25.7.14

Top 5 Pastry Spots of the Moment in Paris

Aux Merveilleux de Fred meringues

Eclairs, meringues, cream puffs, chiffon cakes: only a handful of the pastries that have won the imaginations of some of France's top talents. 

More than ever, pastry chefs are narrowing their focus to one or two specialties and dedicating shops around them. The above pâtisseries, among others, are stars of this growing movement and the subject of my first Wall Street Journal story, now online and on newsstands today! 

L'Eclair de Génie

This isn't my first time writing about the emerging trends in pastry (éclairs!) as it is quickly becoming a topic that both fascinates and delights. More than that, it's endearing - nearly every pastry chef I've spoken to, for this story and others, slip into a sort of reverie when they talk about their craft. It's easy to criticize the French for not being progressive enough in business and administration but they're inventive and exacting when it comes to matters of the belly (with the technical prowess to back up the ideas). 

Of the selection I researched (read: tasted), the éclair remains my greatest weakness, a fact that continues to amuse me since it was my least favorite French pastry when I moved to France. The meringues mounds from Aux Merveilleux de Fred rank a close second. 

Judging by some of the emails I've received from readers looking for suggestions on where to indulge in the city's best sweets, I think this top five round-up will prove useful (I hope!). Perhaps not for waistlines but overall happiness.

Check out my top five here. Have a favorite among those I've included? 

Lost In Cheeseland Food and Restaurant posts

18.7.14

7 Years of Biking in Paris


It's already been seven years since the first fleet of Vélib bicycles rolled out into Paris, grey and shiny and ready to offer Parisians a new mode of transport. That's nearly as long as I've been a Paris resident. In that time, Vélib has become a fixture of the cityscape, a bike-share model of excellence that has inspired the systems in Chicago, New York, London and surely beyond, and, to everyone's great surprise, an example of excellent customer service on and offline.

To put those seven years into perspective, the Vélib team created this fun infographic that I thought you'd enjoy as well. Any surprises?



Have you tried Vélib as a Paris visitor?

For tips on Vélib itineraries through Paris, check out Vélib's first book: Paris By Bike 
Follow Vélib online for more updates! In English or French

14.7.14

Love in Menorca


Few hotel stays end in a hug and a European double air kiss but that's exactly how our experience at the Biniarroca Hotel in Menorca concluded. Beyond base level hotel attentiveness, the entire staff was engaging in ways we didn't anticipate. They had fascinating lives, with stories we were eager to hear and they too wanted to know more about us - what brought us to the island, what we do in Paris and where we hope to go in the future. After all the advice she doled out and time spent getting to know us, it didn't feel right to leave without properly embracing Alice, the woman who helped make the start of our visit so special.

What we didn't realize then, as this was the first stay of several on the island, is that the warmth and kindness of the hotel's team was an example of the Menorcan état d'esprit; an ineffable sweetness that we encountered right up to until we boarded the plane back to Paris. It was instantly clear why my friends Will and Toby have not only made Menorca their annual holiday destination but selected it, without hesitation, as the backdrop for their nuptials. And when you know Will and Toby, you know that the Menorcan's singularly sunny disposition is the perfect match for their optimistic outlook on life and love.
Will Taylor Menorca Wedding #WTWED
Will Taylor Menorca Wedding #WTWED

Will Taylor and I met through blogging (he's the creator/author of the blog Bright Bazaar and its titular book) but took our friendship offline when we collaborated on a Paris travel story for Sweet Paul Magazine in December of 2012. We hit it off instantly and have managed to see each other rather frequently considering our respective home bases separated by the channel. And through these occasions, I've had the humbling opportunity to experience Will and Toby as a couple. Which is to say, I have had been in the presence of tremendous love.

The accomplishments of one do not efface or extinguish those of the other but rather bolster their success as a pair. Their relationship is built firmly on mutual support, fairness, understanding and respect and it is unequivocally clear that they summon the very best in one another. 

Will Taylor Menorca Wedding #WTWED
Will Taylor Menorca Wedding #WTWED
Theirs was one of the most tender and moving weddings I've attended and while I know they were thrilled to be in the company of friends and family, there was enough palpable joy between them to carry the instant alone. Tears of happiness flowed from their first steps down the aisle, hand clutched in hand; the weight of the moment heightened only by the radiant, Menorcan sun which seemed to illuminate their entry into lifelong commitment. The island, of such personal significance to them, was effectively its own character in their continuing adventure.

Will Taylor Menorca Wedding #WTWED Will Taylor Menorca Wedding #WTWED

This sort of virtuous love can be intimidating, particularly when confidence in love and longevity is driven asunder in the more trying periods of coupledom. But Will and Toby's bond truly serves as a model and an abiding reminder of what pursuing a life with someone else is meant to be and offer. Under the Menorcan sun, in the English countryside or wherever the future might guide my two favorite Brits, they will endure. Here's to seizing every opportunity to learn from this standout duo.

Congratulations, mes amis!

-- ADDITIONAL LINKS --
More wedding photos + Menorca photos 
Will & Toby's engagement photos, shot by Jean-Laurent Gaudy (who shot our love session!)
Will's book "Bright Bazaar" available to order online
Will's blog: Bright Bazaar 
Wedding venue: Binifadet winery, Menorca (add it to your itinerary!)

*Top photo by Jean-Laurent Gaudy

5.7.14

French-Inspired Summer Reading: 2014 Edition


School's out, beach bags are packed: summer is here! Which means it's time for a round-up of some of the best French-themed reads of the season. The advantage?  Many of them serve several purposes. Cookbooks and guidebooks now come brimming with the kinds of rich stories you won't be able to put down and are liable to inspire your next vacation. They also factor among my favorites this year. Here are a few of my picks: 

'The Paris Journal, Part I' by Nichole & Evan Roberston
What began as an e-book has become a stunning, printed story narrated by an anonymous, solo traveler intent on unraveling the city's multi-layered spirit over the course of one day. Seventeen chapters will leave you wanting more but rest assured: this is the first of several tales Nichole and Evan have ready to unfurl. 

'Hungry for Paris' (2nd Edition) and 'Hungry for France' by Alec Lobrano 
Not one but two must-have food bibles from the ever-prolific food and travel writer Alec Lobrano. France is essentially a vast canvas for culinary discovery, one that drew Alec in from his days as European correspondent for Gourmet Magazine. Take that experience, a finely-tuned palate and a profound appreciation for French cooking, old and new, and you have Alec's expert insights into an ever-changing and dynamic food scene. 'Hungry for Paris' is the second edition of his popular culinary guide-cum-memoir on life in Paris and features 109 of the city's best places to eat. As an ardent advocate for neighborhood bistros and brasseries, you'll find a wide range of recommendations in this book that go beyond the confines of trend rankings and heavily mediatised chefs. This is a non-negotiable must-have if you're a regular visitor to Paris or if you have a trip on the horizon.

On the other hand, do you think the only place for standout cuisine in France is in the capital? 'Hungry for France' proves there's reason to crow about the entire country by introducing some of the young, up-and-coming culinary talents in the French provinces whose work merits our attention. He pairs his signature descriptive style and deep understanding of what moves and inspires French people with his own personal tales of self-discovery through food. Added bonus: seventy-five thoughtful recipes to make this by far the most well-rounded guide to eating and cooking French cuisine. An absolutely delightful read!

For more, see my Franco File Friday interview with Alec

'My Paris Kitchen' by David Lebovitz 
This is unmistakably the best of David Lebovitz in one tome - a mix of his clever stripe of storytelling and over a hundred new recipes that reflect the way Parisians are eating today. This isn't a cookbook to be relegated to the bookshelf or kitchen, it's meant to be devoured like your favorite novel. To be paired with a glass of chilled rosé. 

Click here to read my recent interview with David on the new book and how and where he likes to travel. 

"Naughty Paris, Volume II" by Heather Stimmler-Hall
If anyone has cracked the surface of Paris's sensual leanings it's expat/journalist/tour guide Heather Stimmler-Hall. Her award-winning guidebook for women 'Naughty Paris: a Lady's Guide to the Sexy City' from 2008 has been revised and expanded to include even more tips for tapping into the city's hidden pleasures, from burlesque shows and kinky cabarets to insights on how French women embrace pleasure and beauty in their everyday lives.

Heather launched a KickStarter campaign to finance the printing and production costs (goal reached!). Supporters get an advanced copy of the book this summer (campaign ends July 7th) while others can pre-order for December delivery.

What are you reading this summer? 

28.6.14

On the road again: Menorca!

Menorca 2011 014

It could pass for the Calanques of Marseille but that shot above is of Menorca, my current destination. We're spending five days on Spain's smaller (but most beach-laden) island not just for a getaway but to celebrate the nuptials of my sweet friend Will Taylor of Bright BazaarFor a few sneak peeks from his wedding and some highlights of island life, head over to my Instagram feed!

A full update with tips coming soon.

Hope you're enjoying yourselves, wherever you are!

25.6.14

Summer Solstice at The Priory at Gouvix

The Priory at Gouvix, Normandy

Fête de la Musique is one of the few annual cultural events for which I'm strict about sticking around town. Musicians, concerts and crowds of jovial locals infuse a new vigor into the city spirit. And since it coincides with the first day of summer, positive energy reaches new heights. This year, however, we set our sights on a different type of experience outside the city.

We were headed to Gouvix, a tiny village in Normandy about 12km south of Caen, to spend the night in an old country manor called The Priory at Gouvix that friends of ours raved about.  They make annual trips to Normandy for Easter and always rent a house big enough to accommodate their three children and two other families. When they mentioned that the host prepares what can properly be described as a feast for all guests (which caters to all dietary needs), I checked the calendar and made a plan. Since I perpetually travel by belly, this sounded like the perfect opportunity to try something different and meet some new people.

The Priory at Gouvix, Normandy







The property dates to the 18th century and boasts 8,000 square meters of orchard and garden. The multi-level home, situated between the town hall (which looks more like a corner shop) and a church, sleeps between 10 to 12 and feels straight out of a fairytale with its stone stairwell, antique furnishings and lush surroundings. It is in the quieter reaches of Normandy and effectively the town's go-to destination, but not only because of the calm it offers. It's the combination of cozy, country lodging and the fine cooking that makes this place a standout.

Dinner at The Priory at Gouvix, Normandy

"This Camembert is transcendental... it's like walking in a field with cows!" said David Brewer, the owner of the Priory, quite accurately as he presented his cheese selection for the meal. I knew I was in the right place. This was merely one course among many, prepared with produce from the garden or sourced from the local farmer's market. Bookending the cheese plate was a delicious duck rillette, house-cured Gravlax as a nod to Swedish midsummer tradition, roasted rabbit with mustard sauce and green beans and a gooseberry shortcake with a raspberry coulis. 

Cider and wine accompanied each course and relaxed the guests - a semi-retired English couple and Dutch-American kayakers in their late sixties. At the head of the table sat our host and generous chef, brimming with stories of his own to share. We chatted, regaled ourselves on David's cooking and laughed until the sky skewed pastel in what felt like a special performance for the solstice.

As we we tucked into the last bites of cake, Cédric glanced at me with a wide-eyed smile he typically reserves for only the most impressive or meaningful meals. I nodded in agreement, poured another glass of wine and thought how fortunate we were to have experiences like these.

Gouvix Priory, Normandy
The Priory at Gouvix, Normandy

The next morning, before each couple set off on their sight-seeing activities for the day, we shared one last meal. And yet again, we bonded over a common quest for connection and, more importantly, experience that transcends age or background. Though it may be fleeting, it's a connection we'll always remember.

The Priory at Gouvix, Normandy
9 rue de l'Eglise 
Gouvix, 14680
Inquiries accepted via email - tell David I sent you!
*Major landmarks are only than 30-90 minutes away by car.
*Market cooking classes available! (I'm going to need to return just for this)

Click HERE for more photos at The Priory. 
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