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The Eataly finale ends on a sweet note 🙂

After perusing every sit down or take away option, my friend and I decided to eat lunch elsewhere. We made our decision based on our very picky standards; she has lived in and traveled extensively through Italy, and she has even taken cooking classes in Italy. I am just picky, especially after having eaten incredible meals in Rome for very reasonable prices.

The rotisserie had a lamb special that day, but once we got to the counter, they said, “Sorry, no lamb today, they sold it yesterday by mistake, so we have tri tip today”. Neither one of us wanted to pay over $20 for a small pizza or plate of simple pasta plus another $20 for a decent glass of wine.

Being in the newly remodeled Westfield Century City Mall, there were many other wonderful options, so we went to my old favorite Rock Sugar, and came back for a coffee and pastry.

We looked through all the pastry and dessert cases,

and the candy cases, including the chocolate cases, and gelato stand,

 but we decided on coffee and viennoiseries.

 I chose the raisin twist,

and she chose the almond cream. We tasted both but we each wisely chose our favorite. Because there were no seats, we ended up having our coffee standing up at the coffee bar, just as we would have done in Italy 🙂

Since we were fortified with some sugar and caffeine, we wandered upstairs to shop in the cookware and toys section, where we saw the SMEG500, a Fiat fridge!

For the ultimate Italian wine cooler/conversation piece! As the saying goes if you must ask how much it is, you should not buy it (you must apply to purchase it)!

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I must confess that I did not like Eataly in Rome. There were beautiful products, from pasta to condiments, many counters serving snacks and sweets, and several options for eating both inside and outside, but it made no sense to me to shop or eat there when I was in ITALY, with authentic local options literally surrounding me. The only people I saw buying and eating anything there were tourists and they were mostly American, seeking perhaps the comfort of a known brand name from the US. The equivalent of this experience would be going to chain lobster restaurant in Maine instead of a local joint, or *shudder* buying a supermarket baguette in France instead of getting one from a boulangerie. WHY?!?!?!?! Just DO NOT do it. Taste at least one peach, ripe, fresh off the tree; you can always open a can of peaches afterwards, if you still prefer them 🙂

Eataly in Los Angeles offers a few products that are a challenge to find here, but those who know good Italian and European markets can easily find most things for for less. Bay Cities in Santa Monica is still my all time favorite place to shop for any Italian ingredient. A1 in San Pedro has a nice selection, and Eagle Rock Italian Bakery and Deli has many great products. I like keeping small businesses alive, and the personal interactions are as important to me as the presentation, so even though I love to peruse the big name financed stores, when it comes to actually buying, I will continue to spend my money with the smaller shops.

If you prefer one stop shopping with gorgeous presentation, then Eataly Los Angeles is your new mecca. Just as Paris has the gorgeous La Grande Epicerie, and tourist centric Lafayette Gourmet, Eataly is a feast for foodie eyes. My next three posts will be mostly photographic, so enjoy the eyefest:)

Los Angeles is infamous for its traffic, and sometimes it just is not worth getting on any freeway or surface street until it’s a bit less clogged. Notice I said “a bit”…lately it seems there is no “off peak” time anymore, but unless you are masochistic or have the patience of a saint, avoiding anytime between 4-6 pm might save a life (your own if you have high blood pressure). Happy hours are a great invention to get some food and calming liquid into your system. Please don’t over indulge and drive drunk, but if you have some time and eat something, one drink might mellow you out for your 2-3 hour commute. I take the metro more  often than I drive, so not only do I get to indulge in adult beverages, but I also watch the cars on the freeway from my perch on the rails 🙂

I took the metro Expo line to the terminus at Santa Monica and discovered the Independence about a block away. Weekdays from 3-6pm they offer a selection of $5 drinks and bites. I had my first Paloma here and loved it! It was nice and tart and strong enough that even though I was walking, I only had one 🙂

I couldn’t resist the oysters, but I wouldn’t choose them again….the lack of expert shucking left bits of shell and they were not the freshest. Neighboring patrons had the mussels and meatballs that smelled wonderful, but I didn’t want to ruin my appetite for dinner.

I was out in Claremont and happened to be in time for Bardot’s Happy Hour from 3-6pm on weekdays. They have special promos most evenings and Wednesday is Whiskey night with $7 cocktails and delicious $3 bites like crab cake sliders. I had a food issue which was resolved so quickly and professionally that I went back the next week.

The drink and food specials change depending on the day of the week for happy hour, so when I went back it was Martini Monday night; $7 for top shelf brands like Ketel One, Grey Goose, or Bombay Sapphire. I chose a “hot and dirty”, basically a dirty martini with a splash of tabasco 🙂

The $5 tuna tartare was fantastic with a bit of seaweed, guacamole, mango, and micro greens to complement the very fresh and excellent ahi. The crispy fried and salted wonton chips were so good that I defy you to have just one!

I already love Red Herring for brunch, but after trying their happy hour, I also love them for later in the day. Their Happy Hour is Tuesday-Friday from 5-7pm when you can get wine or cava for $7 and duroc pork belly bacon BLT sliders for $5 on a parker house roll (you get TWO for that price).

Frida is a popular place for Mexican drinks and bites, but I’d never tried them until recently. They have Happy Hour everyday from 3-7pm, with additional late night Happy Hour Sunday-Thursday from 9-10pm and Friday-Saturday from 10-11pm. Well drinks are $5 and margaritas are $6 (add $2 for Cadillac or Agave). I chose the spicy and was very pleasantly surprised by the level of spice 🙂 

I didn’t want to drink on an empty stomach, so I ordered a veggie taco with portobello, zucchini, bell peppers, and tomato for $4. It was just enough to absorb some alcohol without filling me up too much to eat dinner.

When two friends braved the freeways to come see me, we stopped by for a quick drink and bite at Eden on Brand before a show. The space is modern, light, and airy, with the bar as the central focal point underneath a light sculpture.

One of my friends craved mac and cheese so we ordered it off the regular menu for $12. The pasta was a bit dense and thick for the lightly creamy sauce, but she enjoyed the flavors nonetheless.

Besides our drinks being discounted, their shrimp ceviche, with avocado cream, radish, and yuzu, was only $7 instead of $12. We all enjoyed this so much we would have ordered another if we had not been running late to the show. My friends loved their mojito, and when I told the bartender I preferred my paloma less sweet, he adjusted it perfectly 🙂

I think that happy hour doesn’t have to involve alcohol or savory food, and it can be anytime you want something to make you happy!

Three Twins organic ice cream makes me happy and if you don’t live near a location, you can buy their products in many markets nationwide. My cone of mint confetti in a teensy size was the perfect portion for me after a big lunch.

My other friends combined scoops of cardamom, strawberry, and Mexican chocolate to create their own bowl of joy:)

Few places in Los Angeles embellish their eating establishments with extravagant displays during the Winter holidays like they do in France. Bottega Louie is an exception, with a towering “tree” of macarons, including gold ones, reaching to the ceiling, one of several throughout the restaurant and market, but the grand centerpiece in the dining area can be seen from the pastry counter at the other end of the cavernous space.

I’ve been enthralled by this place ever since my first meals here years ago, so much so I wrote two posts, back to back on it back in 2011. Since my return to the US, I have been wanting to revisit some old favorites, and when friends came into town for the week-end, it was a perfect opportunity to meet for brunch downtown.

After years in France, the macarons looked very bright to me, but I’m sure the intense colors sell well here, where bright intense colors are an enticement.

If you can’t decide what to choose, you can always opt for one of the prepackaged gift boxes of varying sizes (they will ship many of their products if you don’t want to carry it back home).

Some things can’t be shipped and should be eaten fresh, like their viennoiseries and

bread, which are very good even to a bread snob like me. The big baguette is pricey at over $5, but it is huge and it freezes well if you can’t eat it all the same day.

Since I usually came for lunch or late supper, this was the first time I encountered the brunch choices, like this freshly squeezed pineapple juice for $7. They had other choices like melon, carrot, and “green”, if you want something other than the usual fruit and citrus.

Once one of my friends saw the table next to us eating the two eggs with turkey sausage, potatoes, and smoked bacon, she didn’t want to get anything else, and she was very happy that they made her order exactly as she wanted, right down to the “burnt” whole wheat toast for $17.

Another friend and I both ordered the Lobster Hash for $20 with lobster, yukon potatoes, shallots, brussel sprouts, and two poached eggs napped with a smoked paprika hollandaise. I liked how the poached eggs were slightly runny, but she preferred her eggs runnier; I thought that the kitchen did a nice job of “middle ground” eggs in a dining room with over 200 seats. Our server was very attentive and literally followed every request with a smile and “Yes, of course”! Including one for warmed milk with the filtered coffee ($.50 surcharge), and as I mentioned earlier, making sure the wheat toast on the side was “well done”.

When we had all cleaned our plates, I tempted everyone to get an order of beignets ($12) to split; the table next to ours chimed in on my description and echoed that they were indeed wonderful. These are still the best beignets I’ve ever had 🙂 Light and buttery, with the raspberry compote so addictive that my friends were licking it off their fingers and “double dunking”!

No one had room for anything else,

but our eyes feasted on all the pastries as we left 🙂

Since my motto is “I will travel for great food”, the main reason I went to Rome was to eat 🙂

I ate so many delicious things in one week that I may have been channeling Elizabeth Gilbert in “Eat, Pray, Love“. I believe that there is very little in life as satisfying as the pleasure of taking your time to savor all the flavors and delights of great food, sharing it with others perhaps, but I got to do that a bit later in the trip.

The only appointment I had made for a sight was for the Vatican Museum and Pizzarium is literally one block from the Metro Station Cipro which is the stop for that attraction. The place also goes by the name Bonci, the creator/owner of Pizzarium, who was there one of the three times I went, training staff on how to dress some slices properly. A rarity in Rome is that they are open every day of the week, although the hours vary a bit on Sunday. If you don’t want to wait during Lunch and Dinner go in the lull of the afternoon or late at night. The first day I went around 1pm and waited about 30 minutes, another day I went around 6pm and there was no line at all. If it’s crowded, grab a number and watch for it to be posted on the screen above the counter. You order on the left, pick up your drinks and then go pay as you wait for your order to be delivered on the right side of the counter. Condiments are also on the right side of the counter, but I didn’t want to ruin the perfect flavors by doctoring up my slices.

Every hour and every day, there are new selections, and everything is sold by weight. Prices range from about 20 Euros to over 30 Euros per kilo, a good sized portion will run you 8-12 Euros or about $10-15 US. If you want to try more than one flavor, ask for small slices so you can eat two because their scissors work fast and cut generously unless you tell or show them you want smaller slices. I learned that Rome is almost like the US when it comes to portion sizes, but without doggie bags unless you order your pizza to go:)

I went three out of my seven days in Rome, and never tried another pizza place after my first bite here! The first pizza I got was a spinach, buffalo mozzarella, and anchovy on tomato sauce. The toppings were outstandingly fresh (these were not the canned anchovies you find in the US), and the crust had a crunchy bottom, but the soft chewy texture of a great baguette on top. It was the best combination of topping and crust I’ve ever tasted in a pizza. There was a reason there was only a small bit of this choice left in the case, and I was glad I got some before it was gone. At first I thought it was too much to finish, but I couldn’t stop eating and “somehow” I polished off the entire serving.

My second time I went for something more traditional, a tomato basil, and an artichoke heart and potato dusted with pecorino cheese. Once again, astounding crust and incredible vegetables. This combo would be a vegetarian’s dream, and this time I got two smaller slices and a beer to wash it all down.

For my last day, I went back and saw Bonci putting out the sausage, ricotta, tomato, and basil, so I had to try that as well as the kale with cured lard and mushrooms which Bonci dressed himself with more kale and olive oil. I couldn’t stop smiling from happiness with every bite. I could happily eat here every day. With an ever changing menu, friendly staff, and an owner who is passionate about his pizza, you can’t go wrong with any choice.

Italy is famous for their gelato, so one day for breakfast (yes, I really did channel Elizabeth Gilbert), I got some at Sora Lella on Isola Tiberino (the island in the middle of Rome). I wasn’t the only one, getting gelato for breakfast at 11am 🙂

Since it was a nice day, I strolled over to the bank of the river and ate it with a view of the water.

My friend Chantal had just been to Rome a few months ago for her birthday and she told me I HAD to go to La Romana because she didn’t even like gelato and loved it here so much that she went daily.

Just as Bonci’s Pizzarium was the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, La Romana was the best gelato I’ve ever eaten. They make it there, and have been since 1947. I chose a “small” Fiordelatte (flower of milk) and Sacher (like the chocolate torte flavor) for 2 Euros, or about $2.30 US, which included chocolate or vanilla sauce in the cone, AND home made whipped cream on top! I only added the chocolate at the bottom of my cone and luckily I had plenty of napkins because I forgot and bit into it making a delightful mess like a kid eating a sundae:) The consistency is lighter and smoother than any gelato I’ve tasted, and the flavors range from the unusual to the approachable, like tiramisu.

La Romana is near Termini Station, so grab a cone or cup on your way to or from the station. It’s behind the ruins and across from the government buildings with all the armed guards, not far from the planetarium which had this inscribed above the door, a quote from Dante’s Divine Comedy, “Love that moves the sun and other stars.” Dante may have been referring to the pizza and gelato in Rome 🙂

Any day in Paris that begins with blue skies is a reason to celebrate, what better way to inaugurate a good omen than with sweets from La Durée? Of course they are famous for their macarons, and my friend is still raving about the orange blossom one she had (her first), but I had to start my day with something more substantial and a bit breakfast oriented. My friend devoured her macarons as her breakfast appetizer, then had a Bostock, which is an almond pastry. I went with the classic pain au raisin, which was healthier because it had raisins 🙂

It was a great way to get breakfast on the go when we had many sights to squeeze in on a short visit. The sweetest surprise of the morning was a gentleman who told one of the many beggars who came up to us to leave us alone (coming out of La Durée with bags of pastries automatically makes you a target for people asking you for money).

 

After several photo stops (Arc de Triumph, Place de la Concorde, and the Opéra), we were ready for lunch at the very unParisian hour of noon, so since our last stop was the Opéra, I steered us to the Grand Café des Capucines. It’s open 24/7 seven days a week, so if you are ever stuck for a place to go on a Sunday, this is a safe bet for decent food if you are starving and your flight just landed at midnight.

The interior is classically art deco and it’s been renovated, so it looks a bit fresher. I’ve been coming here almost as long as I’ve been coming to Paris. It’s not my favorite restaurant, but I always take people who have never been to Paris here just to soak in the atmosphere. The food is not spectacular, but it is good, and the prices are reasonable, with menus of two courses for less than 25 Euros ($30 US).

The gazpacho with espelette pepper was a refreshingly cool way to whet our appetites, with a touch of heat from the pepper that gave the soup a nice zing. I could have had two bowls of this with some baguette and been perfectly happy.

This may look like salmon, but it is actually rose colored trout over couscous which had accents of apricots, green onions, pine nuts, and raisins in a buerre blanc sauce. I found the accompaniments a bit sweet and the sauce a bit lackluster, but the fish was good and service was excellent. We walked in without a reservation, but if you are eating during regular Parisian meal times or want to sit on the patio during a sunny day, it’s best to reserve either online or with a phone call.

After all that food we needed to walk, and not just somewhere touristy, so we headed to the Luxembourg Gardens. We were too big (or old) to climb in the jungle gym, but it was almost as fun to watch the kids.

I suppose we could have sailed some boats, but they were having a race,

 so we contented ourselves with a stroll around the flowers 🙂

 

Le Flore en L’Ile is one of the first places you’ll see as you walk or drive to Ile St. Louis on the Quai Orléans, and like every place on the island, they serve Berthillon ice cream. If the line to Berthillon is too long, or it’s after 8pm, you can enjoy your cone or cup on this lovely terrace with a view of the Seine. The line on the right was for scoops to go and the line was almost as long as the one at Berthillon.

If you are lucky enough to get a warm sunny day in Paris, take advantage of your treasure and spend some time soaking in the living street theater of life at a café like this one. Since this is a prime location, prices will be higher than places tucked away on a side street, but remember that you can sit all day for the price you pay and some people looked like they had spent the entire afternoon sipping their wine or coffee.

My friend had never been to Paris, so we had to order a quintessential French dish; a ham quiche with salad. She declared it the lightest tastiest quiche she had ever tasted, and loved the simple vinaigrette on the salad. It was a very generous portion and we split it since we just wanted a snack, not dinner.

We came to the island for her to taste Berthillon ice cream, so she got 2 scoops with a caramel sauce, a tuile almond crisp, and whipped cream. This dessert cost 12€ ($16 US), which was more than our quiche, but she declared it was worth every Euro.

Just north of Ile St. Louis is the Marais neighborhood and I decided to introduce her to classic bistro at the Café des MuséesI loved their lamb, but after eating a substantial “snack” earlier, my friend and I both opted for the special fish of the day, a St. Pierre, simply grilled on a plancha, with cauliflower and watercress, served on a bed of tomatoes for 23€ ($28 US). It was a perfect summer dinner, and I drank a lovely generous glass of Chablis for under 6 € ($8 US).

My friend is a dessert lover, so she savored the thick rich chocolate terrine with two sauces for dessert, while I ordered another glass of wine for my dessert. 

Sweet travel tip : a great way spend your first day in Paris is eating at least two desserts upon arrival:)

On a rainy gray day in Paris, one of the most fitting places to wander is the Montmartre Cemetary near Sacré Coeur.

If you want to truly explore the grounds, set aside over an hour to see the graves of artist Degas, composer Berlioz, and filmmaker Truffaut, along with 22,000 others covering about 25 acres.

 

 

 Paupers have markers throughout,

 some graves are completely covered in fresh flowers.

Nearby are the steps up to Sacré Coeur 

(there’s a funicular next to it which you can take for the price of a metro ticket).

This is the only hill in central Paris, so lots of steps throughout this area.

Nice to end the afternoon with something sweet, like a glass of rosé and a waffle with fresh fruit at Le Pain Quotidien 🙂

 

Walking along the waterways is always a pleasure, especially now that the weather has warmed up and the trees and flowers are starting to bloom. Even on an overcast day, the paths along the waterways make for pleasant strolls.

Canal St. Martin has plenty of places for small children to play

and lots of pétanque areas for big kids.

With cafés along the water, you can just indulge in the popular sport of lounging

and soaking in the view of the boats on the Canal.

If you want to make it a party, you can rent a boat for a few dozen or hundred of your closest friends.

The dangerous excess weight and labor needed to cut and continuously remove the locks on the bridges made it worth the expense of changing the rails to these.

The new rails have the side benefit of less tourists taking pictures and unobstructed views along the Seine.

For those who can’t imagine life without a car, this ad for 2 parking spaces at $140,000 US may make you ask whether the expense is worth it here.

I can buy lots of gelato for that kind of money, and the Amorino shops make sure it’s a feast for the eyes as well as the palate:)

 

Spring has finally arrived in Paris and it seems as if everyone came out to the banks of the Seine to welcome it. I finally felt warm enough to walk around without a jacket:)

My bucket list includes restaurants I have yet to try and La Tour d’Argent is one of them. With a dinner menu at 200 ($300 US), not counting drinks, it’s definitely a special occasion meal unless you have a well stuffed mattress.

Speaking of mattresses, just literally steps away from the restaurant was this bedding store where the display was on sale for 17,036 € ($25,000 US), which was 50 % off the regular price. It’s about the price of a midsized car, and I suppose it might be a worthy purchase since most people spend more time sleeping than driving….

So many famous people lived in Paris that certain buildings and sites have plaques noting the former residents, like this one where Picasso lived and worked.

There are also parks named after people who lived nearby, like this one named after Danielle Mitterand who lived in the building you see next to the park.

Walking around touristy areas in the 5th arrondissement by Notre Dame, there are literally throngs of souvenir shops, bars, and restaurants. Some are rowdy and raunchy, like the Latin Corner Café, where waiters strip, and female patrons leave their bras….(I had to take a picture to prove it is a real place)!

Around the corner were Tunisian desserts galore

and at the corner, Georges Larnicol‘s fabulous chocolates all decked out for Easter.

Time to go walk off some of that chocolate 🙂

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