottoms: these jeans, plus one skirt. This wasn't intentional. I looked at what I was really wearing, and these were the pieces I wore and loved. Not to preach "minimalism" or say you should only wear one pair of pants- less isn't necessarily better, although it works for me. The point of all of this is to just show it's possible. Lots of people have fewer clothes than I do, and they lead functional, happy lives. Jeans, J Brand. 



Read the rest of the simple wardrobe series:


Paris to Go

The Simple Wardrobe, Part II: Tops

 
Linen t-shirts, Petit Bateau

I once went through a phase where I didn't wear- or own- a single t-shirt. I felt like I was above them or something. This was during that weird time in American history when every girl aged 18-34 wore a D.A.R.E t-shirt ironically and owned some variation of the "_______ Girls Do It Better" ringer from Urban Outfitters. Remember Quinn Morgendorffer's pink baby-T? From undergarment to medium to socially pejorative lexeme, no other garment is as accessible, versatile, and hard-working as the t-shirt. While some clothing items identify and bind the wearer to a certain subculture, t-shirts are a democratizing blank canvas. Since their inception, t-shirts were a staple in every wardrobe, it seemed, except mine.

For awhile I wasn't comfortable in t-shirts. On my first trip to Paris, I wore lace and silk blouses, high heels and ribbon-tied espadrilles (I didn't own any pants or sneakers, but that's a story for another post; no tank tops, either- thanks, abusive boyfriend from Voices Carry!). One night, I teetered down the steps of Le Pompon in a fancy dress and saw all the other girls wearing men's tees with skinny jeans, which they tucked into skirts for work the next morning. As soon as my feet touched American soil I ran to the thrift store and bought a J. Crew linen pocket tee, v-neck, olive green. Back then, t-shirts weren't too low-cut or sheer and didn't disintegrate after one wash.

It was magic. No more tugging at button-downs, which always seemed to gape at the bust. Washed in the sink at night, it'd be dry the next morning, no ironing necessary. After five years of near-constant use- under jackets, over tulip skirts, with jeans and shorts and suits or tossed onto maxi dresses- it finally unraveled during an intense tug of war with Kar and Toffel when they climbed onto a closet shelf, later serving as a DIY cat tent. It took nearly a year to find a replacement- hip-skimming, opaque, soft- and two years to buy a second t-shirt. My husband literally forced me to buy them :) In the meantime, I made do with tops I already had. Sometimes people ask if I buy duplicates in case I can't find a particular item ever again. I don't- secondhand shopping precludes this. It's not the end of the world if I never wear another linen tee. I certainly don't mind holding out for a good one.

Although I consider most of my clothes "staples," the linen t-shirt is a seasonless workhorse. To paraphrase Caroline de Maigret, it's like cashmere. It makes me looks like I have a neck. The slub jersey feels luxuriously cozy in winter, fresh and effortless in the summer. I like the way it slides on my shoulders and the way the subtle hue brightens my complexion. Worn with my skirt or jeans, under a cardigan and over a dress, it adds variation to a simple and minimal wardrobe.


Why linen? Until that tapenade-colored J. Crew t-shirt, most of my things were made by young girls in India or China earning only a few cents a day. Cotton came from the US, China, or Uzbekistan, the looming shadow of slavery casting a pall over any usefulness. Hundreds- maybe thousands- of gallons of water went into the lint, not to mention pounds of fertilizers. Cultivation is no picnic for even US laborers; after braving wind, pests, storms, and volatile international markets, farmers painstakingly harvest the bolls before sending them to ginning mills, where workers inhale hazardous particulates. The fabric takes several gas-guzzling trips and chemical-laden baths before settling into a closet. What did Karl Marx say about cotton? "Without cotton, you have no modern industry." Petit Bateau production methods may be grim, but linen cultivation requires less energy inputs, and buying secondhand is even more rewarding.

Most of the women I see in my neighborhood walk around in tunics, loose-fitting blouses, drapey knits, and sharply tailored button-downs. As for t-shirts, generally speaking, curvy Parisians wear scoop or v-necks, Jean Seberg-types prefer jewel and boat necks, and neck-skimming tees look wonderful on broad shoulders. I like open necklines- I don't know my "body type," though I was recently compared to a wonton by a barber with a face tattoo in Amsterdam. Anyway, this isn't a fashion blog, but I thought I would share the rationale behind every item in my closet (it won't take long, there's not many). The nice thing about not having a lot of clothes is that every object represents something, a story or memory or event, something I won't forget.

Read the rest of the simple wardrobe series:

Part I- Lingerie
Part III- Pants
Part IV- Dresses and skirts
Part V- Coats
Part VI- Accessories

Paris to Go

10 Piece Spring Wardrobe



This spring, I didn't do much wardrobe editing. I used to stress about each upcoming season, worrying about the "must-have" pieces I needed to fill some imaginary wardrobe gap. Now, my closet is ready with a few quick and painless adjustments- no planning, no harried shopping trips. I sold two synthetic sweaters that made me look like a flight attendant, and added a secondhand red dress, trading my silk-wool sweater for a beige cardigan. Everything else is old and still beautiful to me.

10 Piece Spring Wardrobe

Tops

  1. Petit Bateau pink linen t-shirt
  2. Petit Bateau white linen t-shirt
  3. Beige cardigan

Bottoms

  1. J Brand jeans
  2. Wool skirt

Dresses

  1. Pink dress
  2. Dior dress
  3. Dior dress
  4. Shirtdress

Outerwear

  1. Trench coat

Accessories (not counted as part of total)

  1. Bag, Longchamp
  2. Watch
  3. Wedding ring
  4. Sunglasses
  5. Heels
  6. Pumps
  7. Sneakers
Weekday uniform: Dress and cardigan or skirt / t-shirt / cardigan
Weekend uniform: t-shirt / jeans
This isn't to say everyone should wear ten items per season. It's just an example of what I wear without feeling deprived or sacrificing my lifestyle. Don't take this as a guide for your next trip to Paris! Ninety-nine percent of Parisians will be wearing coats- nay, doudounes- boots, and scarves until mid-July. I included my raincoat here- a waterproof cotton mac with camo lining, which peeks out when I roll my sleeves- but haven't worn it much this spring. It's too hot. Where I come from, 40°F / 4.4°C is bikini weather.

Parisian style is about sharply tailored blazers, pants cropped just so, and layers, but I'm more comfortable in dresses, a cardigan, and little heels. Still, I never feel out of place. My outfits are almost always appropriate. The pieces are simple- their visual interest comes from color, texture and cut- so they don't detract from my work. They are versatile, so I enjoy variety in my wardrobe. I may not have many clothes (relatively speaking), but what I do have, I love more with every passing year.

Paris to Go

Zero Waste Perfume

  

This DIY is so quick, simple, and rewarding, I hesitated posting it for fear of sounding patronizing. A few weeks ago, my husband's co-worker sent us some gorgeous flowers, which the cats ate. Some blooms were beyond saving, but smelled too good to be composted. I whipped up homemade perfume using the petals.

There are several ways to make your own perfume, using water or vodka. The first method is to place a handful of carefully washed blossoms in a jar and cover with one inch vodka. I use bulk vodka from En Vrac. Steep for 2-6 weeks until the perfume reaches desired scent. Strain and store in a spray bottle to use as fragrance, or a zero-waste air freshener. For a lighter blend, steep petals in water instead of vodka. I left this for two weeks, then dabbed some on my wrists today- the scent lasted about five hours. Try using other plant matter, such as citrus peels, evergreen needles, etc. I added eucalyptus to mine.

Alternately, wash 1 1/2 cups material and place in a pan with 2 cups distilled water (for DIY instructions, click here.) Bring to boil, then simmer two hours. Allow to cool. Line a jar or bowl with étamine and strain before storing. The resulting floral water makes an excellent facial toner, linen water, or tonic.

Each homemade perfume takes on a different, lovely color, from citrine to light pink to amber, depending on the ingredients. After making it, my friend Ketty said she loved my perfume, and I hadn't even put any on yet! Despite many assurances to the contrary, I swear my home, hair, and personage smells like cider vinegar, so I spray it on homemade gifts and around the apartment before people come over. If you prefer solid perfume, some French people still perform traditional enfleurage at home using leftover animal fats. This results in the longest-lasting fragrance, but it's a long, tedious process, splitting up glucosides with animal-derived enzymes. I tried making soap with animal fat once, and the judgmental looks I got from my cats were enough for me. Plus I smelled like bacon the whole time!

Visit The Rogue Ginger (who was just featured in Beth Terry's Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too) for an essential oil perfume DIY. If you'd rather buy than DIY, Le Labo offers refills in-store.

Paris to Go

My Vacuum-Free Life

 
 
Click here to read an update of this post

Could you live without a vacuum cleaner? We thought ours broke because it wouldn't turn on for weeks. Just for kicks, I plugged it in yesterday, and the vacuum suddenly sprang to life, startling and nearly sucking up a nearby cat. I decided to just put it away. I like not vacuuming. It's peaceful, and at 68dB, ours is too noisy for apartment living anyway (just shy of a Hollister store). I took some photos of our home in its resting state; I haven't vacuumed in over three weeks, and I haven't steamed the sheets lately, either. There's a single tuft of cat hair in one picture. I think it looks okay.

 
 

I'm not convinced vacuuming is better than sweeping. Many Dyson homes are dustier than mine. Vacuum cleaners spew particulate matter, leaving a lingering smell behind. They don't kill or remove mites (we have bare hardwood floors, lots of sunlight, and good ventilation anyway). Even the most thorough vacuuming doesn't beat hand-dusting- a flour sack towel slightly dampened with cider vinegar removes grime better than suction. My grandma makes me stick a blanket under my knees so this doesn't cripple me later. I wipe furniture, shelves, and household objects, then scrub baseboards and floors in the direction of the wood grain. This takes less time than dragging the vacuum out, fumbling with the cord (think Kirby from Brave Little Toaster), and comforting a terrified Kar afterward. Who needs a mop or duster?


When we first got the cats, my husband really wanted a Roomba- there was enough fur flying around to knit companion cats. He soon discovered the cat brush removes lint better than plastic disposable rollers, and frequent bathing and grooming prevents shedding. Some of my friends have severe cat allergies, yet none experienced reactions during our vacuum-free period, even when one forgot to take her medicine. It may come in handy should fleas ever enter the household; for now, the vacuum languishes in the closet. My socks look incredibly clean after ditching it! They used to collect big lint balls on the soles, left behind by a high-end, glowingly reviewed canister model. These days, it's like they just came out of the wash. What about you? How do you keep bare floors clean: vacuum or broom?
Paris to Go

A Month of Zero Waste Shopping

  
Wicker shopping cart, similar here

When I came home from the US, it took me awhile to get back into a zero-waste shopping routine. We've had guests almost constantly since then, I was jet-lagged, and kept visiting Monoprix or Marks & Spencer to stock up on packaged foods for convenience' sake. I even drank out of two plastic cups and used three straws :( Turns out, packaging is neither convenient nor expedient. My guests had to open everything for me because I literally couldn't remember how to do it, I didn't know how to make stuff from mixes, and we had no place to put the garbage afterward. It was all technically "recyclable," but carrying it loose down seven flights of stairs was no picnic. Everything was expensive- two Ticket Resto plus 20-30€ extra- and my husband was unhappy with the quality of the food. Not to mention "quick trips" to Monoprix and Carrefour, which are literally around the corner, take an hour or more! I'm back to package-free now and my husband says I'm being more frugal, so I thought it would be a nice monthly feature to show my shopping and garbage:

A month of zero-waste groceries


  1. Top left photo (above), 34€: Bulk lavender honey from Famille Mary. Pears, apples, lemons, red onions, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, bulk lentils, chickpeas, and shredded coconut from Bio'c'Bon. Blood oranges, bulk olive oil, goji berries and almonds from Causses. Buffalo burrata from Mozza- at 14€, I splurged on this. Bread from Poilâne- which opened during the war, and once made a bread chandelier for Salvador Dali- if you go to their actual bakeries they put it in your own bag. One hour round trip (twenty minutes each way by Métro), carried home in a panier.
  2. Top right, 15€: Red onions, blood oranges, apples, purple garlic, rocket, swiss chard, and spinach, dehydrated veggie and apple chips, almonds, and goji berries from Causses, carried home in a small tote bag from my purse. Shopping took less than ten minutes on my lunch break.
  3. Middle row (both photos), 18€: Chicory, endives, avocados, tomatoes, red onions, potatoes, mangos, and lemons from the market. Sugar, bean sprouts, and lentils from Bio' C' Bon. Salad greens and goji berries from Causses. Bulk cider vinegar from En Vrac. One hour and a half, including all transportation (I walked from En Vrac to the other two shops), with the panier.
  4. Bottom left, 12€: Mangos, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, bean sprouts, pumpkin, limes, chèvre in my own glass container, oranges, salad greens, red onions. Ten minute shopping trip on Rue Cler. 
We normally don't need so many groceries, but we hosted 25 guests during this time period and I had to keep getting food. Not pictured: Five rochers from Foucher, placed into my own 5x7 linen bulk bag, purchased on my way home from a friend's house. For bottom right details, click here.

This year I cut down on recyclables by switching to bulk cider vinegar. I use it as a rinse aid, fabric softener, all-purpose cleaner, disinfectant, and hair conditioner. Like cider vinegar, I buy unpackaged soap once a month, for laundry, showering, hand-washing, shaving, hair washing, teeth-brushing, and to bathe the cats and replace toilet paper. I was sick of recycling baking soda bags, and they didn't decompose well. I still use it occasionally on laundry or to scrub the sink and bathtub, but prefer soap for my hair / teeth, and lemon juice for deodorant. We eat whole fruit instead of juice, and I make milk, flour, cream and oil from shredded coconut- I don't have a blender or food processor, so I boil the coconut in water and grind with mortar and pestle before straining.

Here is our "garbage": all recyclables. Not pictured are the aforementioned plastic cups / straws, gifted bottles of wine from our party, and five produce stickers, which I want to turn into an Aimee Lee-style art piece.


The beer was a gift for my husband - you can purchase beer in refillable growlers in Montreuil - and the little tins are from the cats. I'm still experimenting with homemade cat food... mark my words, Kar and Toffel WILL eat my cooking someday! This post contains Shopstyle affiliate links. If you click on them, I make a commission. Thanks for your continuing support!
Paris to Go

The Simple Wardrobe, Part I: Lingerie

Base Range soft bra and briefs. Photo, Covet and Lou

The first time I came to Paris, I went to Avenue Montaigne in my highest Jessica Simpson heels and walked around like I owned the place. At Prada, Anja Mazur tried sharing her dolls with me. At Dior, I helped myself to an entire tray of macarons. I felt very rich, ordering Orangina and eating three bowls of complimentary nuts at the George V for lunch. Finally, I walked to Paul & Joe and headed straight for the dressing room with a pretty, summer-weight wool dress, the smallest size available. It fit perfectly. The price was right. I felt on top of the world.

Then it all came crashing down. I started changing when the salesgirl opened the curtain and walked in. I swung around, wearing only a mismatched sports bra and white underwear accidentally dyed blue from the wash, and found myself face-to-face with three chic Parisians, none of whom seemed the least bit fazed. "I thought you needed a larger size," the salesgirl explained, hanging three dresses- 42, 44, and 46- on the chair. I wore a bathing suit under my clothes the rest of the trip.

When I moved to Paris, I made sure my underwear matched and wasn't dingy. Every day, I walked past the Fifi Chachnil store, with its colorful soutien-gorges and Calais lace-trimmed culottes. I met women who wore Agent Provocateur belts and slip dresses like actual clothes; the black Aubade bra-under-a-white-shirt look failed to shock anymore. Finally, I had a nice slip, so if anybody surprised me in the cabines d'essayage again, I'd be prepared. All the French women I know are fairly conservative when it comes to underwear (Petit Bateau cotton is a favorite). They shop on sale, preferring coverage and comfort over complicated styles. Parisians especially stay faithful to brands that work for their particular shape, replacing worn pieces every season. "Bras and strings only last six months," explained the ladies at Le Bon Marché, poking me critically. "You have a little fat. With the right lingerie, you have a perfect figure."

Unfortunately, undergarments- even the best ones- have pitifully short life expectancies. At thrift stores, it's hard finding pieces that aren't limp or lacking support / elasticity. Here is one aspect of my wardrobe I don't mind buying new; my pieces are from Base Range, a sustainability-conscious brand based here in France. UPDATE: Despite rave reviews from everyone else, these did not work for me (neither did the beautiful peace silk of Ayten Gasson). After an exhaustive search, I found Chantelle and Stella McCartney were the only comfortable, high quality brands accommodating my cup size that were invisible under a t-shirt.

According to me, a minimum lingerie wardrobe includes:
  • Two bras- one black, one nude
  • 2 pairs stockings, and garter belt, if necessary (although I have only one pair, secondhand, with a back seam. I've worn them all winter for several years)
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 1 slip- this must be a very French thing. All my Parisian friends wear them, as opposed to only ladies of erstwhile dignity in the US
If you want to streamline your collection, try everything on, make sure it fits properly, doesn't pinch or lift unnaturally, doesn't show under clothing, and- my personal preference- matches. The rule for panties is they should contrast your shape. For example, if you are J. Lo, you should wear boy cut shorts, but if you're J. Law, wear a bikini.

People often recommend some formula where you calculate the ideal number of panties based on how many times you want to do laundry a month. Based on the rate at which E. coli multiplies, you need to wash them once a week anyway, so there's no reason to have more than seven. You are not a baby in diapers. Still, my French friends say they have several different matching styles for each bra, say, a string and culottes, which they wash immediately after every use- when I visit, there are sometimes pantyhose, camisoles, Spanx, etc. drip-drying in the shower. Savon de marseille is especially good for fine lingerie and hard water. Soak items a few minutes, press and squeeze suds through the fabric, rinse, then roll flat in a towel or hang to dry (but not by the straps).

If you prefer washing by machine, try a knit bag for laundering. Turn panties inside out, and fasten bras beforehand. Dryers are the worst- they age items prematurely, discolor them, and make them less elastic. Air-dry and store bras fastened, with one cup inside the other, to ensure they last longer.

In Paris, Fibris seems to be a good source for organic hemp, linen, cotton, and wool undergarments (C cups and under only). Apart from secondhand, Swedish Stockings and Pact are ethical options. One lingerie store I really like is Louise Feuillère on Rue des Dames. Don't be intimidated by the Meuilleur Ouvrier de France medal- clients say they don't need to replace her stuff very often. The cotton is from Switzerland, the silk from France, and the lace Calais. She even offers lingerie-making courses for ages 11 and up. Since shopping is a nightmare for me, I've wanted to make my own bras for awhile now, and who better to learn from than a master with an illustrious French heritage?

Read the rest of the simple wardrobe series:

Part II- Tops
Part III- Pants
Part IV- Dresses and skirts
Part V- Coats
Part VI- Accessories

Paris to Go

Kapunka II, Gluten-Free Pad Thai, Paris

 
 
 
Ring, watch, Cartier

Recently I met my neighbors, returning from the marché, on the street outside our building. "Get anything good?" I asked.

"Only normal things," they replied.

Suddenly, the husband's eyes lit up. "You will be very interested in this. Two kilo for one euro," he said, rummaging through his panier. Somehow, I knew what was coming. He pulled out a big bag of white rice and smiled. PSA: Koreans eat multigrain rice.

I grew up corn-fed in Cleveland, but I've had enough of my family's cooking to hate watered-down, westernized Asian food at restaurants. This is partly the ethos behind Kapunka II- there weren't any authentic Thai cantines in Paris. On the recommendation of a Thai friend, we'd trek out to the 13ème to a crowded place run by a Laotian family, but the dishes had a strange sweetness and the portions were... well, very French. Kapunka II captures the spirit of our favorite places in Thonglor. Everything is fresh, spicy, and fragrant. The service is fast, the staff (especially the owner, Manu) friendly and personable, and the decor warm and minimalist. Last January, the Kapunka team toured Bangkok for inspiration, and it worked. Their healthy, gluten-free take on traditional street food is the closest you'll get to Aree in Paris.

Kapunka II is on a quiet street off Rue Montorgueil, a short walk from one of my favorite Paris' resourceries. Soon after opening, it filled up immediately with families, couples, solo diners, and a few real Asians, who seemed pleased by the beautiful dishes piled high amidst spices. My husband lived in Thailand and felt real disdain for some of the other diners, spotted scraping pimento into water glasses. "That's like saying 'I love French food, but hold the cheese and wine,'" he explained. We're used to Isan and Lanna food and loved their Chattuchak smoothies with generous bowls of fresh chilies in vinegar and oil, perfect on red curry, papaya salad, tom kha gai, and vegetarian Pad Thai. I didn't have room for dessert!

Kapunka II
51 Rue Saint-Sauveur
and 59 Rue de Richelieu, 75002 Paris

Paris to Go

Zero Waste Party

  

We had a dinner party this weekend. I cooked meat, so it wasn't truly zero waste, but everything I bought was package-and-plastic-free. Whenever we invite guests, I visit En Vrac (69 rue de Maubeuge, Métro Gare du Nord) for natural wines, local spirits, olive oil, and vinegar, then Causses Saint-Martin for zero-waste aperitifs and ingredients. The staff at both shops complimented my bulk bags, bottles, and jars. "C'est marrant, vous économisez le papier!" "C'est mignon!" "C'est efficace!" We invited twenty people, borrowing plates and cutlery from guests and wine glasses from the shop. If you don't have enough glasses, have guests bring their own jars. Here's what I brought shopping / what I bought:

In the panier

  • Five 1-liter glass bottles from home filled with pinot noir, white wine, Maison Nuage vodka, sparkling water and whiskey, all made in France. My husband went to Montreuil to get beers in refillable containers at Deck & Donohue.
  • Five 5x7 handmade linen drawstring bags, two 11x14 upcycled muslin bags, two filet bags
  • Four cloths
  • Six Weck jars

5x7 bulk bags (ingredients purchased at Causses)

  • Goji berries
  • Cinnamon apple chips (dehydrated slices, so simple and good)
  • Veggie chips (dehydrated carrot, sweet potato, parsnips, green beans, golden beets)
  • Raw and roasted almonds

Jars

  • Chèvre
  • Mimolette
  • Gouda
  • Turkey breast
  • Olives
  • Yogurt
  • Cream

Produce bags

  • Red onions
  • Purple garlic
  • Red chard and pousses d'épinard
  • Baby radishes with greens (radish for aperitif, greens for the salad and butter chicken)
  • Blood oranges
  • Limes
  • Cauliflower
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries
  • Butternut squash
  • Rice
  • Mango
  • Tomatoes
  • Vitelotte (from the marché earlier that morning)

Cloth

  • Rocket (from the marché)
  • Coriander (from the marché)
  • Côte de boeuf. My husband actually bought this, from star butcher Le Bourdonnec, where the owner said to wrap the meat in cloth and keep it out of the fridge
  • Two blocks of unpackaged soap (from Biocoop)
  

Including travel time, errands took an hour and a half. Somehow, this manages to be faster than going to Carrefour, wading through crowded aisles, suffering in line, and rushing down Rue Cler trying to get the rest of this stuff. One bottle of whiskey or vodka at Carrefour is more expensive than what we spent on all the alcohol combined, and our foodie friend- who produces excellent wines from his own vineyard- raved about everything we got at En Vrac.

Using these ingredients and what we already had on hand, I made mango salsa, butter chicken (which contained neither chicken nor butter), mashed vitelotte, tandoori roasted cauliflower, fresh salad with chèvre and homemade vinaigrette, côte de boeuf with pesto mayonnaise, a cheese board, and chocolate mousse with chantilly, which my husband shook to perfection in a mason jar. I started preparing food around 6 pm and vacuumed at 6:18. By the time guests began arriving at 6:30, I could relax, eat, and enjoy their company because dinner was practically done. When everyone left- after 3 am, long past the last Métro- clean-up was easy. Without trash to take out or leftovers to put away, I washed the napkins and went early the next morning to deposit food scraps and recycle guests' bottles. My husband woke up to a clean sink and spotless apartment, which sounds smug because it is.

  
  
 
Secondhand Ikea towels used as napkins, similar here

We ended the evening on the balcony, watching the lights go out one by one from Invalides, Trocadero, La Defense, Tour Montparnasse, and the Eiffel Tower. "When we come here, we see all the sights of Paris," commented our friend Clement. Everyone was sweet, complimentary, and gave thoughtful gifts and thank you cards. After all that meat, my husband decided to go vegetarian!

Paris to Go