sweets of Sicily

Aside from the rich history and varied architecture, it was Sicily’s sweets that remain most in my memory. Being a sweet tooth, we made it a point to find and taste the best of the region. In Noto, we discovered what’s considered one of the best gelateria’s in Sicily, Caffé Sicilia. Here we stopped for lunch, and decided to make it a sweet one, starting with ice-cream, which was indeed delicious!

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From there we moved on to the second course, and what became my favorite dessert in Sicily, the cassata, a cake covered with almond paste and candied fruit, and filled with ricotta cheese. Incredible! We accompanied this decadent cake with coffee and a glass of almond milk, Sicily being the land of almonds. For the third course (yes, there’s more), we tried the almond granita, an icy concoction of almond milk. WOW!

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After the sugar high faded and we returned to a healthy meal of pasta and fish, we ventured to Modica’s famous confectionery, Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, the oldest (and considered the best) chocolate factory in Sicily. Their chocolate, a legacy of their Spanish history, contains only cocoa beans and sugar. I tried many of their varied flavors, including the most famous, vanilla and cinnamon. But what really blew us away were the cannoli’s. They filled them on the spot, hazelnut and pistachio, the latter being the best Sicilian cannoli I’ve ever tasted!

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A well-known tradition in Sicily is an almond paste known as pasta reale, made with ground almonds, sugar, corn syrup, and lemon juice. These fruit shaped sweets almost look too beautiful to eat. This too is one of my favorite sweets, having grown up eating marzipan.

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Considering how much I love these sweets of Sicily, I can’t wait to return. Until then, detox.

scenes from Sicily

Last weekend my Italian and I ventured to Italy’s most southern region, Sicily. This was my first trip and his second. I had no idea what to expect in this island rich in culture and cuisine. After taking a swim in the still warm waters of the Mediterranean, we headed to our first destination, the island of Ortygia in Syracuse. This charming city reveals baroque facades with Greek,  Roman and Arab influences in it’s centuries old architecture. With Sicilian hospitality, we immediately felt at home.

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One morning we spent at the archeological park where a massive Greek theater from 5th-century BC awaits it’s visitors. During the summer season it’s brought to life with classical concerts.

IMG_9897Being adventure seekers, we decided to drive to Noto. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1693, it was rebuilt to become the grandest baroque town in Sicily. Noto was recently added to Unesco’s list of world heritage sites, certainly worth a visit! And did I  mention that Noto is known for it’s gelato? More on that later…

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IMG_9790The next stop on our Sicilian adventures was Modica. This multi-layered medieval town is uniquely atmospheric with it’s high and low levels, allowing for an incredible view. Here too, you find the most delicious chocolate and confections. How could I resist?

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Our last stop was Taormina, the chic, sophisticated town that seduced many an artist and writer in it’s day. Here was the capitol of  Byzantine Sicily in the 9th century, and today it remains an international hotspot boasting views of a still active Mount Etna.

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Four days spent beneath the Sicilian sun, learning about ancient history, discovering hidden beaches… dining on fresh pasta, fish and local sweets (the latter of which I’m devoting the next blog post to). A perfect holiday.

Seven Letters from Paris

Samantha Verant is a woman after her own heart, one that she left at a train station in Paris in 1989. His name was Jean-Luc. They met randomly at a Paris bistro during her European adventures, and the seeds of love were planted. Like most travel romances, after their 24 hour affair, they continued to journey solo. But not without Jean-Luc writing Samantha seven heartfelt love letters, filled with passion and depth. Years went by and Samantha found herself living an unfulfilled, passionless life, dreaming of this handsome Frenchman from the past. What happens when Samantha uncovers these letters 20 years later and searches for her long lost love, Jean-Luc? In a word: magic. But not without hardship. Samantha’s memoir Seven Love Letters from Paris is proof of the power of love and how overcoming fear can help dreams come true.

Even though I haven’t yet met Samantha, (but plan to soon as I’m certain she and I and our passion driven husbands will get along splendidly), I feel like I know her. We became friends via our blogs, and when I heard about her romantic tale, I couldn’t wait for her to share it with the world. Once the book was published just days ago, I could not put it down, as Samantha recounts her love story with her amorous rocket scientist, from the very first meeting. Fiction could not have told a better tale! How happy I am for this couple in love, who were certainly destined for one another. In Samantha’s words, as in my own, “L’amour! Encore l’amour! Toujours l’amour!”

SEVEN LETTERS FROM PARIS: A MEMOIR:

Twenty years, seven letters, and one long-lost love of a lifetime 

Watch the book trailer:


Thank you Samantha, for living and documenting your love story with such a generous heart!

Connect with Samantha via: Web, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter

 

13-a baker’s dozen

Last Sunday I attended, assisted and feasted at a grand brunch for 25, with David Lebovitz as the guest of honor. The hostess was Laurel of 13-a baker’s dozen, one of my favorite lunch spots in Saint Germain, with home cooked specialties. Also, my first choice for coffee and dessert (specifically Laurel’s famous carrot cake). This too is one of the locales where I hold my bag painting workshops.

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Friends uniting over food and conversation. An ideal Sunday.

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I’ve met David on several occasions and couldn’t wait to read My Paris Kitchen.

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What could be better than tasting recipes from David’s new book?

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Have I mentioned the carrot cake?

photo 8Melissa of Prête-Moi Paris and I took photos and helped to make everyone feel at home, and of course we dined like queens! I’m already looking forward to the next brunch… at David’s?

home sweet Paris

It’s true that to be truly happy we must appreciate not only who we are and what we have but also where we are. This means to make the most of wherever we call home. There are several places close to my heart, but these last 5 years, it’s Paris that I am lucky to call my home. With all it’s flaws and imperfections (those who have lived here know what I’m talking about), but much like a person, no place is perfect. There are certainly days in which I miss the chaos of New York City, or the calm of Westhampton Beach, but there is certainly no place as beautiful as Paris. And I have seen a lot.

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A few days ago, I took a walk along the Seine.

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It is here that I often find myself on early evenings.

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I had a rendezvous with my Italian, but kept walking and walking…

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Captivated by the light on this late summer evening.

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And this is when it occurred to me exactly how lucky I am.

the end {of summer}

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When I was a kid, Montauk was home to fisherman, a place where surfers would congregate to ride the waves and locals would take day trips. It was a tourist destination with it’s mysterious lighthouse, even for those of us who grew up on the east end. When I brought my Italian there five years ago, this was the place he found most charming and authentic. A sleepy village just steps away from gorgeous sandy beaches, considered to many ‘The End’. There was nothing chic about it, until now. But it’s not simply Brooklyn’s hipsters who discovered this surfer haven, it’s Manhattan’s social elite too, who have made this their summer home, thus creating Montauk into a surfer chic enclave. (Cap Ferret, where we recently spent a summer holiday, is often called the ‘Montauk of France’.)

IMG_7496 Just after Labor Day we drove the length of the island, eager to see the village’s evolution.

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What we found were designer boutiques and chic hotels, seemingly abandoned after a full season.

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Montauk was left to the locals once more, just as I had remembered it.

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The once trendy but now tranquil Surf Lodge was an ideal spot to enjoy an end of summer sunset.

New York from above

As much as I love New York from afar, there’s something uniquely magical about the city from above, as it appears to rise forever into the sky, and you rise with it. During these days of meetings and mingling with friends, I tried to catch a glimpse of day turning into night from as many roof decks as possible. As I discover others, I have a few that shall always remain my favorites.

The Peninsula Hotel sun terrace sits on the 21st and 22nd floors with a view of the regal St Regis.

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Here I spent a humid New York day high above the bustle of the city, swimming and lounging in the sun, following a dynamic yoga class. Paradise found in midtown!

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Soho House New York is not only a chic members only address, but the place to be seen. A haven for creatives, the perfect spot to meet a work friend and catch up on the goings on of the NYC ad scene.

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A60 bar located on the 13th floor of 60 Thompson has stunning sunset views to compliment your cocktail. Where better to meet with a girlfriend who just flew in from LA?

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I may never have my fill of looking at New York’s skyline from afar or from above. Until next time…

 

 

New York from afar

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I love New York. It’s the city I called home for many years, and still do. And it’s where I became who I am. When I return now, after living in Paris for 5 years (hard to believe!), I often find the city chaotic and cold, from the inside. It lacks the charm and class of Paris, in which you can walk the streets and lose yourself in it’s beauty. Certainly the energy and dynamism of New York makes up for anything it lacks. The skyline of NYC is unlike any in the world. And now, with the Freedom Tower standing tall, the city truly stands alone.

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When I arrived to NYC I was invited on a Circle Line tour with fellow travel bloggers.

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I very happily felt like a tourist and enjoyed the views as night fell upon the city that never sleeps.

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It was upon this vessel that I met Kirsten, a travel photographer & Stephen, who runs walking tours.

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And is was here, with lady liberty aglow, that my love for this urban jungle was felt most deeply.

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Once a New Yorker, always, whether near or far.

adventures down south

In mid-August my Italian and I decided to do like the Parisians, leave Paris to the tourists, and venture south. I had heard a lot about the unpretentious charm of France’s Cap Ferret, and was eager to discover it for myself. It has been likened to Montauk, the most unspoilt part of the Hamptons, where I grew up. Our first stop was lunch in a rainy but elegant Bordeaux. I know little of this city, this being my second visit, but look forward to becoming better acquainted in the future.

IMG_5619Rather than head directly to this trendy enclave, we stopped in Arcachon for a few days. Just enough time to meet with friends and climb the highest sand dunes in all of Europe.

IMG_5737The Dune du Pilat measures 107 meters high and I felt rather accomplished reaching the top!

IMG_5697We spent the afternoon climbing, jumping, running… and sitting beneath the late summer sun.

IMG_5968Our next stop was Cap Ferret. We settled in with a plate of oysters, local wine, and a view.

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The dominant mode of transport is by bike. And that is how we explored this little French paradise.

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I could immediately understand why it was compared to Montauk with it’s chic yet relaxed vibe.

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After many great meals including at the highly revered Chez Hortense, it was time to bid adieu.

IMG_6006Via boat and train we made our way back to Paris filled with sounds and tastes of the sea.

high tea for two

One reason I love when my mom comes to Paris to visit is that I get to spoil her. I spend months in preparation, planning all sorts of events, exhibitions, eating experiences, etc. This year I thought I’d surprise her with a mother/daughter high tea. Where better than at the Four Seasons George V?

IMG_1501Upon entering this ethereal setting, we were taken with Jeff Leatham’s stunning floral compositions.

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My mom and I were in our element, both of us favoring sweet over savory.

IMG_1454We began our indulgent afternoon with one of Lucien Gautier’s fruitful masterpieces.

IMG_1462Is there anything better than French pastries with champagne to compliment?

IMG_1480How happy I was to spend such a memorable afternoon with my mom, and in such sweet splendor!