Travel: Nice, France

IMG_3124My first time in the south of France was when I was 16, on a trip to Arles with my family. I was immediately taken in by the pastel-colored buildings, the warm air (even in March) and the warm, friendly people (not to mention the delicious seafood.) We stayed with a delightful family in a small bed and breakfast, and spent the few days we were there exploring the Roman ruins, traveling around the region and eating (a lot.) IMG_4299This trip was a bit different. Ari and I didn't quite know what to expect, neither of us having been to Nice or the French Riviera before. (I was basically envisioning Casino Royale with more croissants.) We were immediately charmed by the gorgeous architecture and the incredible views of the Mediterranean, and one of my favorite moments was when we decided to walk up to the city Chateau and stumbled across a waterfall. We also had some incredible food--though we didn't get to go to Le Canon because I forgot to make a reservation, we still were able to eat at a number of wonderful restaurants.

IMG_4310.JPGLe Franchin Situated on a little side street, this traditional bistro served the best seafood bisque I've ever had. We actually went here after we learned that Le Canon was booked on a recommendation from the owner, and it didn't disappoint. A great spot for affordable wine and delicious fish--and the staff speaks English, so it's easy to communicate.

IMG_4318.JPGRestaurant Aphrodite The menu at this molecular gastronomy restaurant looks pretty crazy at first glance, but don't be afraid. Ari and I had two different tasting menus, and everything was wonderful--but we especially loved the asparagus dish with an egg and caviar, and the incredible edible forest, complete with tiny souffle "snails" and mushrooms. Chef David Faure and his wife were incredibly nice and friendly, and the staff explained everything about the menu in great detail.

IMG_3132Parcours Live Situated just outside Nice in the hilltop village of Falicon, Parcours Live is a Michelin-starred restaurant in an unassuming old farmhouse that just happens to have world-class views of the Riviera. When we got there it was already dark, but food more than made up for it. Chef Frederic Galland is clearly super talented, and the spacious dining room was very comfortable and quiet. I particularly loved the rabbit terrine and the red snapper with zucchini flowers.

IMG_3057Other notes: we stayed in two different hotels, Hotel La Perouse and the Hyatt Palais Mediteranee. Both quite different and equally lovely, but I loved the old world charm of Hotel La Perouse. Though they're both on the Promenade des Anglais, La Perouse is a bit more off the beaten track, and their roof deck has some of the best views of Nice.

IMG_4290We also enjoyed a delightful lunch at a sidewalk cafe in the Place Durandy, and we loved walking through the Promenade du Paillon, which was probably one of the best city parks I've ever seen. We didn't make it to any museums, but I've heard wonderful things about the Chagall museum and the modern art museum, should you be so inclined. As it was, we were very happy walking around the old city and having an aperitif or an ice cream cone when it suited us.

 

Travel: Bay Area Taco Roundup

One of the things that nearly every New Yorker laments (besides the obvious, like the tourists and the un-air conditioned cars in the subway) is the lack of good Mexican food in the city. Of course, that's a generalization, and there are plenty of great places like Dos Toros and Empellon al Pastor (also Rockaway Taco, RIP, is still the best fish taco I've ever had.) But for inexpensive, consistently good tacos, California always wins. Ari and I were in Sonoma and Oakland last week for vacation, and I had tacos a total of four separate times (I know, I think I have a problem.) Here's where we ate (plus a couple of favorites from other trips):

Sonoma

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El Molino Central The standout at this seasonal taqueria was actually the pork tamale–super moist with plenty of meat, and just as good reheated the next day for breakfast with an egg on top. An excellent place to stop for lunch if you're in wine country, plus they have a nice outdoor patio.

Taqueria Los Primos Cheap, delicious, super filling. We got two carnitas tacos, two chorizo tacos and an horchata bigger than my face for a grand total of $12–plus it came with free chips and homemade salsa.

Oakland

Cactus All I'm going to say is go quickly and get the crispy chicken tacos. You'll thank me.

San Francisco

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Sweet Woodruff Not your typical taqueria, this coffee shop nonetheless had delicious breakfast tacos filled with bacon, eggs, queso fresco and pico de gallo. The iced coffee was pretty spot-on as well.

Tacolicious This relative newcomer is already a mini-chain in San Francisco and Palo Alto, and does not disappoint. I had the chorizo and potato, short rib and carnitas tacos and all were equally delicious (plus the avocado salsa made everything better.)

Would love to hear about your favorite Mexican places in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Where to Eat in Paris

This is certainly not a definitive guide on where to eat in Paris, but it is where we ate. Everything was SO GOOD. Seriously, I don't know how a simple ham sandwich is so much better than it is here (not to mention the fact that a half baguette piled with saucisson sec or ham is 3 euros.) I know that Parisian restaurants have gotten a bad rap in the past for being snooty but everywhere we went was so lovely (it does help to at least attempt to speak French, though I would recommend that for any foreign country.) Le Servan: We ate here for Ari's birthday, and while everything was great, we particularly loved the blood sausage wontons with sweet and sour sauce (sounds crazy but they were delicious) and the slow cooked beef. Expect French dishes with plenty of Asian twists, about $120 for two (with wine.)

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Le Relais d'Entrecôte: Maybe a little touristy, but this steak frites-only restaurant is a classic for a reason. Reasonable prices, addictive sauce and super crispy fries make it a great option for picky eaters, and the three locations are very convenient.

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Bones: This newish place from Australian chef James Henry was empty when we arrived at 7:30 on a Tuesday, but quickly filled up and with good reason. The bar has small plates, but the 55 euro tasting menu was stellar, highlighted by housemade bread and butter, steamed oysters with mignonette and amazing roast duck. The innovative menu changes nightly, and you can book ahead online.

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Lulu La Nantaise: We randomly stopped in this little crêperie along the Canal St. Martin because we were starving, and it ended up being such a gem. Reasonable prices and a great selection of both sweet and savory crêpes make it a perfect lunch place.

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Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki: This tiny and beautiful pâtisserie was just down the street from the apartment we rented, and had a gorgeous selection of Japanese-influenced pastries (think matcha croissants) and great coffee (which, unfortunately can be hard to find in Paris.)

Apart from these, there were innumerable boulangeries and cafés that we stopped in for a sandwich or a quick glass of champagne-you really can't go too far wrong.

All photos from my Instagram.

Tilia

Though I usually write about restaurants in New York, as that is where I live most of the time, this past weekend I was lucky enough to be home in not-so-snowy Minnesota. The trip was filled with family, food, lovely Christmas traditions, and more food (including, for better or worse, lutefisk). However, aside from the lye-soaked cod, one of the nicest parts of the trip was a lunch yesterday at Tilia with my family.

I had heard rave reviews of this restaurant from Twin City-darling Steven Brown from several sources, and couldn't wait to go as soon as I arrived home. Situated in the lovely Linden Hills neighborhood of Minnapolis, "tilia" is actually Latin for the Linden tree. Though Brown has worked at many of the Twin Cities' best restaurants, this is his first solo venture, and I couldn't wait to see if it lived up to the hype.

Fittingly, as soon as we walked in the door of the restaurant at 1:15, the host told us it would be at least an hour wait for five people. My face fell -- as I needed to leave for the airport in two hours, that would have been impossible. However, with a little flexibility (fitting five people into a booth), we were able to be seated immediately. Our server was engaging and funny, and had many recommendations. We ended up sharing several dishes, including pork belly with lentils and apple chutney (stellar), french fries (salty and marvelous), and the fish taco torta (crunchy and creamy and spicy all at once). However, I would have to say that the two stand-out dishes were on the sweeter side. The first was called, whimsically, "Millionaire's Bacon". This consisted of crispy-succulent bacon drenched in -- wait for it -- salted caramel sauce. More a dessert than a side dish, this was rather remarkable. Though I couldn't eat ore than a few bites, the saltiness of the bacon offset the sweet vanilla of the caramel perfectly.

My other favorite dish was the butterscotch pudding topped with crème fraîche. Wonderfully creamy, with subtle vanilla undertones and lovely butterscotch flavor, the crème fraîche added a nice tart note to the sugary pudding. This was accompanied by a perfectly made macchiato.

Overall, Tilia surpassed all of my expectations. The service was a little slow at times, but understandable given how busy their lunch service is. It feels like a real neighborhood restaurant, an excellent place to meet a friend for a glass of wine (or a beer from their excellent list). Make sure to share everything.

Restaurant: The Farm on Adderley

Image via thefarmonadderley.com

Last Thursday was the second time I had visited this little restaurant in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Ditmas Park is within walking distance of my old apartment in southeast Prospect Park, but it feels like you have escaped New York into a peaceful neighborhood filled with gracious old Victorian houses and charming little restaurants. The Farm on Adderley is an American, seasonal restaurant with a great beer and wine selection, known mostly for their burger and red meat which is all sourced locally.

The first time I ate there was for brunch, and my friend Morgan and I sat in the back garden. I had the smoked trout hash with hollandaise (excellent), and Morgan had the scrambled eggs with kale. The best part of brunch was the chocolate brioche, served warm and smothered in butter. This, eaten with great iced coffee while sitting under the September sun, was perfect.

The next time we went, Fall had finally come to Brooklyn, so we sat inside near the bar. We decided on splitting a few things, and started off with acorn squash with sauteed peppers and fried brussels sprouts. This was disappointing. The amount of brussels sprouts amounted to one, and the peppers overwhelmed the flavor of the squash, which is the reason we ordered the dish. However, the french fries made up for it. They were crisp and thick without being soggy, served with an excellent curry mayonnaise (and I am always a sucker for flavored mayos). For our entrée, we split the pan-fried skate with brown-butter sauce, collard greens, and pearl onions. This was lovely, albeit incredibly rich. I had never had skate before, and the sweet, almost crab like meat provided a wonderful foil for the brow-butter sauce. The roasted pearl onions were sweet and delicious, particularly when contrasted with the bitterness of the greens. At the end of the meal, we were both regrettably too full for dessert, but I plan on returning to try the burger and hopefully the salted chocolate mousse soon.

Restaurants: The Mermaid Inn

      Due to some unseasonably warm weather in New York this week, restaurants are keeping their patios open through the end of the month, which is always excellent news for me. At seven o'clock on Sunday night, it was still 80 degrees out, which gave me a chance to catch up with a couple of good friends from Bar Boulud. We decided to hit up the East Village institution known as the Mermaid Inn. I had heard great things, but never had a chance to go.

Abby and I both decided on the fish tacos, while Angie chose the squash soup and the grilled romaine salad. The fish tacos were wonderful -- the tilapia was crispy but still moist inside, and the cabbage slaw that it was served with was spicy without overwhelming the fish. I also tried a little of Angie's salad, which was fresh and lemony, with just a hint of anchovy. We sat in their back patio, which is much quieter than the sidewalk seating in front, and is festooned with lights and bordered by trees. We all felt like we had escaped New York for a little while.

The meal ended as they all do at the Mermaid Inn, with tiny cups of complimentary chocolate pudding and a fortune-telling fish. My fish told me that I'm "passionate" (which is certainly true about food). I'm hoping to go back before the weather changes and check out their excellent happy hour ($1 oysters! fried calamari! Aperol spritz!), but I don't make it before that, they also have a charming bar.