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My name is Elaine and I am addicted to kitchen supplies.

I don’t really need more dishes, but my excuse for going to Dish Depot was to buy two “plain white plates” so that when I take pictures of food there is a nice neutral background. It was a valid reason for me to check out the place that is like Ali Baba’s cavern for all things porcelain at fantastic prices. There is a reason restaurants come here to stock up and replenish their supplies. While I was shopping a couple of restaurant owners were loading up their SUV with four CASES of dishes. If you only need a few, they will sell you a small quantity, so just bring cash and a good eye for quality underneath the dust and stacks. This is not Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table, so don’t expect any kind of order or presentation; keep in mind that the prices are why you are here. If you don’t want to rummage, and prefer your porcelain in pristine condition, don’t come here. If you love finding a steal and don’t mind running your purchase through a dishwasher, you will love it here.

 

 

They also have new and used kitchen equipment, ranging from professional espresso machines to heavy duty safety gloves. Meander and choose at your leisure, then find the small office and pay for your purchase (cash); Sam will ask how you found them and if you are a first time customer he will offer you a gift 🙂

After my haul of two white 12″ heavy porcelain plates and an Italian bar tool, totaling the princely sum of $6, I drove over to the Americana at Brand. I had heard of this mixed residential and shopping center, but had never been. The fake Eiffel Tower made me smile, and the open layout with a grassy fountain area in the center reminded me of the Grove. They even have a track for a trolley (that wasn’t anywhere to be seen).

Nearly all the major brands have stores here, and Nordstrom’s has an upper level outdoor terrace restaurant/bar where I enjoyed the view below along with some calamari.

 After wandering around the entire complex, the only thing I really wanted to buy was this 🙂

 

I’ve missed my French marchés ever since I’ve moved back to the US 😦 Now that I live on the other side of town, the ones I knew and loved in Santa Monica are too far away for me to go to on a regular basis, but thankfully the South Pasadena Farmers Market is an excellent alternative. The market begins at the Metro stop for South Pasadena, so I saw it on a ride one day and made it a point to go once some friends said it was the best in the area.

There are many food trucks clustered around the road adjacent to the Metro stop, so if you are hungry, you will have plenty of options.

 

 

 

 These tamales contain no lard and are all freshly made by the family behind the counter.

 

 

 

 This sandwich was a specialty from the Gastobus.

 Peruvian plates.

 Crepes, both savory and sweet.

 Ice cream and sorbet in unusual flavors.

 You can also take food to go.

 

 

If you run out of cash (some vendors take credit cards), there is an ATM at the center of the market.

Local and organic produce abound.

 

 

 

 

 

 Flowers may not be edible, but they are pretty 🙂

 Many merchants sell things like vinegars, oil, and honey.

There’s live music as the sun sets.

 

I miss going to the marché in France and having fish and shellfish galore at several fishmongers, all competing for my business with the freshest catch and the best prices. Americans don’t seem as enamored by preparing their fish whole as the French; most people I know here want only the filet and nothing else. I have eaten with friends who literally sent a fish back because the head was still attached 😦

Having grown up eating whole fish (yes, I am that person who loves eating the eyeballs), I searched for some place nearby that had a fresh varied selection other than Whole Foods, which had only the American trio of salmon, halibut, and swordfish, with an occasional appearance of sea bass or trout. After a scary journey to a dark, dingy, very smelly “fish market” which shall remain nameless, I finally found Seafood City. Yes, there are Asian markets nearby, but none offer the freshness and variety of Seafood City. A great deal of their fish is farmed, and some have been frozen and defrosted, but for sheer selection they can’t be beat on the East side of Los Angeles. Santa Monica Seafood on the Westside has perhaps twice as big of a selection with more high end and wild caught choices, but price wise they are also twice as expensive.

The market is in Glendale in the mall that houses only a Target and a Macy’s, so there is plenty of parking and easy freeway access. Being a market, they also have vegetables, fruit, noodles, and all kinds of foods Filipino’s might crave, since that is their primary clientele. There is a small butcher case, but I’ve never seen anyone in line for anything other than the fish counter. It took me awhile to understand the system, but basically, you choose the fresh fish or seafood you wish with tongs, putting your choices into clear plastic bags.

You line up to tell them if you would like your fish cleaned and or fried FOR FREE. I opted for cleaning only, so I was given a claim check for pick up at another counter. The wait varies according to the lines; one day I waited 15 minutes for my fish, on a busier day I waited nearly 30 minutes. If you just want shrimp, mussels, calamari, or crabs, they will package up your baggie in a sturdier bag, wrap it and put a price tag on it immediately at the first counter. It’s a much simpler process than it seems, and the customers will help you figure it out if you get confused. If all else fails, get one of the prepared packages of fish to go 🙂

 Yes, you are reading that correctly, whole yellowtail for $3.99 per pound!

Wild Seabream is one of my favorite fish and

for the same price, I also bought wild yellowtail snapper.

They have clams, oysters, squid, and mussels. If you want your shellfish swimming, they have tanks of live lobsters and crabs at the end of the counter. The Maine lobster was only $12.99 a pound, so if you are lucky there will be some left.

 Many sizes of shrimp were available, all at very low prices.

 One day they had a huge tub of live crayfish

and a huge tub of live blue crabs!

Fresh calamari (which I cleaned) and stir fried with bok choy.

Wild White Perch from Canada which I roasted with scallions.

If those crayfish and crabs are still there when I go back, I may make a cajun shellfish boil 🙂

The American lures of ease and comfort have bred some incredibly wonderful (and horrible) inventions; the convenience of having services and products at the ready has become an expectation, from 24 hour supermarkets to dry cleaning services that guarantee an 1 hour turn around. Just as fishing lures can entice fish to bite, some conveniences make promises that are not executed well or at all. Finding any place that delivers more than promised is a joy, and Nordstrom’s Marketplace Café is one of those joys, found inside the Nordstrom’s at the Santa Anita Westfield Mall.

A friend invited me to experience the gift of a meal courtesy of her Nordstrom’s rewards, so we were treated to anything we desired on the menu except wine (but she used an additional gift certificate to include a nice bottle of a Layer Cake Pinot Noir with our meal). Nothing on their menu is more than $18, and most items are in the $12 range. Our server Shannon had worked at the Arcadia restaurant for 20 years and I highly recommend that you ask for her if you go to this location; she is an absolutely skilled professional and she has great taste. She suggested her favorites on the menu, and we enjoyed them all.

We started with the Korean flavored beef tacos as an appetizer. The beef was surprisingly tender and had enough of the taste of Kalbi that the crunchy pickled vegetables balanced out the sweetness nicely. The side salad of crunchy raw vegetables added a nice light counterpoint. This could easily have been a meal, but because this is the US, we took advantage of the American custom of taking extra food home in doggie bags. By the end of our meal, she had a shopping bag of food to take home for another meal with her husband.

Because we couldn’t decide on which salad to get, Shannon served us half portions of two so that we could share and taste. The half portions were so large they could have been a meal for anyone who has a small appetite. The first salad we tried had apple chips, raw apples, chicken, goat cheese, spiced candied almonds, and organic greens in a champagne vinaigrette. We were both delighted with this salad, especially enjoying the apple chips that added a satisfying crunchy texture, contrasting to the softer components.

The colorful berry and fig salad was less to our liking, mainly because of the vanilla bean vinaigrette. I am not a fan of vanilla beans used in anything other than desserts, and although I understand why a fruit and fig salad could be complemented by this kind of flavor, it was my least favorite dish of everything we tried. It w as impressive that with this salad they also used organic greens.

We split an order of the spicy wild shrimp with angel hair pasta, but it was plenty after the tacos and the salads. I was impressed that they used wild shrimp, that the pasta was actually spicy, and that the pasta was not overcooked! All this for under $16 is a bargain (remember the picture is of a HALF portion).

We also split an order of one of the specials of a short rib noodle dish with vegetables with Asian inspired flavors. The meat was tender and the vegetables were lightly sauteed, retaining their crunch. If we had not already eaten half the menu, we would have finished out half portions, but I could barely eat one bite before surrendering my half portion to the doggie bag.

Since we literally had no room for dessert, we chose cookies, which Shannon heated to give us a “freshly baked” flavor. My friend had literally one bite of her gingerbread cookie before also putting the remainder into our ever expanding doggie bag.

I did not do any better, breaking off just a taste of my oatmeal raisin cookie before including it in her shopping bag sized doggie bag.

A very big “grazie” to my VIP Shopper friend for her invitation, to Shannon for her outstanding service, and to the US for inventing the doggie bag 🙂

The exterior of the Reims Cathedral is undergoing extensive renovations, so the main entrance is now on the right side, and scaffolding is on both the front and back obscuring at least a third of the building.

Hidden in the rear of the cathedral is a beautiful garden,

 with a long path and several seats.

 

On the left side of the church (facing the front) there is a delightful little specialty food shop Terroir Des Rois. They have everything from chocolate to 30 year old balsamic vinegar, and if you can’t decide, premade gift baskets are available.

In front of the shop are a few chairs and tables so you can taste their featured champagne of the day, a cold non alcoholic drink, or sip the champagne you just bought,

for a very modest supplemental fee depending on the size of the bottle you purchased,

while gazing at this magnificent view from your table:)

In the Summer, there is a light and music show projected onto the front of the cathedral twice a night starting at 11 PM and each lasts for 20 minutes:)

 

Not all the projectors were working, so there were several blank/black spots,

but the last projection worked fine 🙂

 

Blé Sucré is on so many lists as the best croissant in Paris that I had to taste them for myself 🙂 The tiny shop has a few tables outside if you want to have a coffee and eat facing the park, but I didn’t want my croissant accompanied by the melody of screeching children, so I took mine to go. This is a pâtisserie not a boulangerie, which means they offer pastries but do not sell bread. If you want a baguette, go elsewhere, but come here for the madeleines, the pain au chocolat, or the croissants. The croissants here are HUGE by Parisian standards, easily twice as big as others.

The airy light layers and satisfying crunchy flakiness make for the best of combinations, and I added these croissants to my favorites list along with all the others who came before I did 🙂

Not far away is another kind of pâtisserie, La Rose de Tunis, specializing in North African sweets infused with honey, nuts, and spices. This one is in Belleville in the 11th, but there are other locations in the 15th and 18th, as well as in other cities throughout Europe. There is always a line out the door, so be prepared to wait for your sweet treats.

Since I went to the Yelp event at Les Piaules, I wanted to explore the Belleville area a bit more along Blvd Belleville with all the streetside vendors making freshly grilled breads filled with your choice of meat, tomatoes, onions; think of it as an alternative to pizza:)

The stores sell products I’ve never seen before, like Rose jam!

There were also markets that sell products I knew very well,

like roasted ducks and char siu.

Off Rue Belleville, which intersects Blvd Belleville, the famous graffiti of Rue Denoyez adds color

 and art to everything from the storefronts to the plant holders.

Some artists were working as I passed by, but this area will be transforming in the next few years to “modernize” the street and about 30 of the local workshops and artists will be displaced despite a petition with over 10,000 signatures trying to preserve the character of this street.

The most surprising thing I saw in the neighborhood wasn’t the rose jam or the graffiti, but a Lamborghini, the only one I’ve ever seen in Paris 🙂

One of the advantages of walking in Paris is that you may find places you would miss using any other mode of transportation. The slower pace of life here can take some adjustment, especially for people from cities in the US, but there are rewards of pleasurable discoveries like La Trésorerie (they are working on an English version of their website, but they have people who speak English answering their phone lines). Prices are reasonable, neither the lowest and nor the highest for brand names and types of products; you may find lower prices in the big department stores during sales, but this place will have less crowds and better service.

I don’t really have room for any more pots and pans, but it’s always fun to browse:)

Tea and coffee sets and cups give you an option of making a beverage at home.

They have utensils from butter spreaders to zesters.

If you need extra hooks, they have those too.

Lights, tables, throws, curtains,

and coordinated linens to enhance your decor.

They even have practical things like cleaning supplies and tools.

The most practical part of this store was their attached cafe,

with Swedish snacks and sweets to sustain you as you shop:)

Even though it may seem charming to walk the streets of Paris with an umbrella, I prefer to spend cold rainy days indoors, so I’ve spent most of the Winters here hibernating in my heated home. The lure of shopping with friends in a warm covered market got me to venture out a bit to the Marché Saint Martin. We were seeking something to bring to a goûter, or the afternoon snack between lunch and dinner. Even though my three friends were all French natives, no one had ever been to this market, so we meandered and shopped the stalls as tourists:)

Fresh vegetables for crudites,

 cheese from cows, sheep, and goats,

 and bread made with pumpkin seeds, nuts, and sesame.

 It wouldn’t be a French market without wine,

 and local beef.

 If you don’t want to cook, you can buy prepared food to warm up at home,

 or snacks to nibble on as you await dinner.

 The center area was full of bins of oysters,

 or you can opt for seafood, already cooked and ready to eat.

Some of the stalls were closed on Saturday, like the one selling pastries, but you can always have fresh fruit for dessert 🙂

Chelsea Market is both a place to shop and a place to eat, with temptations galore,

from shops selling every conceivable kitchen gadget,

to wines,

and food, both raw and cooked.

Need spices

or nuts to add to your recipe? No worries, it’s all here.

Freshly made pastas,

shellfish,

sushi appetizers,

chowders,

smoked fish,

or cooked lobsters,

with a side of caviar,

or some fresh fish.

A Japanese television crew was filming a first taste of Maine lobsters as I filmed them 🙂

For sweet lovers, there was cake, gelato, and freshly made donuts.

The hardest choice is where to go next 🙂

Shopping is one of my favorite sports 🙂 I’m not the person to ask if you are looking for a designer handbag or the latest gadget, but if you want to find something food related, I can probably point you towards a place that will have what you are seeking at a good price. San Giovanni di Dio is a stop on both Tram 8 and Bus H which houses a large market for anything food related. This is a semi open market where locals shop for their daily needs, so do not expect anyone to speak English or cater to tourists who want to sample. If you want to experience a slice of the everyday life of Romans, from .50 Euro bargain bins to bring your own container olive oil purchases, this is the place. Walking among the many aisles, you’ll find proscuitto,

 nuts,

 olives, and their oils,

 vegetables,

 mushrooms,

 Roman artichokes,

 and local tomatoes.

 There are also stands for meat, fish, sundries, and sweets.

The most popular Flea Market is this one on Sundays at Porta Portese, a stop on Tram 8 or Bus 75, with everything that you can imagine from old vinyl records to relics like watch faces your grandparents may have had. There are plenty of hustlers here, so unless you know authentic merchandise very well, do not believe everyone who tells you their brand names are real.

With all the priests and nuns in Rome, sometimes I felt as if I was in a Fellini film, especially seeing so many stores selling robes for the clergy.

 My favorite shops, besides the ones selling food, sell natural beauty 🙂

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