HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai Flower Festival 2005 bursts into bloom

Jazz, King Cake and Gumbo

Academie du Chateaubriant visits Chez Gibus

Chiang Mai Flower Festival 2005 bursts into bloom

Chantawee Punmira

The 29th annual Flower Festival in Chiang Mai was officially opened on February 5 by the Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat at the Nawarat Bridge.

How many blossoms and how many people were needed to make this car? Unbelievable!

Chiang Mai is known for its beautiful winter flowers which blossom in the cold season. The festival has become a ‘must see’ event in Chiang Mai and is included in the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s tourism calendar.

The audience had fun, the jurors had fun and the pretty Miss Flower Blooms 2005 enjoyed it even more

This year’s winter season was more charming than previous years drawing a huge number of tourists to visit Chiang Mai, said Governor Suwat Tantipat.

As Thais believe that number nine is lucky, the festival was opened at 8.09 a.m. Lanna style Sabud Chai drumming was performed and children performed Thai traditional dances before the procession of 30 beautiful women.

A ‘Flower Wat’ driving through the streets of Chiang Mai during the parade

Two baby elephants, “Nong Hong” and “Nong Jarb”, were the highlight of the procession. Visitors were stunned by the elephants’ painting talent and their ability to play the mouth organ. The elephants put a big smile on the face of governor Suwat when they handed him their flowers and paintings.

Yupparaj School’s floral float won the beauty category contest while Mae Taeng district and San Sai district were named first and second runners up.

In the creativity category, the winner was Muang district while San Pathong and Hang Dong districts were runners up. Sarepee district had the most conservative float with Mae Rim and San Kamphaeng close behind.

For many people this was the main attraction, the artistic elephants who were fully concentrated and in their own flowery world

The previous day, Miss Flower Beauty Pageant was staged at the Nong Buak Had public Park.

Twenty four beautiful women entered the contest. Patcharida Duangpurong, 20, from the Faculty of Engineering was crowned Miss Bor Sang is as year’s Flower Queen. Theptewee Pohmchai from the Hair Color Institute and Maliwan Tueksiri from Mandalay, Chiang Mai were runners up.

It was flowers wherever you looked. Even the elephants painted huge flower bouquets

The winners of this years’ Miss International Flower Bloom 2005. American Jenna Elisabeth Nordberg (20) who studies at CMU, with First Runner Up (right) Belgian Katrien Annie de Caestecker (28) from ‘Your House’ guest house and Second Runner Up (left) Japanese Miss Shibata (20) from Banana Guest House. They received their trophies from Ornadda Tantipat (far right), the wife of Chiang Mai governor.

Another 20 women joined the International Flower Beauty Contest. Jenna Elizabeth Nordberg, an American exchange student at Chiang Mai University was crowned the queen while Katrien Annie de Caestecker, 28, from Belgium became the first runner up and a Japanese lady, Misa Shibata, 20, the second runner up.

Ornadda Tantipat, the president of Chiang Mai Provincial Red Cross, presented the crowns and awards.

Hard to say what is more beautiful, the blossoms or the young girls with their umbrellas

Jazz, King Cake and Gumbo

Mardi Gras, New Orleans Style 2005

Michael Vogt

One date in Chiang Mai’s social events calendar that is looked forward to by a number of people from the community, no matter what nationality, is the annual Mardi Gras Party, where New Orleans natives Frank Weicks and Becky Lomax share their custom of “an authentic Mardi Gras” with their friends.

Best male and best female costumes went to the pale ‘Morticia Addams’ who even brought a decorated broomstick and the pregnant male miracle Ms. Hardy, seen with the hosts and the trophies.

How can you describe Mardi Gras? It is a party but also it is a social tradition with a long colorful history, deeply connected with religion which did not become an organized ‘drink and party festival’ until the 1900’s. And contrary to popular opinion, it is not a one day affair. The ‘real’ carnival starts about 12 days after Christmas and ends on Mardi Gras Day (a Tuesday, from which the name Mardi comes, literally “Fat Tuesday” in French). The following day is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

Chiang Mai Mardi Gras however was celebrated with the main aspect on New Orleans food - traditional New Orleans food, cooked by the hosts, and nothing was missing. It was not a night to count calories, it was a ‘just eat it’ celebration, properly accompanied by jazz. Turkey and Andouille Sausage Gumbo with just the right hot kick, red beans and rice, guacamole dips, grits and of course the most important dish of the day, the King Cake, which is similar to brioche, a sweetened yeast bread with a strawberry cream filling. Halloween, Easter and a birthday wrapped into one.

The majority of the guests took the chance to come in fancy (or ugly) dress. The evening ended with the awarding of the trophies for best male and best female costumes, taken home this years by Ms. Hardy and Morticia. The rest of the guests just stayed on, had a ball, and started thinking about what to wear at Mardi Gras 2006.

No! The King Cake is not only for you!!! A ‘dangerous looking’ situation for Frank Weicks, but Lance Lewis (middle) seems to have everything under control.

It was a feast, not only the huge pot of turkey and andouille sausage gumbo but anything on the long New Orleans homemade buffet. (From front to back) Hardy Hardcastle, Richard Dixon, June Wongmalee, and Lynn Hastings.

Comfortable, cozy and just so much to catch up on - old and new friends sitting around everywhere and chatting.

Academie du Chateaubriant visits Chez Gibus

Sandy Clark

If you think that Chateaubriant should be written with a ‘d’ at the end, rest assured, you are correct. However, both ways are acceptable, but the people of the small town Chateaubriant, near the river banks of the river Loire favor the ‘t’ ending.

Presentation of the certificate. (From left) Michel Charron, Madame Besson, chef and restaurateur Alain Besson, and Janine Charron.

Chateaubriant, not a French version of English beefsteak but named after the French writer and statesman Francois Rene, Vicomte de Chateaubriand, is known all over the world. The real Chateaubriant is 300-400 grams of first class meat. To prepare such a thick piece of meat needs sensitivity, a smooth touch and an excellent chef.

Michel Charron, archivist of the ‘Academy du Chateaubriant’ with Michael Vogt, Hon. Charge de Mission of ‘La Chaine des Rotisseurs’ and Pascale Clemensart from Chiang Mai.

Today the Academie Du Chateaubriant, a French gastronomic society founded in Chateaubriant in 1994, is devoted to promoting fine dining and the real preparation of Chateaubriant in its broadest sense. The members of this association see themselves as ambassadors for their region and whenever they tour the world they try to find restaurateurs worthy to receive the certificate of their association. Once finding a suitable restaurant and chef, he is approached and another ‘tasting’ date is set up with friends, professionals and the representatives of the academy as the diners.

In full honors with academic gown and mortarboard, Michel Charron gave an explanation of the history.

For Chiang Mai this was a ‘first’ with archivist the French couple Michel Charron and his wife Janine, presiding over the dinner at ‘Chez Gibus’. It was a true French event, with Michel Charron enlightening the ‘taste testers’, with regards to the region and its famous dish.

But the real pleasure came after Chef Alain served his Chateaubriant, so tender that it was almost melting in your mouth and grilled to perfection, with different sauces to accompany the beef.

Alain between friends, M. Aime, and M. Maime.

It was a great evening of fine dining and camaraderie, ending with Michel Charron presenting Alain with his certificate, and saying he was pleased to have found a restaurant in the North of Thailand which honors the art of cooking.