Paris, Part 2

April 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

Second half my Paris re-cap: Vanessa and I ate lots and lots of raw, super fresh oysters throughout our trip. It was crazy how ubiquitous they were and always so delicious (didn’t get a stinker the entire time we were there). Here is a starter before a much heavier meal at seafood-oriented Marius et Janette, right before Dita’s show at Crazy Horse.

We visited the Musee d’Orsay, one of my favorite museums in the world, and got lost in some Impressionist art one afternoon.

Browsed beautiful Astier de Villatte ceramics while shopping on the super luxurious Rue Saint Honore.

Stopped by Cafe de Flore for champagne and potato chips. This is what we loved most about Paris…falling into the leisurely habit of sitting at a sidewalk cafe, people watching and not worrying about where to hurry to next. By the end of the trip, we were total pros.

A crazy good meal at Le Servan, run by sisters Tatiana and Katia Levha, where they’re cooking up some seriously creative and slightly Asian-inflected food in an airy and almost Williamsburg-esque bistro. This was the first time Vanessa had ever had veal sweetbreads (this version was roasted and perfectly tender) and I don’t think she was disappointed.

After Le Servan, we stopped by Prescription for some really great cocktails…I think I had about 10 different kinds of booze this night (something gin + citrus based, their version of a Negroni, their version of a Penicillin, shots of rum and on and on and on) while Vanessa fell in love with their gin + tonics and kept throwing them back. By the time they were closing up shop, we were so hammered that we asked the bartenders for their late night food recommendations and at their suggestion, ended up at a place called Chez Denis in the middle of nowhere that was literally just a bistro open late. Groups of inebriated people were eating full meals with bottles of wine at 5 in the morning and neither of us could comprehend how the French could eat so much but there you have it.

Some more culture…this time at the Musee de l’Orangerie right on the edge of the Jardins des Tuileries, which I’d never visited before. We started with the two stunning circular rooms of Claude Monet’s water lilies, where we just sat there for a long while to take everything in, and then progressed through the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection.

I also really love works by the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, so when I found out there was a standalone exhibit of his works and studio near the Centre Pompidou (admission is free, by the way), we popped by for a quick visit (the atelier is only four rooms). I mean…just look at that! I really liked that he was so particular and personally tied to his pieces that he planned exactly which sculpture went where and even refused to sell pieces that were especially dear to him.

Tasting menu at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in the Saint Germain neighborhood. While not as thrilling as I thought it would be (there were also a lot of Americans there, which made it feel more like a tourist destination than anything else), the service was impeccable and some of the dishes were truly standout, such as this chestnut soup with seared foie gras hidden beneath.

A flower vendor on a romantic rainy day…

The awe-inspiring stained glass windows at Sainte-Chappelle on the Ile de la Cite in the heart of Paris.

My crazy-good braised veal cheeks and buttery potatoes at the homey, modest-looking Chez L’Ami Jean. This meal, even though relatively low-key compared to some others we had, was among my favorites. We started with a comforting Parmesan soup that was perfect for the rainy weather, this as a main dish (goddamn, those potatoes) and then the biggest and richest bowl of rice pudding (with candied nuts and salted caramel sauce) that anyone had ever seen. It was also very cool to see the chef Stephane Jego and his cooks plating each dish in the open kitchen.

More art, this time at the relatively new Frank Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation, which was currently featuring contemporary Chinese artists. Below is a photo of the gorgeous grotto on the lower level.

Our last dinner at David Toutain was another highlight. Everything about the restaurant – the interiors, the ceramics and flatware, the service (our hip-looking server actually lived and worked in Brooklyn for a while) and of course, the food, was incredible. There was a smoked eel dish in black sesame that absolutely blew our minds and the below, perfectly cooked lamb with asparagus and spring vegetables. Amazing. We were so sad our trip was coming to an end.

After dinner, we went to a bar called Le Calbar, where all the friendly bartenders were serving well-made cocktails in their boxers. Yet again, we met some friendly locals and ended up closing down the bar. A great last night out.

Our last day in Paris consisted of a lot of shopping and running errands before our flight. I stopped in Deyrolle, mainly to ogle the gorgeous displays of insects and butterflies, and considering picking up something but couldn’t figure out how to fit a fragile glass frame in my already-stuffed suitcase. So sad.

Sigh…last lunch at our good ol’ Cafe Varenne. It’d become our place for morning coffee and breaks in the middle of the day and now, we were having our last meal of charcuterie, cheese and frites. It was a beautiful sunny day and we got to sit outside and enjoy our last bit of freedom before heading home to New York. It was, all in all, a dream trip where we got to eat and drink extremely well, meet some warm and friendly locals, experience art and culture and most importantly, just relax and soak up the beauty of Paris as much as we possibly could. It was so hard to leave (I was thinking about my next trip on the flight back) and settle back into reality upon our return (though I did pick up some good butter and a jar of cornichons at Murray’s Cheese the morning after I got back) but I know that I will be back soon.

 

Hank’s Oyster Bar, an old favorite

April 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

Day 3 in D.C. started off with a leisurely lunch at an old favorite of mine, Hank’s Oyster Bar, in Dupont Circle. Fred and Joanna came down from Bethesda for the day (always so great to catch up with them) and we had ourselves an oyster and seafood feast. Started with a spicy bloody maria with tequila and an enormous assortment of raw oysters that Hank’s had listed on their blackboard. I don’t remember all the different types but Ameya and Fred did insist that we get extra Rappahannock oysters, which turned out to be a good call as they were sweet and buttery with a nice, crisp finish. Awesome.

Our other starters were the perfectly fried and well-seasoned popcorn shrimp and calamari with their crack house sauce that’s similar to a spicy remoulade and the BBQ’d oysters, Hog Island style. Lots of buttah, some white wine, garlic and Tabasco made for some scaldingly hot, albeit tasty bites.

Fred and Joanna shared the shrimp and grits, which looked enormous and delicious, Ameya ordered the smoked trout hash with poached eggs, potatoes and dill cream sauce, which came out smelling amazing and very rich and I tucked into their lobster roll (bursting at the seams with tender lobster meat lightly dressed with mayo and celery, the way I like it) with Old Bay fries. Everything was so fresh and the atmosphere was chill and casual that it just cemented my belief that Hank’s will always be one of my favorite D.C. restaurants.

By the time lunch ended, we were feeling pretty full and lethargic, and since the Phillips Collection was only a couple blocks away, I dragged our group to visit the Rothko Room and the Man Ray-Human Equations exhibit so we could get a bit of culture and a good walk in before our evening at new hot spot, Rose’s Luxury.

A day in D.C. and dinner at Proof

April 13, 2015 § 1 Comment

Second day of my DC weekend started off with a frigid visit to the Washington Monument and then some delicious raw oysters and fried seafood at old school restaurant, Old Ebbitt Grill, with Murphy.

Spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the Smithsonian and Georgetown. The Museum of Natural History was holding its annual orchid show as well as photographs from the annual National Geographic competition and I got to take in the Piero di Cosimo – Italian Renaissance exhibit at the National Gallery. Rounded out the day wandering around the intersection of M and Wisconsin and all over campus, which was still beautiful as ever, before heading to dinner at Proof, known for its refined American food and extensive wine list.

Orchids at the Natural History Museum

Monet at the National Gallery

Good ol’ Healy Hall at Georgetown University

At Proof, we started with a couple cocktails (super potent) and their complimentary crackers with house made labneh with olive oil and chives. Deliciously creamy with a bit of tang. Because we decided ahead of time that this would be one of those ridiculous marathon meals, we ordered three appetizers – the sauteed potato gnocchi with pumpkin and wild mushrooms accompanied with brussels sprouts, butternut squash agrodolce, sage, brown butter and parmesan, the crispy veal sweetbreads with hedgehog mushrooms (served atop creamy white polenta, scallions, bacon lardons and a honey gastrique) and then the pan roasted Hudson Valley foie gras on a sweet cherry short cake, pistachio, cocoa nibs and bing cherry jus. The potato gnocchi were golden brown and crispy on the outside with pillowy centers; the sweetbreads were perfectly cooked and tender and the foie gras, the best of these three awesome dishes, had the perfect balance between sweet and savory. Really lovely and could not get enough.

For our main dishes, we ordered the generously portioned sauteed lamb chops with ragout of nutty farro and tender lamb shoulder (served with pistachios, dried apricots, pomegranate, whipped yogurt, almonds and sumac) as well as the roasted Long Island duck breast with smoked ham hock & pumpkin risotto (served with toasted pumpkin seeds, duck cracklings, sage and crispy collards) and paired them with a delicious bottle of Brunello di Montalcino. It was probably too much of a good thing, especially after our three starters, but we just kept eating and eating until we realized we should probably try to save room for the cheese/dessert course.

Instead of ordering something sweet, we opted for a platter of three cheeses – a Jasper Hill cow’s milk cheese that was soft and floral; a creamy goat cheese called Leonora from Spain that tasted of lemon and herbs and finally, one of my all-time favorite cheeses, a pyrenees-brebis, a semi-firm, sheep’s milk cheese with hints of nuttiness and caramel. So amazing and even more enjoyable with a glass of 1990 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes. It was the perfect, not-too-sweet ending to a relaxing, three hour meal and though totally different from the minibar dinner the night before, just as memorable and indulgent.

Southern Road Trip I – Richmond, VA

March 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Back in late December, our family realized that it would be Katie and my last winter break and decided to go on a road trip to the south, having never traveled there before. Our first stop in Richmond, VA included a visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, during their stunning Chihuly exhibit, a long walk through the James River Park System and Belle Isle, and a comforting, uber-rich meal at Tarrant’s Cafe – chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, fried seafood platter, you name it.

Pendleton blankets

Oddly hypnotizing organic forms

The bridge to Belle Isle

Tarrant’s – shrimp and grits

reOrder and Rockwell

March 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

On Friday, during a day trip to Brooklyn, Laura and I were greeted by some giant, white fabric mushrooms in the Great Hall of the Brooklyn Museum. The installation by Situ Studio, a Brooklyn-based creative practice specializing in design and fabrication, is intended to serve as a hub for visitors to congregate, relax, and view the occasional performance.

Inside the Great Hall

reOrder is the first installation in the newly-renovated Great Hall, completed by Ennead Architects.

There was also a fascinating and memorable Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera exhibit that featured the artist’s illustrations from The Saturday Evening Post and described the painstaking process he took to compose each painting, which took a lot more work and meticulousness than one would imagine. Some of my favorites included The Tattoo Artist and The Maternity Waiting Room. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos, but this exhibit is definitely one that you have to see in-person.

Admission to both exhibits and the rest of the museum is $6.

reOrder: An Architectural Environment by Situ Studio and 
Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238
http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/

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