Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ohinéné - A Taste of Côte d'Ivoire in Paris

Several months ago, a dear friend recommended a French-Ivorian restaurant in his neighborhood. Tom and I finally planned to have dinner there after a guided tour that we took through the Ménilmontant district and on the appointed day, we wended our way through the streets until we came upon the bright red façade of Ohinéné on the corner of rue de la Chine and rue Orfila.

Ohinéné restaurant
© Discover Paris!

The restaurant is fairly small and the decor is reminiscent of an American lunch room, including a display counter where French take-out items are visible. The dining room is sparsely decorated, but is bright, neat, and clean.

Ohinéné dining room
© Discover Paris!

The appearance of the restaurant can be confusing to those expecting to see "theme" decor to accompany the Côte d'Ivorian dishes that are served here. But rest assured, you are in the right place! One look at the handwritten menu of the day will give you the confirmation that you seek.

Menu of the day
© Discover Paris!

While mulling over the menu, we each ordered a rum punch. Tom's was made with banana and guava nectars, lime, and white and dark rum. Mine was concocted with ginger. Both cocktails were thicker than we anticipated, as though fruit pulp had been used as the base. Both were delicious!

We ordered from the chalkboard that the waiter brought to the table. There were no starters listed, just main courses.

Tom decided to try the fish special of the day. Called Dorade royale marinée et braisée à l’ivoirienne, it was a whole sea bream that had been marinated, braised, and then served smothered in medley of chopped purple onion, tomato, and zucchini. The succulent white flesh of the fish was flaky and tender and separated easily from the bone. A large mound of riz rouge (rice prepared with tomato sauce) was served alongside.

Dorade braisée
© Discover Paris!

Riz rouge
© Discover Paris!

I ordered Kédjénou de poulet, a preparation of chicken stewed with chopped peppers and onion. I received a breast and drumette served in a bowl and drenched in the yellow-orange colored broth in which it had been stewed. A small bowl of attiéké, a dish of light and fluffy fermented cassava pulp, was served alongside. I found the dish nourishing and satisfying.

Kédjénou de poulet
© Discover Paris!

© Discover Paris!

For the beverage accompaniment, we each ordered a glass of bissap, a sweetened beverage made from an infusion of the flower of the roselle (hibiscus) plant. The Ohinéné recipe for this drink is thicker than most bissaps that we've tasted and we found it to be quite refreshing.

© Discover Paris!

The variety of desserts offered were not African inspired, but we were pleased with our choice of Tiramisù, a favorite Italian confection. Served in a square bowl, it consisted of cake soaked in coffee syrup that had been topped with mascarpone cheese and powdered with cocoa. We have not tasted a Tiramisù as good as this in a long time. Many are too dry or lack strong coffee flavor—this one was just right!

It was a hearty, satisfying meal. Edith Gnapié, the chef, came out of the kitchen a few times during the service to be sure that everything was fine in the dining room. Her French husband was our waiter and he was very attentive as well. Though this restaurant is off the beaten path for us, we wouldn't hesitate to make reservations to return here!

14, rue de la Chine
75020 Paris
Telephone: 01 71 20 67 62
Metro: Pelleport (Line 3bis)


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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Africa in Paris - Ménilmontant

Earlier this month, Tom and I took a tour of the Ménilmontant quarter of Paris that is offered through an equitable tourism initiative called Paris Ville Monde. The idea behind this month-long event is to introduce visitors and citizens alike to the incredible diversity that exists in communities throughout the city. Each tour comprises not only commentary about the history and contemporary life of the area, but also introductions to shopkeepers who present their stories and their wares. It provides an opportunity to get "up close and personal" with people and places in town that would otherwise remain unknown.

We took a walk with Anne, born in Paris of a family from Côte d'Ivoire. Representing the organization called Paris par Rues Méconnues (Paris by Unknown Streets), she took us on a stroll called L'Afrique à Ménilmontant (Africa in Ménilmontant).

Anne – Paris par Rues Méconnues
© Discover Paris!

We ambled through some of the back streets of the quarter, whose main streets are virtually never seen by tourists and are not even well known by many Parisians. Tom and I have visited Ménilmontant a few times during our 21 years in Paris, but we had never seen this part of it. What we experienced on this walk was surprising - we discovered an enormous church that we'd never seen before,

Notre Dame de la Croix
© Discover Paris!

a wealth of art by two of our favorite street artists - Jérôme Mesnager and Nemo -

Street art by Nemo
© Discover Paris!

C'est nous les gars d'Ménilmontant
Jérôme Mesnager
© Discover Paris!

and a beautiful alleyway lined by stand-alone homes tucked behind walls that were overhung with greenery and flowers.

Cité de l'Ermitage
© Discover Paris!

We visited a food shop operated by women from Côte d'Ivoire,

Tom and Côte d'Ivoire shopkeeper
© Discover Paris!

Smoked fish
© Discover Paris!

Aubergines, okra, and peppers
© Discover Paris!

a fine-food shop run by a young Algerian woman named Nassima,

Nassima, owner of Souk Botanique
© Discover Paris!

Dried fruits, hibiscus leaves, and tea canisters
© Discover Paris!

Spices, cereals, chocolates and other items
© Discover Paris!

and a boutique filled with beautiful items made from recycled materials such as tire rubber and plastic sacs.

© Discover Paris!

We also walked past a foyer - a residence reserved for African men.

Street art near foyer on rue de Retrait
© Discover Paris!

But for me, the true "find" of the walk was a shop that is filled with fine African fabrics.

Diyananko is located at 72, rue de Ménilmontant. Upon entering, you note that fabrics of all textures and colors occupy much of the front room. Shelves and piles of fabrics are also visible in the rear room, which is open to the public. What interested me most was the fabulous selection of indigos and bogolans - fabrics that one does not see so commonly in the shops at Chatêau Rouge. Aicha, the shop owner, also sells beautiful jewelry, hand-carved statuettes and puppets, and home decor items.

Bazins and indigos
© Discover Paris!

Jewelry display atop Bogolan fabric
© Discover Paris!

Cowrie shells
© Discover Paris!

Aicha hails from Guinea. She is friendly and quite accommodating, though you need good French to carry on a conversation.

Monique and Aicha at Diyananko
© Discover Paris!

Diyananko is definitely worth a visit!

72, rue de Ménilmontant
75020 Paris
Metro: Ménilmontant (Line 2)


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Thursday, June 13, 2013

NollywoodWeek Debuts in Paris

This week's blog post is courtesy of Keenya Hofmaier, organizer of Black Expats in Paris!

Last month, France hosted two very different but equally important film festivals - the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and the little-known Nollywood Film Festival. While Hollywood went south to Cannes, Nollywood premiered its festival for the first time in Paris from May 30, 2013 to June 3, 2013.

Entrance to theater for NollywoodWeek
Image courtesy of Keenya Hofmaier

Nollywood is Nigeria's multi-million dollar film industry, second only to Bollywood in terms of film production. I must admit, I never heard the term "Nollywood" before and knew very little of Nigeria's cinematic talents. I searched the film festival's website ( and was thoroughly surprised by the film selection and engaging synopses.

I am the organizer of a group called "Black Expats in Paris," and as luck would have it, one of our members was an organizer of the film festival and arranged for our group to attend.

Black Expats in Paris at NollywoodWeek
Image courtesy of Keenya Hofmaier

We saw the film "Maami," which is a heart-wrenching yet uplifting story about a desperately poor, single mother trying to raise her brave and talented son. Though the acting is overly dramatic at times, the film keeps viewers engaged. The plot twists and turns with secret revelations from the mother's past and the unimaginable acts of a father that the boy never knew.

The director of this film, Tunde Kelani, is more than a director. In fact, many give him credit for creating Nollywood, saying the industry didn't exist until his films did. I had the chance to speak with Kelani personally to discuss "Maami" and his film career. One would be pleased to hear that most of his films are inspired by community story-telling and literature.

Director Tunde Kelani and Keenya Hofmaier
Image courtesy of Keenya Hofmaier

Kelani commented, "I recognized the importance of literature and chose to create a cinematic adaption from literature. Africans, in telling stories, must look inward and use literary resources and celebrate our writers. Since no one reads anymore, it's important to introduce literature through another medium."

I commented that his "cause" seems to be the advancement and prosperity of his community. Kelani responded, "The theme of this film was about growing up in a poor background with very few resources. But that doesn't matter because through education and sports, you can be something in life. Nigerian people are not born wealthy, but we can read stories like these or see stories like these and have hope. That's what it's about."

The film festival may be over, but Nollywood is just beginning. I would definitely recommend passing over Hollywood and even Bollywood for your next movie craving. Nollywood has thousands of powerful and uplifting stories to be told.


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Thursday, June 6, 2013

3rd Annual Brothers Spring Gala and 1st Annual Tannie Awards

The 3rd annual Brothers' Spring Gala took place on Friday, May 31 at the Café Barge in Paris' 12th arrondissement. This year's event was an historic occasion because it was also the first time that the Brothers' Paris presented the Tannie Awards.

“The Brothers” created the Tannie Awards as a means of preserving the legacy of its founder, Tannie Stovall, “in a positive and elegant manner.” Stovall was a graduate of Morehouse College and the University of Minnesota with degrees in Physics (B.S., Ph.D.). He was a civil rights activist, historian, writer, investor, and film producer. A long-time Paris expatriate and a patron of the African-American community in Paris, he was one of 24 expatriates featured in Black Paris Profiles – a Discover Paris! publication that celebrates the contemporary African-American and Afro-Caribbean experience in the City of Light.

Tannie Award
(photographed on a dark background)
© Discover Paris!

By creating the Tannie Awards, The Brothers seeks to support, spur, and increase the entrepreneurial spirit in the African-American community in Paris and to give a sense of meaning and purpose to the annual Spring Gala, which will henceforth be called “The Spring Gala and Tannie Awards.”

The evening began with music by The Brothers Jazz Combo, featuring Sulaiman Hakim on saxophone, Minh Pham on piano, Felipe Solive on bass, and Eddie Allen on drums,

The Brothers' Jazz Combo:
© Discover Paris!

Sulaiman Hakim plays amidst the audience
© Discover Paris!

and a lovely three-course meal with wine.

An excellent meal!
© Discover Paris!

Old friends gathered to renew contact and new acquaintances were struck.

Brian Scott Bagley
© Discover Paris!

Jake Lamar, Linda Lee Hopkins, and Faye Hutchinson
chatting and laughing before the ceremony
© Discover Paris!

Les Theard, Colin Gravois, and Hamida Gravois
© Discover Paris!

Three artists displayed their work:

Romain Gana, Denis Herelle, and Yao Metsoko,

Romain Gana, Denis Herelle, and Yao Metsoko
© Discover Paris!

and artist/curator Cheryl Ann Bolden mounted an exhibit from her Precious Cargo museum.

Cheryl Ann Bolden and Precious Cargo
© Discover Paris!

Trumpetist and Tannie Award nominee Boney Fields joined the band for a few songs.

Boney Fields
© Discover Paris!

Then the anticipated award ceremony began. Several persons took the stage to introduce the nominees for awards in eight categories:

Entrepreneur of the Year
Zachary James Miller: Miller Stovall Sarl / for the production of Sebastian starring Eric Roberts
Marcellous Jones: Fashion Insider TV / Co-Producer Of Men's Fashion Insider
Kathleen Dameron: KD Conseil
Ricki Stevenson: Black Paris Tours
Nicole Pembrook: Nicole's Polished Hair Care
Kim Kimberly: Zen Artitude Bed and Breakfast

Literature and Writers
Jake Lamar: Brothers In Exile
Monique Wells: Black Paris Profiles
Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen: Stockdale and Next of Kin
Barbara Chase-Riboud: Sally Hemings
Sharon Morgan: Gather at the Table

Curtis Young: New Chairman of the Minority Caucus of Democrats Abroad France
Zachary James Miller: Obama Re-election trailblazer / Zachary James Miller / Facebook
Paulette Johnson: Democrats Abroad France / Obama Re-election trailblazer

Visual Arts
Barbara Chase-Riboud
Ealy Mays
Kim Kimberly
Richard Allen

Linda Lee Hopkins: Gospel For 100 Voices
Boney Fields: Live At Jazz à Vienne
Ricky Ford: Sacred Concert CD
Michele Hendricks: Me And My Shadow / Highly Acclaimed International Tours
Janice de Rosa: deRosa / Afro Blues CD

Rebecca Ayoko: fashion model
Mohamed Dia: Creator of Dia-Wear sportswear
Marcellous L. Jones: Fashion Insider TV / Co-Producer Of Men's Fashion Insider

Webzines, Blogs and IT
Monique Wells: Discover Paris!
Tom Reeves: Paris Insights
Marcellous L. Jones: The Fashion Insider
Pricilla Lalisse-Jespersen:
Robin Bates: La Jolie Media Noire and Café de la Soul

Film, Theatre, Dance
Zachary James Miller: Sebastian (film) starring Eric Roberts
Barry Johnson: Whoopi Goldberg's Sister Act (musical) / over 200 shows performed at the Theatre de Mogador in Paris
Joanne Burke: When African American's Came To Paris (film)
Julia Browne: When African American's Came To Paris (film)
Brian Scott Bagley: Boylésque Show / THBUZZ / Trés Honoré (musical)
Rick Odums: Centre International de Danse (dance) /

Lifetime Achievement Award

Jon Hendricks: Entertainment
Hal Singer: Entertainment
Velma Bury: Visual Arts
James A. Emanuel: Literature and Writers
Tony Clarke: Film, Theatre, Dance

The winners were:
Entrepreneur of the Year: Kathleen Dameron
Literature and Writers: Jake Lamar
Politics: Paulette Johnson
Visual Arts: Barbara Chase-Riboud
Fashion: Marcellous L. Jones
Entertainment: Linda Lee Hopkins
Webzines, Blogs, and IT: Monique Y. Wells (yes, I'm thrilled!)
Film, Theatre, Dance: Zachary James Miller

All nominees for Lifetime Achievement won awards:
Jon Hendricks
Hal Singer
Velma Bury
James A. Emanuel
Tony Clarke

After the ceremony, the true party began! Winners, nominees, and guests danced until the wee hours of the morning. Boney Fields, Sylvia Howard Sanders, John Meldrum, and Toli Nameless were among those joining the jazz ensemble on stage to share in spreading the love and joy.

Me with my Tannie Award
© SamBg Photographer

Looking forward to next year!


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