first class dining

I don’t often write about dining, but this meal was one to remember! Last week I had the pleasure of joining France Today website editor, a site and magazine for which I write, for a decadent lunch at Le Cinq. Five-courses. Two Michelin stars. New chef Christian Le Squer, (who himself holds three stars). Does it get much better than this? Actually, it does. We had the privilege of touring the famed wine cellar. Now, that is a something to write about.

IMG_6768I couldn’t wait to try Le Squer’s menu, this “creator of savors and composer of tastes.

IMG_6764 The amusebouches were incredible! Each a unique melange of flavors to fill the palate.

IMG_6775The meal started with a sweet onion filled with oysters and carmelized onions.

IMG_6776 Next, Mont Blanc as Egg Soufflé with black truffle. Heavenly!

IMG_6783My main dish was wild sea bass with caviar in ‘fermented milk from my childhood’.

IMG_6791A little cheese before dessert? My choices included soft truffled brie and Mont d’Or.

IMG_6799This sweet caramel concoction was simply divine!

IMG_6805My dessert was an original work of art, and truly had to be tasted to be understood.

IMG_6813Breton specialty Kouing-Amann to end the meal on a sweet note.

IMG_6850Having tasted a variety of wines with our meal, each carefully selected to complement the dishes, it was a privilege to tour the cave. Built during WWII, Four Seasons George V‘s wine cellar is hidden 14 metres (45 feet) below the ground. With nearly 50,000 bottles, it’s filled with vintage treasures, including over 2,800 French and international wines.

IMG_6843Here’s one I wouldn’t mind tasting! (The magnum Petrus 1964 is valued at 40,000 euros.)

IMG_6828The oldest bottle in the collection is a 1792 Madeira. Impressive!

IMG_6891Every time I pass by hotel George V, I will fondly recall this first class culinary experience.

Adventures in Andalucia : Seville

This year we decided to embark on an adventure in celebration of one year ending and another beginning. Where better than beneath the Spanish sun? Our journey began in Seville. Home became Hotel Casa 1800, a historic palace-house turned boutique hotel, located in the heart of the Santa Cruz barrio. The views of our new city were breathtaking!
IMG_3045Neighboring our hotel sat the Cathedral de Seville, the largest Gothic cathedral and third largest church in the world. Within this noble space Christopher Columbus was laid to rest.IMG_3068The views from the Giralda, the bell tower originally built as a minaret, were incredible!

IMG_3732Our most memorable day was spent at the Alcázar of Seville. Once a Moorish fort, this palace, known to be the most beautiful in Spain, is the oldest still in use in Europe.
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IMG_3179 Walking through it’s many chambers and courtyards, we were well impressed. I became enamored with the Muslim architecture and colorful tile mosaics. (New bag collection?)IMG_3331 The Alcazar’s gardens were uniquely magical. We spent hours walking their paths beneath the Spanish sun, hidden within a palatial world, walled in the center of a charming city. IMG_3386Our wanderings took us to the Plaza de España, located in the Parque de María Luisa and built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, now mainly government buildings.

IMG_3583Much of the reason I love to travel, is to try the regional specialities. For dinner and lunch, we opted for tapas, and many conversations centered around food. Where were our favorite spots? Here is a list of our top three tapas restaurants in Seville. And we tried many! In no particular order, La Brunilda, El Pasaje & Vineria San Telmo. Buen provecho!IMG_3816Soon it was time to leave Seville for Córdoba. Adventures in Andalucia continue…

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.

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?

eating adventures

During my around the world travels I’ve experienced many eating adventures, from street food in Vietnam to yak in Tibet. And let’s not forget bone marrow in China and lardo in Italy. (Delicious!) But I have to admit, the most fun I’ve ever had eating was in San Sebastián. This foodie mecca is home to two of the best restaurants in the world, but what we were after were the pinxtos, the Basque version of tapas. The old quarter is filled with pinxtos bars, dozens lining every street, all attempting to entice you with an array of these taste bites lining the counters.

IMG_0474On our first night we followed our feelings as my Italian would say, or was it our eyes and mouths. And with each bar a glass of rioja or local cider. In less than 24 hours I was hooked!

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Day two we did a little research and discovered that our feelings, and palates, had led us well. The eating adventures continued as we were determined to try as many pinxtos bars as possible.

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By day three, we had eaten at nearly a dozen pinxtos bars, drank many a glass of local wine, over-indulged in calamari and octopus and I even convinced my Italian to try pigs ears. It being our last day, we decided to return to our favorite bars. For those planning a trip to San Sebastián (which I highly recommend for anyone who loves to eat) here is the list of pinxtos bars that will keep us coming back. I’m already looking forward to the next trip!

Bar Zeruko : most innovative and experimental of the pinxtos bars

Atari Gastroteka : the gastronomic version of pinxtos

Borda Berri + La Cuchara de San Telmo : pinxtos made fresh to order (both run by same owner)

Bar Sport : don’t let the name of lack of ambiance fool you!

La Viña : home to the best cheesecake in the world!

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The only rule to remember when pinxtos bar-hopping, the more napkins on the floor, the better!

sharing the {blog} love

It is almost one year since I began a life of love in Paris, and Love in the City of Lights was born. What a journey it has been! Little did I know what I would learn and who I would encounter along the way, and all the friends I would make in between.

Through the experience of sharing my life with fellow expats and even a few hopeful romantics, I have come to know Paris, its culture and its people more intimately. I still struggle to understand (and accept) the many French cultural nuances, but I feel much more at home and much less an outsider. For these fellow bloggers (and many others not mentioned), and my dear readers, I am very grateful. I share this love with fellow bloggers, francophiles around the world, and Paris expats.

One of my first virtual friendships was with Andi of Misadventures with Andi, who blogs about many of my favorite subjects including travel, culture, love and of course Paris, always keeping the conversation varied and interesting. I hope to meet in person on her next trip to Paris! 

On the topic of life in Paris, so many I love! Beth Arnold I have come to know and admire for her sophisticated and unprecedented Letter From Paris. Lindsey, of Lost in Cheeseland shares many an anecdote on life as an expat, often with humor and always with candor. For the latest in goings on in the City of Lights, Kim inspires with I Heart Paris. Many secrets and cultural happenings are revealed by Heather in Secrets of Paris. The stories and visual poetry by Nichole of little brown pen, living between Paris and NJ, always cause me to feel lucky to live surrounded by so much beauty. Though many don’t realize it until living here, Paris is indeed imperfect and Sion brings this to light in Paris (Im)perfect. Marjorie, who is neither French nor has ever lived in France, writes my inner French girl, describing the French art of living. That undeniable je ne sais quoi that is so inherently French!

Of the mommy club which I am not yet a part, but have several expat friends who are, Barbara writes a very real and witty blog about the experience of living and raising children in a foreign country in International Mama. As a super Mama and freelance writer, she also writes The Expat Freelancer to help expat writers find their voice and use it. Another saavy American mama with many a story to tell to aspiring expat mothers is La Mom.

On the topic of food, everyone knows (or should know) David Lebovitz for his appetizing site about all things food related and author of The Sweet Life. I met David at a sexy book signing and hope to cross paths again over crepes at Breizh Cafe. For those with a sweet tooth, Cat, otherwise known as Little Miss Cupcake, creates the most delectable cupcakes! About where and what to eat (as the amount of dining options can be daunting) a wonderful new site recently launched, aptly titled Paris By Mouth. Food porn anyone? Through a good friend I met Cynthia, a writer and adventurous foodie from LA who writes about exactly that in Adventure Eating. All that eating but where to drink? Forest keeps a detailed account of the tastiest cocktails and happiest happy hours in 52 Martinis

On the topic of travel, one of my favorites, there’s a blog I simply love which bridges the gap between France and Italy, both of which I now consider my homes. Robin, a travel consultant and writer with great travel taste, captures the essence of two of the most beautiful countries in My Melange. I am also a fervent follower of the travels of  Granturismo, Lara and Terence, as they travel for 12 months in 24 destinations. Instant nostalgia for my 2007 travels, 13 months in 32 destinations.

New York City will always remain home to me (considering I now have 3, and counting). To keep myself connected to this dynamic city I begin my mornings with a café creme and a cup of Jo, much loved blog by fashionista and new mommy, Joanna Goddard. There are many more NYC blogs I read, including the inspiring and design saavy my turtleneck by Catherine Mangosing of Brooklyn.

I’m looking forward to discovering many more blogs, meeting many more bloggers and fellow expats, and continued adventures and musings on life and love in Paris in year two!

the sexy city

I lived in NYC for 12 years, though barely can I consider the life I led to be that of Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda or Samantha of Sex and the City, contrary to what anyone might believe, my Italian included. Perhaps a mix of Carrie and Charlotte on the best of days? Though Miranda, with her pioneering spirit lived only a block away from me in the Lower East Side, in the film that is. And don’t we all fantasize about  Samantha’s escapades, even just a little? I must admit, I did enjoy living vicariously through these stories while living my own more tame versions, all the while never succumbing to carousing the NYC streets in a pair of Louboutins. I’m proud of that, I might add.

Where Carrie’s love story concluded in the first film, my story began. Thus, Love in the City of Lights was born. 

Now, as Sex and the City 2 is due to premiere in Paris, I am curious to follow these ladies on their adventures continue. I cannot even begin to imagine how the story unfolds, this uniquely tangled web of love, lust and laughter, perhaps proving yet again that friendship (if nothing else) is forever. It appears that the entire world is curious as well. Here in Paris the ‘hot-spot’ Café Etienne Marcel (34 rue Etienne Marcel, in the 2nd) has been transformed into an even more sultry ‘Café Sex and the City’I could hardly believe it! Are Parisians such die-hard fans of this fab four? And do they really believe that is how we women live in NYC? Perhaps that’s why most Parisian girls (or any girls for that matter) swoon when I mention NYC. Ah yes, the stories I could tell…

What really provoked my interest to venture to this cafe was not the NYC-style cosmopolitans and the trendy ambiance, but three of my favorite ex-pat authors. WH Smith, the English language bookstore in Paris, haven to many fellow ex-pats, was recently hosting an event as part of the launch of Sex and the City 2, creating their own ‘Foodies in Naughty Paris’ event. 

I was excited and honored to meet this trio, David Lebovitz, Alexander Lobrano, and Heather Stimmler-Hall, all in one room, with books to sign and stories to tell, and at such a ‘sexy’ venue! Ex-pat writers who followed their own unique paths, stars of their own Parisian dramas, in David Lebovitz’s case, often a comedy. I was hesitant to buy any more guide books on Paris as I regularly read these authors websites, and still have many Paris themed books at home yet to peruse, but I could not resist. Especially after speaking with each author and getting to know them on a more personal level. 

My growing collection of books now includes David’s heartfelt and humorous tales in The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City, Alexander’s thorough guide to tastefully eating his way through this delicious city in Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 102 Best Restaurants, and a ‘reference’ book every woman must own, Heather’s Naughty Paris: A Lady’s Guide to the Sexy City. 

As soon as I can put the books down and take a break from my own romantic escapades, I will venture to the cinema for a rendezvous with the NYC gals.

a hidden paradise

Before moving to Paris I could not get enough of the Parisian bistros found on nearly every corner. To sit and imagine my life as a French girl. These days, I no longer need to imagine as I sink further into my mostly blissful reality as an expat in France. I still revel in the cafe culture and often find myself sitting at a cozy cafe with every intention of studying French but much too preoccupied with studying faces and street style of the passersby.

Recently, on my way to such a cafe I discovered a doorway leading into a hidden paradise. A place to hide from the world and that could quite honestly be anywhere in the world (apart from the fact that there are floor to ceiling shelves of used French books lining the walls, a minor detail). This is my new haven. A place of tranquility and refuge in my beloved neighborhood of the Marais. A place to study, meet a friend or make a new one, peruse a French comic book (that’s about my level these days), splurge on coffee and cake, or simply dream. And should you need a new designer shirt, a Liberty mug, a dining table to put it on, or a lightbulb, voila! To the creators of this conceptual one-stop wonderland all I can say is Merci!

Passing the Fiat Cinquecento and stepping into the 3-story loft space that creates Merci, you feel like you are entering someone’s dream, if not your own. In fact, Merci is the realized dream of Marie-France and Bernard Cohen, the founders of the famous children’s clothing line Bonpoint. What makes this store so unique and even more highly venerated is that that all of it’s proceeds are donated to a co-op for young women in Madagascar. Thus, it’s impossible to feel any guilt while shopping! Not to mention that much of the unique, fashion-forward men’s, women’s and children’s clothing has been designed exclusively for this space and cause.


I’m wondering if they would mind if I moved in…

Merci, 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris 75003 http://www.merci-merci.com

la baguette

The baguette symbolizes France. It is universally recognized as a staple of the French diet, regarded as a simple and essential part of the complex food culture. The baguette is derived from the bread first baked in Vienna in the middle of the 19th century. Steam ovens had begun to be used, enabling loaves to be baked with a crisp crust and the white center. In 1920 a law was passed preventing bakers from working before 4am, making it impossible to bake the traditional loaf in time. Thus, the longer, thinner baguette was created, in time for the customers’ breakfasts. Voilà!

Ah, to sit beneath the Eiffel tower with a fresh baguette in hand, accompanied by a creamy camembert and a bottle of Bordeaux. (Cliché is a French word after all!) I prefer to indulge in this tradition of bread, sitting on the Seine accompanied by the light of an early spring evening, a fresh chevre and fig confit. Or simply walking down the street chewing on the end of a baguette, French style. These days I have weaned myself off of the ‘one baguette a day’ rule, not so easy for my Italian I must say! We are having quite a delectable adventure exploring the over 28 various baked delights found in close to 1,260 boulangeries lining the streets of Paris. Thus far I have tasted of 27…

Marché des Enfants Rouges


France is famous for it’s myriad of markets. I am privileged to live around the corner from the oldest covered food market of Paris. The Marché des Enfants Rouges was created in 1615 by King Henri IV to feed the Marais district, at the time, Paris’ newest district. The name ‘Red Children’ was given to the market by the neighborhood in remembrance of children from the nearby orphanage, clad in red uniform to symbolize charity. I often venture into this market for lunch to indulge in the assortment of cuisines ranging from Japanese fusion to spicy African. This self-contained universe of international tastes is also an ideal place to buy organic fruits and vegetables, an array of cheeses, breads, fresh fish, local wines…even a fresh bouquet of flowers. A little pricey as it’s in the heart of ‘boboville’, but well worth the experience.