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It was wonderful to see old familiar buildings like the Hôtel de Ville

 and of course Notre Dame,

 even though the grande dame is undergoing some renovation after the fire.

 The renovation is finally complete at the Chateau of Saint Germain-en-laye,

 while the renovation at La Défense seems to be everlasting….

the buildings are just like human bodies, needing maintenance and repair to remain in working order 😉

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When friends whom I’ve known for decades, come in from other countries to spend time in Paris with me, it is a given that we eat at a French bistro:) One surprise guest from Tahiti, two from Belgium, and one American who got to spend the day getting a taste of life in Europe with Europeans and expats:)

The coordinator of our lunch and our subsequent visit to Atelier des Lumieres (2 blocks away) chose 3 Passages based on reviews and the reviews were spot on, because not only was our meal fantastic, but our serveuse was as personable and funny as everyone at our table 🙂

I love steak tartare and I was so happy to find that my order was knife cut, using quality meat and served with fresh accompaniments befitting this classic French dish.

My American friend ordered the pasta special with quality ham and cheese unlike what would be served in most American restaurants.

One of my Belgian friends devoured the saucisse that was as hearty and savory as it looks in the picture.

The Tahitian guest chose the vegetable fish dish served in a crusty wrapping with a light tomato sauce.

The menu at lunch offers two courses for only 14 Euros or three for 17 Euros, so the prices are wonderfully reasonable for the quality and skill offered, not to mention the fun service!

Our wonderful serveuse who took our picture and entertained throughout our meal 🙂

Milestone birthdays should be celebrated, and what better way to celebrate than to enjoy a Michelin star meal in Paris? Especially when the person has never eaten at a Michelin star restaurant and loves food 🙂

Montée is a tiny 15 seat restaurant in the 14th, and before it became a starred place, it was my favorite place to eat in Paris. It is now under the helm of Takayuki Nameura and the evolution of status in the culinary world is very well merited. They offer a lunch or dinner menu that is set by whatever is is in season and / or ignites the chef’s creative fire. Dinner is 10 courses, but they served 2 additional amuse-bouche and because it was a birthday celebration, they also presented us with a birthday plate.

I chose a lovely 2014 Graves that was mid range priced to accompany the meal and we took Le Cab there and back so that we could enjoy the entire bottle 🙂

I neglected to take a picture of the veal/spinach schnitzel, probably because it was one of my favorite courses and I enjoyed it so much I completely forgot about documenting it, but that is a good sign of living in the moment, rather than seeking to preserve it.

Enjoy the feast for your eyes until you can get there to feast your palate on these incredible flavors.

Multi layer amuse bouche

another amuse bouche with candied walnuts, dried shitake, and puff pastry

tomato ice and corn souffle

 blue lobster, cashew, and caviar

 foie gras, banana, and smoke

 cod, potato, and sorrel

 white asparagus, almond, and chives

 flounder and leek

 amazing veal, spinach and schnitzel that I forgot to photograph,

then this apple, cider and saffron dessert

 chocolat

 crisp powdered sugar oreillettes

 fabulous wine

 and a lovely birthday plate 🙂

I moved back to the U.S.A. from France about 2.5 years ago, but I am still a citizen of both countries and hold two passports. My languages, tastes, and sensibilities are cross cultural, so it was wonderful to go home to France for a two week visit. It felt like a family reunion with my friends at one of my homelands.

Cantine de Marius in Saint Germain-en-laye was one of my go to places and I was very happy to find it is still a wonderful place for fabulous French food 🙂 They have a lunch menu for only 17.50 Euros for two courses or 21 Euros for three that will amaze your taste buds!

The menu changes daily (as it should), but the day we were there the appetizer was a tuna crudo with cucumbers and radishes,

 and mackerel with a purée of broccoli

and a white nectarine dessert with sorbet that bespoke the perfume of summer fruits.

It was a wonderful welcome back to France with friends. We strolled the grounds of the chateau to walk off lunch afterwards:)

There are many options for a meal at CDG, but when one of them is Frenchy’s Bistro, it’s an easy decision. Gilles Epié was given a Michelin star when he was only 22, and was the chef at the famous l’Orangerie in Los Angeles. It was a fitting place to eat before my flight at a restaurant run by a chef with a long history tied to Los Angeles.

As you can see from the menu, prices are very reasonable for a quality meal inside an airport. Set menus promise that you will be served within 30 minutes so you can be sure to make your flight at the gate just a few steps away.

My friend ordered the pasta special which was a filling dish with the cream sauce and cheese. It was not particularly noteworthy, but a good option for vegetarians.

I chose the classic Steak Frites with salad and a glass of wine, all for under $25 USD. The steak was tender and cooked rare as I requested, served with a light red wine sauce, the fries were crisp and hot, and a small green salad with a vinaigrette on the side made for a classic French bistro lunch.

Part of me will always be in Paris, no matter where my physical address may be 🙂

Moving can be a thrilling and exciting experience. Sorting and discarding the old as you prepare for the new possibilities that await is a cathartic process. Moving is also an excruciating experience because transitions are never completely smooth nor simple, especially when moving from one country to another. I am very fortunate to have wonderful friends all over the world because with their help I have been able to retain my sanity through two overseas moves in three years 🙂

As with all moves, once the kitchen is packed, there are certain things that must be modified in order to eat. My wonderful friends and neighbors lent me some silverware and cooking utensils so I could at least make coffee and eat on real plates. Fortunately there were some great options for take out nearby like Happy Nouilles. They serve a mix of Asian food, from sushi to satay, and although they are in a suburb catering to French tastes, their dishes are fresh and have enough Asian sensibility to satisfy my picky palate.

Their garlic shrimp actually tasted like garlic with nice sized fresh shrimp.

The mixed vegetables included authentic Asian ingredients like wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts.

The Thai basil beef had a nice aromatic flavor as well as peppers, onions, and real Thai basil.

Even the side dish of noodles included fresh vegetables and had a nice light sauce.

The shrimp shu mai were a bit bland, but in keeping with French taste preferences.

Because my order totaled over 20 Euros ($22 USD), they included some shrimp chips

and a coconut “snowball” mochi dessert that was quite tasty.

While I still had some furniture, I invited some friends over for one last apéro at my place. It was a French version of a potluck. I provided (bought) roast chicken, sand carrots & radishes. One friend made mayonnaise (she whipped it by hand in a bowl) with avocados and shrimp; a neighbor brought some bottles of wine he had helped harvest; and his friend brought

 cheese that was literally made that morning, along with

with three others:)

We ended the evening with a raspberry sorbet; a sweet ending to a bittersweet evening of au revoir.

Finding a favorite restaurant is always a pleasure; the joys of great atmosphere, professional service, and delectable food, combined in one place is as rare as winning the lottery.
La Cantine de Marius is a winning jackpot, with a view of the Chateau from the terrace, efficient, knowledgeable service, and a chef who uses an array of fresh products in beautiful presentations. They could easily charge twice as much for their menu, but in keeping with what makes them remarkable, they keep their prices affordable enough so that you can go frequently enough to know everyone by name; on several occasions the clients had inside jokes with the servers, bantering as friends, breaking the invisible French wall of reserve between client and establishment.
Lunch menus range from 16,50 Euros to 21 Euros ($18-$23 USD), depending on whether you have 2 or 3 courses. Wine is a modest 5 Euros ($6 USD) per glass and delicious whether you choose a white or red.

The interior is as comfortable as the terrace, even more so on hot muggy days or cold chilly nights.

The first course on the lunch menu was a light salad of shrimp and grapefruit in a citrus vinaigrette that was as refreshing to eat at it was to look at on my plate.

Another appetizer was a variation on the same theme, with avocado replacing the grapefruit.

Dinner service began with an amuses bouche, or tempting taste offered for the table. One night it was a creamy velouté of zucchini; even though we were a table of three, they gave us four, and we fought over who got the extra one:)

The fried smelt and calamari appetizer was plenty to share or even make as a course if you are not too hungry. The homemade tarragon mayonnaise was a nice side, even though the appetizer was good with just lemon and salt. At only 8 Euros ($9 USD), it was a bargain for the skilled light touch of the chef and the generous quantity.

 They do slight variations on classics, like this beef tartare with a basil pesto.

One night the special was filet of bar with a side of confit leeks for under 20 Euros ($22 USD) that was as expertly cooked and seasoned as a plate twice the price elsewhere.

Lunch menu portions are a bit smaller, but equally satisfying, with fish like Merlu on a bed of polenta.

We ordered their meringue and fruit dessert along with the chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream for dessert (sorry the pictures did not come out), and they gave us this chestnut tiramisu for dessert, just because three people shouldn’t have to share 2 desserts! All were fine endings to our meal and range from 6-8 Euros each ($7-9 USD).

No meal is complete in France without a café

sipped with a view of a chateau 🙂

Romance in France is part of the culture and I can think of few things as romantic as a wedding. The daughter of a friend recently got married in Provence and I was honored to be among the guests invited to their week-end celebration.

In France the civil ceremony is the legally binding one, but most people opt for both a civil ceremony at City Hall and a religious one in a church which usually includes two days of festivities. Today’s pictorial post covers the days before, during, and after the ceremony, so enjoy the celebration:)

The venue for the celebration was a large private property which sleeps 30, a large patio,

 a vineyard behind the parking area,

 and a “water spot” technically not a legal pool 🙂

The couple’s friends stayed on the property while everyone else rented other accommodations. Our lovely rented home included an outdoor patio under vines,

and very treacherous old stone steps (where I fell)!

The day before the ceremony we wanted to do some test shots and two of the groomsmen obligingly stood in as body doubles for the bride and groom:)

The ceremony inside a medieval church ended with a shower of rose petals,

and the couple drove off to the reception property in an electric jeep.

Champagne, wine, and cocktails awaited, along with eight tables of hors d’oeuvres.

As night fell, we walked over to a large tent for our dinner.

Several courses and drinks later, speeches and toasts

led to dancing the night away.

 

The next day was the more casual celebration where nearly everyone enjoyed the “water spot”.

I had not brought a bathing suit and was about to jump in clothed, but the bride lent me a bikini 🙂

Brunch was buffet style, with self serve coffee, tea, juice,

cheese, and of course rosé.

By the time all 200 guests had left, we still had to put away the furniture, collect the trash, and take all the empty bottles to the recycling center. Apparently the caterer said those tasks were not included in the $$$$$ contract…..everyone pitched in and we got it all sorted in the end.

I split the 12 hour drive back with the bride’s father, but we did take a lunch break on the way back to enjoy the view at a rest stop 🙂

The Abbey of St. Remi is less well known than the Notre Dame Cathedral, but definitely merits a visit if you are going to Reims for more than a few hours. Although it’s not in the center of town, it is an easy bus ride away and if you have good walking shoes, easily reached on foot from downtown.

The remains of St. Remi are here along with several other dignitaries.

 This is the left side of the tomb,

 this is the right side of the tomb,

 and this is the view above the tomb.

The peaceful beauty of this abbey is evident the moment you enter, but there is a reminder on the ground 🙂

Since today is my birthday, I thought it only appropriate to write about my favorite experience in Champagne 🙂

Champagne is my prefered drink for nearly every occasion, so when our AirBnB host suggested we go for a glass of champagne on the grounds of the five star hotel Les Crayères, we did not hesitate 🙂 Les Crayères is behind the Pommery estate, but a world away from its mass commercial enterprise atmosphere.

If you want to stay on the property, rooms start at around $400 USD, and meals at the main restaurant by a MOF chef, start at about $200 per person, not including beverages. If you want to enjoy the space without taking out a loan, there is a garden cafe with a set menu beginning at around $40, or you can enjoy the veranda views with glasses of remarkable champagne beginning at about $30 per glass.

The view of the veranda in the back is as stately as the entrance.

Some of the views from the veranda.

The foot paths throughout the property invite strolling.

You can see the hotel from the far end of the domaine.

They grow their own herbs and vegetables on the property.

I chose a Laurent Perrier Rosé and my friend the vintage Tattinger for about $70 USD total.

Parmesan crisps and fine jambon were complimentary accompaniments.

Vineyards surround the property, a reminder that there is no substitute for terroir 🙂

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