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: Bologna & Modena

IMG_2953My love affair with Italy started in high school, when my family traveled there for a week. We stayed in Siena and Vernazza in the Cinque Terre, and I was immediately hooked. After that trip, I vowed to learn Italian and go back for a longer stay--and I did. I studied abroad in Bologna during college, and grew to love the language and the culture even more. Ari studied abroad there as well (we actually met when we were both TA's for an intro Italian class when I came back), so it's a very special place for both of us--and we were really excited to go back together. When I lived there, we lived in pretty basic dorm-style apartments with other Italian students--not exactly the fresco-filled palazzos of your dreams. This time, we decided to stay in an Airbnb on the other side of town to explore a new neighborhood (it was fantastic! Paola was so gracious and lovely, and the place was very comfortable.) Bologna is a very walkable city--you can get from one end to the other in about an hour and a half, and there are electric buses that go all over as well. It's still very much a university town, and you can feel the energy of the students all over the city. It was pretty amazing to be back in the familiar streets, seeing the same restaurants and stores (and bars) that we had been to as students. Of course, now with jobs and a little more spending money, we could also eat out more--though I remember eating very well there on a minimal budget too. Here's where we ate:

Osteria della Lanterna

Just down the street from our Airbnb, this trattoria felt like the quintessential Italian neighborhood spot. We ordered two of the Bolognese specialties: tagliatelle al ragu and tortelloni al brodo, both delicious. I love that you could order ragu from 100 different restaurants in the city, and they would all be slightly different. They also had a great selection of inexpensive, local wines--we had a lovely sangiovese from Emilia-Romagna that went perfectly with the pasta.

Trattoria dal Biassanot 

This place was a recommendation from a former professor, and it didn't disappoint. I had gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and Ari had the tortelloni al brodo (are you seeing a pattern?) and we shared the pork loin. If you're looking for a perfect example of Bolognese cuisine, this is an excellent choice.

IMG_3039Hosteria Giusti

This tiny restaurant is in the neighboring town of Modena (about 20 minutes away by train) and is absolutely worth the trip. Housed in the back of a salumeria, it's only open for lunch and the curated menu is perfectly executed by the Morandi family. Be sure to order the salumi plate with fried gnocchi--the prosciutto, salami and lardo is the best I have ever had, and the light-as-air pillows of dough were incredible. You can also order half portions (as to be able to try more things, of course) which left us feeling pleasantly full but not over-stuffed. Note: you need to make a reservation about a month in advance, so plan ahead.

Don't miss: in addition to the incredible pasta, Bologna is also known for a few other specialties: piadine and aperitivo. I ate a piadina almost every day for lunch while studying abroad--it's a kind of flatbread sandwich, typically filled with prosciutto or coppa and cheese. Aperitivo happens every day before dinner--remember, Italians eat dinner around 9 pm or later, so their "happy hour" is anywhere from 6 pm to 10 pm. Around this time, you'll see restaurants and bars set out little plates of food, ranging from a bowl of potato chips to full plates of pasta. If you buy a drink (an Aperol or Campari spritz if you want to feel very Bolognese), then you can snack on the food as you like.

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.

Happy 4th of July!

Hello from California! If you have been following along on Instagram, you probably know that I have been traveling around a bit and eating A LOT. Highlights include an incredible dinner at Animal in LA, amazing lunch from Sqirl, and of course, so many tacos (we may or may not have stopped in an old west-style town along highway 1 to eat leftover carnitas tacos. At 9 a.m.)

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We're heading up to Napa today to attend a friend's wedding, but I hope that whatever your Independence Day plans are, they include plenty of food being eaten outside, friends and family, and fireworks. Happy 4th of July!
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