Thursday, January 31, 2013

Beyond excited for this one


 Merci, Seymour, for alerting me to the next Michel Gondry movie. The trailer alone is enough to make me laugh, cry, feel goose bumps and hope for the impossible magic of this world.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Une question: How to celebrate your 40th birthday in Paris

Hi Amy, 
I will be traveling to Paris in March for my 40th Bday.  I have been there a couple of times and have stayed in the Latin Quarter.  My partner is coming with me and he has never been to Paris. (I’m so excited for him since he is a chef-he is going to love it.) Do you have any recommendations on where to stay? We are planning on renting an apartment but I don’t know which arrondissements to stay in. Also, if you have any recommendations on where to eat that would be great too!


If there are two things I love, and two things I love to lavish in, they’re birthdays and Paris. I’m thrilled to share some ideas!

First, where to stay. My top arrondissement picks would be the second, third and ninth, on the Right Bank and the fifth and sixth on the Left Bank. Any of these (indeed, any in city center) will make you feel right in the heart of everything. And you will be. In the heart of the city. Plus you’ll feel that inexplicable giddiness any time you leave and come “home” in these residential neighborhoods that are also conveniently close to so many landmarks, museums, restaurants, chocolatiers (essential) and transportation options. My friend Erica runs a wonderful company for short-term rentals called Haven in Paris.

Where to eat…where to eat? Where to begin?!

I would definitely consider a pricey but worth every centime lunch at Le Grand Vefour. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. The cheese cart alone is decadence of the highest caliber. But every gesture from the attentive staff, every brush against the historic red velvet banquettes, every delightful bite is a reminder of why the French have a reputation for indulging in true pleasures.

Similarly, I’d visit at least one of the grand hotels: maybe Four Seasons for breakfast, Le Meurice for a mid-day club sandwich, Le Royal Monceau for cocktails (or a bespoke Pierre Hermé millefeuille), the Mandarin Oriental for a spa treatment. Heck, why not do them all—you only turn 40 once!

I’ve never been, but I do hear great things about Le Jules Verne, up on the second level of the Eiffel Tower. If you want a memorable birthday dinner, that could be it. L’Astrance would be my other decadent pick.

As for the rest of your visit (i.e. coming back down to earth), here is a random (but bona fide delicious) assortment of restaurant ideas.

La Régalade Saint-Honoré (1e) is simply wonderful. Delicious food and a great value.

Au Vieux au Comptoir (1e) is a local favorite. No frills atmosphere. Warm staff. Heavy on the meats.

Chez Georges (2eme) is a cozy, old-timey bistro with a classic menu and atmosphere.

It would be fun for you to go to Verjus (1e) which is a cool little wine bar/restaurant founded by an American couple who started HiddenKitchen in Paris years ago. Though Braden didn’t go to cooking school, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone having as much fun and doing as impressive things as he is in the kitchen. (And his wife, Laura, is a doll.)

Le Verre Volé – this has been a happening little wine bar for many years now. Great cooking, situated right on the canal, which is a very trendy neighborhood. Not far away, you’ll find Le Chateaubriand, the bistro darling of international food disciples.

Chef Christian Constant has three very accessible and lovely restaurants over near the Eiffel Tower: Café Constant, Les Cocottes de Christian Constant and Le Violon d’Ingres. You’re guaranteed to have a great meal at any of them.

Of course it’s a must to pass some time at a café. Café Flore, Les Deux Magots, Café Palette, Chez Prune and Le Café de la Paix are all classics. You can also find a pedestrian street like rue Montorgueil, rue Cler or rue Buci, spattered with cute cafes, and just pick the spot that calls your name loudest.

Don't miss the markets for food inspiration and if you want to get your hands on some raw ingredients, check out La Cuisine for really fun cooking classes.
I feel like I could go on and on but I think this is a good place to begin. So is Meg Zimbeck's Paris by Mouth.

 Bon anniversaire! I'm very excited for your upcoming adventure!


Monday, January 28, 2013

My Vegan Mondays

Accomplished during a 14-hour workday...

Coffee with soy milk
Green juice

Steamed veg, roasted potatoes
Gala apple

Roasted cauliflower and fried brussels sprouts

Last Monday, too! Last week included toast with peanut butter, kimchi soup and roasted carrots and sweet potatoes. In between all this pious eating were hi-octane meals at Isola, Super Linda, The Library at the Public Theater and Frankies Spuntino 457. It all balances out, doesn't it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Book these tables

It’s been fun over the past few years, watching the new restaurants influx in Paris and seeing young chefs make names for themselves. From Le Chateaubriand to Septime, Frenchie to Le Pantruche, it’s been a good era for Parisian restaurants and international foodies.

But let’s not forget the no-longer-in-the-spotlight-but-still-great addresses. The fanfare has cooled, but the food at these restaurants will put you over the moon.

La Gazetta, 29 rue de Cotte, 12eme – I first went here with friends who pre-ordered Chef Nilsson’s vegan menu. Yes, a five-course vegan meal in Paris, and it was delicious (so is the rest of the menu). Coupled with the cool Art Deco vibe and friendly service, it shone like the Cote d’Azur sun.

L’Itineraires, 5 rue de Pontoise, 5eme – This is one of those fancy-not-stuffy restaurants. Totally polished and chic, yet simple, and that extends to the food. Lovely for lunch or dinner.

Derriere, 69 rue des Gravilliers, 3eme –I’ve vacillated over the years between being charmed and annoyed with this side alley hipster hangout. But ultimately the atmosphere and slightly off-kilter food make the impossible-to-penetrate attitude worth it.

Les Papilles, 30 rue Gay-Lussac, 5eme – A wine store/unofficial rugby club/kickass restaurant, I still remember the terrain of soup that kicked off my hearty meal here. It knocked my socks off.

Le Temps au Temps, 13 rue Paul Bert, 11eme – A quiet, little gem, serving classic French food. Enough said.

Hotel Costes, 239 rue Saint Honoré, 1e – Costes is ancient when it comes to of-the-moment addresses, but the food is surprisingly delicious and the atmosphere is still hip.

Le Verre Volé, 67 rue de Lancry, 10eme – The canal’s original bastion of cool. The cooking at this once itty-bitty wine bar was so delicious, the kitchen and menu expanded. Kickass dishes to go with their eclectic assortment of wines.

Spring, 6 rue Bailleul, 1e – Long live Daniel Rose! From his succulent duck breast to his summertime lobster rolls to his lovely staff and friendly demeanor, he’s set the American standard in Paris.

Guilo Guilo, 8 rue Garreau, 18eme – Maybe if you’re in Paris for only a week, you don’t want to eat Japanese. But you do. You do want to eat at this jewel box where every one of the eight courses is a delicious, little gift.

Willi’s Wine Bar, 13 rue des Petits Champs, 1e – The original Anglo restaurant/wine bar, Willi’s defines casual comfort and simple sophistication.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A few snowy hours ago in Paris...

... Simon Procter snapped these photos at Dior.
I became a fan of his two years ago, when I first saw the 2011 spring/summer collection. His photos aren't just great because they capture the beauty and magic of haute couture. 
 But because they show the beauty and magic of two art forms together.
P.S. How many Vegan Mondays do you think you have to do to get arms like that??

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Vegan Mondays

Coffee with soy milk

Tofu wrap

A lovely glass of French Merlot and smoked almonds at the Mandarin Oriental
A vegan smorgasbord at Joseph Leonard: a butter lettuce, fennel and radish salad; roasted cauliflower with pine nuts; shaved brussels sprouts; broccoli rabe with gigante beans; French lentils; and a funky Languaduc red.

The key here is that it's possible to go out and still eat vegan, and eat well. I had a drinks date, followed by a dinner date and usually that calls for splurging and excess. But my dinner date was with a vegan friend who knows how to navigate (good) restaurants and order well—and totally vegan. It was a good reminder of how easy it can be.

I hope everyone's plans for a healthy 2013 continue without a hitch!  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

20 years ago

Amazing. Twenty years ago, I was on my way to Paris for the first time. I was 20-years-old. I had been to Quebec City but otherwise had never left the country. I was bored, in my third of four years of college (business school, no less). Fleeing to a foreign country for a semester abroad seemed both plausible and inspiring. A bona fide escape. Little did I know it would be the most transformative experience of my life.

My brother and best friend dropped me at Logan Airport. I flew with a girlfriend from school. We landed the next morning and slept in a hotel with bunk beds until we found families from which to rent rooms. Outside, the air was heavy and grey. Ambulance sirens screamed with a totally different cadence. It was foreign in every sense of the word.

For four months, I took classes that would fulfill my credit requirements back home (advertising, notably). But other classes that I never would have found on my conservative business school campus: feminism and a harrowing, hardcore literature class led by a crazy British professor in which we studied, and I stumbled through, The Decameron, holy shit.

I traveled: Amsterdam, Switzerland, Barcelona, Florence, Greece, the Loire Valley.

I drank in the open—how civilized! (My scarfing of burgers, fries and tuna sandwiches to stave off homesickness, not so much.)

I made new friends. I can still see their faces though I can only remember a couple names.

And, most important, I fell in love. With Paris.

It was another eight years before I got back. But on every subsequent trip, Paris was more and more under my skin. I started going as often as I could, trying different neighborhoods, testing out all seasons. I ate different things, found new museums, sat in different parks, and returned to old favorites and felt a connection from doing so. I came to know the city better and the more I knew, the more I wanted. I felt it was part of me. I needed it.

And then there was that fateful day in 2008. The chance to move to Paris with my ad agency. The proverbial opportunity of a lifetime. The start of the most profound and liberating and magical and life-defining stint I could ever imagine.

And it all started 20 years ago.

Would I have had my two years in Paris—my new friends, my book, my career, my home, my memories, my feelings, my attachment, my profound love—if I hadn’t first gone there as a college student? I don’t think so. It makes me so proud of, and so grateful for, the courage of that 20-year-old girl getting on a flight 20 years ago.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On the streets of Paris

I discovered new art in Paris.

Have you seen it before?

Beautiful, beautiful plane trees. Even prettier in the rain.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My Vegan Mondays

Game on. I returned from that place called Blissful Ignorance over the weekend when I stepped onto the scale at the gym. Holy crap! I've put on five pounds in the last couple of months. I knew my pants were tight. Now I know I've got to lay off the sweets.

Coffee with soy milk
Fuji apple

Steamed veg and roasted potatoes (I even dumped a portion of the potatoes in advance so I wouldn't eat the whole lot)
And just a few slivers of chocolate bark (this willpower thing... I'm working on it)

Carrots and hummus

Yep, that's it. Intentionally draconian. It comes after a weekend of sidecars, pizza, omlettes, gummies and all manner of bad-for-you things. It's not fun, but I know after a couple days it will get easier.

Any of you reeling from an end-of-the-year eating blitz? How are you combating winter chub?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What I didn’t get for Christmas

Peekaboo panties or soft, fuzzy angora.

Taxidermy from Deyrolle...

...or just a chocolate bear’s head.

Star-spangled luggage from Vuitton...

...or anything—anything—from Bottega Venta. 

I’m not complaining. Just saving my centimes.