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.

 

Paris, Part 1

April 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

Vanessa and I recently went on a dream trip to Paris and by the end, neither of us wanted to come back. Both of us had visited before so our main objectives this time around were simply eating and drinking as much great food and wine as possible, wandering aimlessly a la flaneur, meeting cute French guys and getting in some serious shopping, all of which we handily accomplished and then some.

We stayed in a seriously gorgeous AirBnb 2 bedroom apartment on the left bank in the St. Germain area, a neighborhood I fell in love with the last time I visited, full of charming boutiques and bistros and of course…the department store, Le Bon Marche. Assuming that I get to visit Paris more regularly in the future, I would stay here again and again.

We had our first lunch at Cafe Varenne, just down the street from our apartment and a sentimental favorite from my last time in Paris. A bottle of red wine (by the way, we couldn’t get over how inexpensive great red wine was in Paris…it made NYC prices look like absolute gouging), steak and frites and we were super happy campers, despite the lack of sleep.

Dinner at the super hip, draped-in-velvet Hotel Costes…where you could smoke on the terrace and all the servers were beautiful. We shared a bottle of champagne and then I had a lighter dinner of sweet, freshly grilled langoustines with some greens.

Another epic meal of the trip at L’Avant Comptoir, the standing-only bar next to the famous bistro, Le Comptoir. We had SO much fun here just drinking and eating small bites and shocking the bartender, Baptiste, at how much we could stuff down our gullets over the course of about six (yes, that’s right, six) hours. I really loved the communal Bordier butter (Vanessa became obsessed) and bread as well as the giant jar of cornichons (NYC DOH would have fainted). Also…there were a lot of cute, friendly French men here which may have contributed to why we stayed so long…

Menu items hanging from the ceiling

Some of the 16 dishes (again…it was an epic meal) that we ordered over the course of several hours – duck sausage hot dog, blood sausage with brandied apples, shishito peppers, giant slab of Bordier butter, gratineed scallop and oh…just our third bottle of wine…

One of the most special meals we had was a lunch at L’Arpege, a 3-Michelin starred restaurant with a focus on vegetables (which we were actually thankful for after our meat-heavy binge at L’Avant Comptoir). We started with more champagne (a habit we eagerly adopted during the rest of our trip) and the lightest black pepper and onion pastry.

Some other highlights of the tasting menu were the perfectly cooked Dover sole with charred cabbage and their version of bouillabaisse. Such bright and clean flavors and again, surprisingly light. Just look at those pops of color!

Some non-food related activities: a visit to Sacre Coeur in the Montmartre neighborhood and then seeing Dita von Teese (one of my ultimate girl crushes) perform a seriously amazing show at the famous club, Crazy Horse.

Stayed tuned for more in the next post!

Food of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast

August 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

I spent my first week of August in what seemed to be a sun-soaked dream – sailing, swimming, eating and drinking along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. My co-workers, Alice and Meredith, two chill and super nice Canadian girls we met via an online forum called crewfinder, Brooke and Shay, and our awesome (and cute) skipper, Ivan, spent 7 days living on our boat, the beautiful Violeta, as part of The Yacht Week, an organized event that took us to various locations, from busier ports to smaller fishing villages, and held huge parties at designated beach clubs or venues each night. We got to meet awesome people from all over the world and somewhere in between all the heavy alcohol consumption and dancing, we took in the natural beauty, culture and of course, food, that Croatia had to offer. I took so many photos during the trip but this post is just on the food, which for the most part was very simply prepared but because of the higher quality of produce/ingredient compared to what we get in the States, tasted absolutely phenomenal. Even the locally produced wines were on point and paired perfectly with the food.

A good number of the restaurants we visited during our trip were recommended by Ivan, who took such great care of us and made sure we never went hungry (which was super hard to do despite us being five girls!), so I actually don’t know some of the names but from what I could tell, most of the restaurants in the places where we stopped were mom-and-pop run eateries that focused on local specialties.

First stop – Split, Croatia. Meredith, Alice and I had dinner at a spot right by our hotel called Poseidon and dug into some local cheeses, olives and fruit to start. For our main, we split an enormous “Poseidon” platter that featured shrimp, large langoustine (think almost miniature lobsters), mussels, whole grilled fish, the whole shebang. Drizzle over a bunch of peppery olive oil, fleck with some extra salt and we were in seafood heaven.

The daily catch, we soon discovered was a normal thing. Typically, in NYC, being able to order a fish that just came off the boat that day is pretty rare but in Croatia, it’s totally expected for the server to bring you to a cooler full of sea critters caught just a couple hours ago and for you to pick whatever looks best to you. I absolutely loved it. We had these two grilled fish as part of our first official crew dinner in Milna.

I was also completely addicted to the langoustine, which are nosebleed expensive and usually offered by the piece at restaurants in NYC. The version below was at a restaurant in Hvar and came in some ridiculously tasty garlic, boozy sauce. Don’t be grossed out but it was so much fun to suck the innards out of the heads (as Mark Bittman of New York Times calls it, “god’s soup”).

My favorite stop by far though was Vis and the dinner we had the first night there was spectacular. We started with this enormous platter of cheese, tuna prosciutto (almost like smoked salmon), mussels and roasted vegetables and then moved on to the freshly grilled sea bream with roasted peppers, french fries and salsa verde. Again, so simple but so good (especially with copious amounts of EVOO drizzled all over). Something about the potatoes in Croatia made us keep ordering them – somehow they tasted so much more spud-y than those in the U.S.

My favorite dinner took place at Konoba Magic, a hidden gem in Vis that also had a vineyard on the premises. Per usual, we had dinner late at night so I would’ve loved to have seen the property during the day but one thing we noticed immediately when we arrived were these giant clay pots sitting right by a hot, hot fire.

We started our meal with the usual – cheese with homemade marmalade,  tuna prosciutto with arugula, anchovies with capers in (you guessed it) more olive oil. Is it possible to ever get bored of this kind of food? I don’t think so.

Ivan also recommended these insane fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with farmer’s cheese and anchovies, which was probably my favorite bite of the entire meal. They came with something very similar to tartar sauce and there was a collective moan of delight as we all bit into these clouds of awesomeness.

But turns out the real showstopper was being hidden in those large clay pots all along – behold peka, a local specialty of stewed veal shank, the creamiest potatoes and sweetest carrots you’ll ever have in your ENTIRE LIFE. Those damn potatoes, man. Oh yeah, and we finally managed to get a photo of our crew, about five days into the trip…

After Yacht Week ended (tears), Alice and I stayed an extra day in Split to decompress and take in some of the sights that we might have missed the first day, including the fresh market filled with beautiful looking fruit and vegetables. Loved seeing old ladies haggle for produce.

The second half of the afternoon was admittedly spent with me either passed out in one of the world’s most comfortable beds or under the giant shower head in our beautiful room at Palace Judita, one of the prettiest hotels I’ve had the pleasure to stay at (the receptionist was a frikkin’ hoot as well). Seven days of sleeping (or not) in a stuffy, tiny cabin and showering either off the side of a boat or in a public marina rest room with a queue of women waiting impatiently behind you will take inevitably take its toll after all. And they had AC! Such a luxury.

Luckily, even though Yacht Week was over, we were able to meet Shay and Brooke for one final (albeit incomplete) crew dinner at local restaurant Apetit before they departed for Italy and we headed back to the U.S. We pulled out all the stops and ordered grilled langoustine, grilled lamb with roasted potatoes, homemade tagliatelle with black truffle (apparently a big thing in Croatia) and small prawns and octopus carpaccio. A perfect meal with a little bit of everything to end one of the best vacations of my life.

Needless to say, I was kind of a wreck inside when it finally came for us to leave this beautiful country the next morning. Alice and I had a layover in Frankfurt and were feeling pretty glum, but a surprise and complimentary upgrade to business class certainly brightened things up a bit! Here’s one last shot of me almost fully reclined while eating some smoked duck salad with a glass of Bordeaux and watching Carey Mulligan being ridiculously gorgeous in Far from the Madding Crowd before dozing off for the next four hours (and I can never fall asleep on flights).

All I can really say now is thank you to everyone – Ivan, our awesome crew of Alice, Meredith, Shay and Brooke, all the super fun people we met on Yacht Week, the staff at Hotel Slavija and Palace Judita, Lufthansa, the locals, Croatia itself for being so goddamn beautiful, the universe for giving us all those free upgrades – for making it a trip to remember forever. I can’t wait to go back!

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