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Talented people may begin working for other people, but most yearn to strike out on their own and create unfettered art, whether their art is hung in galleries, or presented on plates. Some are not good at business and do not work with people who are adept at the skills required, so they end up back where they started, but others soar to new heights as they flex their creative muscles.

Fishing With Dynamite is a small restaurant in Manhattan Beach, the seafood outpost next door to MB Post, both owned by renowned chef David LeFevre. Reservations for the 35 seat space are hard to get, so book your seat at least a week in advance, especially if you want to eat during prime dining hours. It’s worth the trouble; trust me:) I went twice in two weeks during DineLA week because their $25 lunch menu was too good not to repeat (prices noted below are the regular menu prices).

The rockfish and shrimp ceviche, with persimmon, radish, serrano, cilantro, avocado, and lime for $12 was as wonderful to eat as it was to behold. The textures and flavors belied the quality and freshness of the ingredients, and two orders would have made a very nice light meal.

Another appetizer was the hamachi, served with ponzu, avocado (hidden underneath the hamachi), radish, serrano and shiso for $18. If you are craving sashimi, this is a dressed up version.

When I saw the Shrimp Po Boy for $14 delivered to the table next to me, I had to order it on one of my visits. It comes LOADED with crunchy shrimp, weiser potato chips, and topped with a cajun remoulade on a buttered and toasted brioche bun. There was no way to hold this, even with two hands, until I ate two or three of the shrimp first!

My favorite meal was the Ono special during DineLA week; grilled rare, and served with eggplant (underneath the fish), pinenut gremolata, celery, and orange.

I don’t usually eat desserts after two courses, but I am very glad I got the Key Lime Pie, made with a graham cracker crust and kaffir lime meringue for $8. It was the BEST version of Key Lime Pie I’ve ever tasted!

The fresh meringue and the creamy filling were just slightly sweet and slightly tart over the buttery crust. I took half it it to go, unable to leave what I could not finish!

After a great meal, great scenery 🙂

cryptoporticus is a covered passageway, and there is an ancient Gallo-Roman one in Reims about one block away from the restaurant named Le Crypto.

Cryptography is defined as the enciphering and deciphering of messages using a secret code, which is something you already know if you’ve read the Da Vinci Code, or watched the movie.

I’m not sure which word Le Crypto is referring to with its name, but it was my favorite restaurant in Reims, and it’s definitely not a secret nor hidden away in a passageway:) They have lunch time menus for around 20 Euros ($23 USD) and daily specials at dinner that run about the same price for a main course. My friend and I passed by one afternoon and both did double takes as we saw the plates being delivered to the diners on the sidewalk terrace, so we came back at night for dinner.

A chilled melon amuse bouche with écrivisses (crayfish) was offered, and my friend liked hers, but I found the melon a bit too sweet for my taste. Upon seeing that I didn’t eat my amuse bouche, our waitress asked if I liked it and I honestly told her I didn’t like the sweet taste.

A few minutes later she came back with this delightful zucchini version which I thoroughly enjoyed. I found it exceptionally generous and graceful of them to provide me an alternative for a taste that was gratis simply because my preference was different. Kudos for the professionalism of the waitress noticing that I didn’t eat the dish and bravo to the chef for offering an alternative.

We both chose the souris d’agneau (leg of lamb) but with different sides, I chose the vegetables,

and my friend chose the whipped potatoes. Yes the plates were as huge as they look, and we could have easily shared one plate and been very full, but the flavors were so good, and the meat falling off the bone tender, that we managed to eat most of our portions.

My friend spied the macaron, sorbet, and berry dessert for 11 Euros ($12 USD)at another table and she somehow found room for this beautiful and light ending to our meal. We chose a nice bottle of rosé to accompany our meal and we left feeling that life is indeed as beautiful as the song La Vie en Rose 🙂

 

 

The Musée Rodin reopened this year with over 7 acres of gardens and sculptures. You can easily spend a day here wandering around contemplating the meaning of life 🙂

The temporary exhibit usually has a very short line, but the permanent exhibit line stretched down to the edge of the sculpture garden. Entry fees range from about 3-11 Euros ($4-13 USD), with the first Sunday of every month free, but be prepared for lines on sunny days. These days there are security checks for all museums, so leave your backpacks at home.

There are sculptures along the side of the garden which are protected from the elements due to their fragile nature.

The sturdier sculptures are scattered throughout the garden.

 

This gives you an idea of the scale of the garden area; this view is looking back at the building with the permanent exhibitions,

and this is one of the pathways from the permanent exhibition to the rotunda,

with a pond surrounded by sculptures.

One of the nice things about having sculptures outdoors is that you can literally touch them.

The Eiffel Tower is hidden by the fog, just behind the “Thinking Man”, as obscure as his thoughts…

As much as I love France, there are some things from the US that just do not exist here. My friends. Trader Joe’s. The weather in Los Angeles. Great restaurants open ALL afternoon. Free checking. Customer service which allows instant refunds and / or exchanges. In exchange for all those things, I have heavenly bakeries, healthcare and medicine that is almost free, low cost efficient public transportation, and a spirit of community which treats everyone, including restaurant servers, with respect and gives them a living wage. No place is perfect, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still try to find all that I want no matter where I am in the world.

Finding good BBQ in Paris is one of my quests. I had a truly good spicy pork rib at Frog Revolution, a pub with 24 beers on tap, but it is more a place to go drink with food than the other way around. The Beast, on the other hand, is a place to eat with great drinks, including craft beers and very rare bourbons. Prices range from 9-24 Euros ($11-27 US) for the meats, 4-5 Euros ($5-6 US) for the sides, and a lunch menu of 15 Euros ($17) for a meat, side and drink, it’s a good deal for the best BBQ I’ve had in Paris. The first time I went, I had the pork ribs with a side of greens, and a beer. the pork ribs were tender in the center, but dry on the end, needing the delicious tomato based BBQ sauce to moisten the meat.

The beef brisket was excellent, with a wonderful peppercorn crust, nice smoke, and juicy meat, good enough to eat without any sauce at all.

The smoker is from Texas and they had to remove the doors to get it inside the place.

The greens weren’t bad, with plenty of pork goodness, but they needed salt and heat to make them better, unfortunately Parisian taste is not known for having any tolerance for spice, so sneak in some hot sauce if you want to perk up this side, or take it home and doctor it up.

The pickles and pickled onions were excellent, with a crisp texture and vinegary bite.

The baked beans were the best side I tasted, with a smokey tomato base, just slightly sweet.

The decor reminds you that the owner spent some time in Texas, but fortunately there were no chainsaws in sight 🙂

The sweetest gifts are presents from people who know what you enjoy and surprise you with their thoughtfulness. A friend I had not seen in decades found me through this blog and brought me some chocolate treats from Angelina, remembering how much I love chocolate. She brought FOUR desserts for the TWO of us, giving me a very generous allowance for my appetite still being what it used to be in my twenties. I only managed to eat about half of ONE, and because she would not take the rest with her for her flight back to the US, I was left suffering the terrible sacrifice of having to eat the leftovers 🙂

The Negresco, made with meringue, light and dark chocolate mousse, dark chocolate icing and dark chocolate shavings.

The Choc African, my favorite, made with African origin chocolate, chocolate brownie, chocolate mousse, and chocolate cream.

The interiors  of the Negresco and the Choco African show how light and silky the mousse fillings were.

This summer variation on the classic Mont Blanc added strawberries to the meringue, whipped cream, and signature chestnut cream vermicelli. If you enjoy strawberries and cream, with a slight chestnut flavor, this would be a great choice.

Another friend gave me these chocolates from Mococha as a thank-you gift. Seems everyone knows chocolate is a good way to make me smile.

Mococha brings together very talented chocolatiers, several of whom are MOFs, to one place,

giving them all a showcase for their skills, and giving me a variety of choices to satisfy my chocolate addiction; with all this chocolate, I think I’m set for at least a few days 🙂

Les Pates Vivantes is one of the more well known Chinese restaurants in Paris, with a window onto the street showcasing how they hand pull their noodles. Tucked in areas near Les Halles and Montmartre, they attract as many tourists as locals, with menus ranging from about 10-15 Euros for combinations of stir fried or soup noodles with gyzoas. I chose the vegetable noodles, which were springy and fresh, but greasy (you can see the pool of oil on my plate on the right side of the photo), and the vegetables were only green onions and wood mushrooms. Even with some hot chili oil borrowed from a nearby table,  I couldn’t eat more than a few bites. Service was typically brisk, geared more for fast turn over than a leisurely meal, as is typical for touristy locations.

The gyoza came out after my noodles and were tender, but also oily.

I went back for another try, ordering cold noodles with duck which I thought might at least circumvent the oily tendency. The noodles and raw onions were bathed in a peanut/sesame sauce that left me as cold as the dish. The duck was good and a generous portion, so I would recommend ordering a separate side plate of duck and maybe some noodle soup.

A friend lives in the 13th (not in the neighborhood near Chinatown, where good places abound) and I thought my chances of finding good Chinese food might be better in a local neighborhood place, Bonheur D’Asie, which is a traiteur, or take out place, as well as a sit down restaurant. The shrimp dim sum were tasty, but since I got there in the late afternoon, they suffered from having been out all day. If you want fresher ones, go earlier in the day. I loved their hot and sour soup, but I forgot to take a picture of it before eating; take my word for it, it is both hot and spicy and you will enjoy it on any cold or rainy day in Paris! It’s a family owned hole in the wall, so much more personal with only locals as patrons, which makes for a nice change from touristy spots.

I was marvelously surprised by the tasty ginger chicken, served with a side (I chose white rice since the sauce with the dish needed something plain to balance and absorb the flavor). I didn’t think I could finish the generous portion, but I did:) The ginger was strong enough to add a bite but not overpowering, and there were more vegetables in this dish than the vegetable noodles I had at Pates Vivante.

The menu option (all menu plans were under 12 Euros) offered a dessert of choice besides the main and side, so I chose the coconut ball, a soft, chewy, slightly sweet thumb sized treat that was filled with shredded coconut cream. A very nice way to end the meal.

The best Chinese food I’ve found so far in Paris is at Etoile D’Asie, in the 15th, on Daguerre, which is a pedestrian street lined with vendors of produce, meat, seafood, pastries, and restaurants. The display counter offers about 50 choices (I am not kidding), ranging from dim sum to entrées, sides of noodles and rice or vegetables, and desserts. It’s a bit of an overwhelming choice, but it’s a fun problem 🙂 Service is efficient and smiling, even extending to patient as people invariably linger trying to decide what to choose, no one ever rushes you or scowls. The place is filled with local regulars and a few random tourists who wander over from the catacombs nearby; keep in mind this Chinese restaurant keeps French hours, so it closes in the mid afternoon between lunch and dinner hours. Everything is incredibly fresh, with popular dishes coming out from the kitchen to replenish the sold out ones, and with a brisk take out business, the line moved quickly. Everyone orders and pays; if you are eating in, go sit down as you wait for your order to be brought to you, otherwise you wait by the register for take out. Menus start from about 6 to 15 Euros, or you can simply get dishes by weight.

I chose three shrimp dimsum, which were light and tender, although I found the har gow dough a bit thick.

I got a side of vegetables instead of rice, and doctored it with the sriracha and soy sauce on every table (I was ecstatic to find sriracha bottles on every table).

For my main course I got 300 grams of the spicy shrimp, which were actually a bit spicy! For future reference I will get 150 grams since I had a hard time finishing this portion after the dim sum and the vegetables.

Another day, another choice, this time I chose garlic chicken with a glass noodle side, both of which were wonderfully done and not a bit greasy.

I liked this place so much I went back for yet another meal, this time the sauteed beef with peppers (not the spicy kind), vegetables, and plain rice. Etoile D’Asie means “star of Asia”, and this place gets a gold star for Chinese food.

Most Parisians leave town in August, heading to the shores of France or abroad to begin their 5 week Summer vacation. The traffic out of Paris was so bad on Saturday that the city asked people to consider leaving Sunday or Monday. Adding to the Summer mass exodus headache is the Summer maintenance on several lines of the RER and metro. I decided to avoid all of that by staying local this week-end. I went to the Museum of Archeology in the Chateau of Saint Germain-en-laye and the Museé Maurice Denis, both of which have huge gardens adjacent to them and because it was the 1st Sunday in August, entry to both was free:)

The RER A1 literally stops in front of the Chateau of Saint Germain-en-laye so you can’t miss it. This was where Louis XIV was born, and it was his home before he moved to the newer warmer chateau of Versailles (yes, even in those days they didn’t like cold drafty chateaux). The adjacent park and forest are great places to have a picnic or sunbathe. There’s one small café in the park on the edge of the forest, but otherwise there are only two small stands for drinks and ice cream, so if you want to eat, go to one of the cafés facing the Chateau, or the Brasserie du Theatre and order some oysters and their grilled fish (see my blog post here).

The interior courtyard is impressive, and the museum takes up two floors with about 20 rooms of exhibitions, including some multi-media video and audio sections.

It’s the Museum of Archeology so most items are ancient weapons, tools, and some skeletons of both animals and people. This display of armor was the most striking to me since men actually wore these heavy metal vests to war.

 My favorite part of the museum was the chapel.

 About a 15 minute walk away is the Maurice Denis Museum and garden where art classes are held.

 The workshop or Atelier was closed, but the museum and garden both open.

 The Museum is inside the building on several levels with work from various artists including Gauguin, but sculptures dot the garden.

Maurice Denis.

 Gauguin’s artist pallet.

 There’s a play area for children who may not be interested in the museum:)

 A small chapel in on the property and a registered national monument.

 The garden has many beautiful paths

 The path out is as beautiful as the path in 🙂

On one of the many gray rainy days in Paris, I sought out the warmth and comfort of sun. Morocco was too far away to go for lunch, but Maison de Couscous is in the 14th, only a metro ride away. I found it a bit funny to see a roaring fire on the tv screen facing the dining room; it was as if everyone was pretending we were someplace warmer, using any means possible. The restaurant is a bit off the main road Alésia, so it’s easy access by metro Alésia, and the servers are welcoming and friendly. They had a big sign in front saying that all the couscous dishes included all you could eat couscous and vegetables, so the very reasonable under 15 Euro menu is an even better bargain if you are a big eater.

Since I love lamb, I tried their lamb, but found it a bit bland and dry, even though the serving of meat was quite large for Paris. The vegetables and broth were resonant with aromatics, but I longed for more depth, complexity, and salt.

I found my perfect couscous with their Merguez sausage couscous, savory, spicy, and absolutely addictive. The sausage added the depth and complexity I longed for in the lamb version and as large as this portion was, I managed to finish the entire plate. Their merguez was the best I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten many many links of merguez!

I only ate about half the large plate of couscous because I was so enamored by the merguez and vegetables.

By the time my dessert pastry came I was glad it was a tiny morsel of sweet date in a honey soaked sesame topped crust.

The also offer ice cream, but I think the little bite of date or in this case, pistachio in honey soaked filo, are far more satisfying.

Finding a small neighborhood spot with nice people and excellent merguez couscous is like finding a ray of sunshine among the rain clouds; head towards it and enjoy it.

Bo Bun Kitchen wins the rare restaurant trifecta of the three G’s; 1) Great food, 2) Good service with smiles, and 3) Generous quality ingredients for the price. Bo Bun is a vermicelli dish served in Paris that includes some meat, vegetables, and is sometimes soup based.

Being a member of the Yelp Elite in Paris has its advantages, one of the best perks is being introduced to new places by people who love to eat out as much as I do. Another nice bonus is being invited to exclusive events to new places I might not have found otherwise.

The evening got off to a fantastic start with champagne as the welcome beverage; I love how champagne is considered an aperitif here as opposed to a specialty drink. The evening was completely sponsored by Bo Bun, so the cost of the marvelous champagne, as well as the entire meal, was borne by the restaurant. I intend to return because everything was so good and also to help “repay” them for their generosity. As you can see from their menu, their prices are extremely reasonable, with everything under $20 USD, even for the full menu for a BoBun, soft drink and dessert.

Some of the decor highlighted the ingredients used in the kitchen, like this Buddha’s hand lemon, pomegranates, ginger, and

kaffir limes.

Simmering pots of vegetables like bok choy and lotus root

cooked alongside the marinated pork belly, which used five spice and other proprietary secret spices.

One of the best sights was the view of the always smiling faces of everyone in the place, even though they were swamped:)

Vegetarians can get a Bo Bun as colorful and tasty as meat lovers.

The little morsels of pork belly were divine, melt in your mouth, lingering aromatic bursts of flavor. The edible flowers added a beautiful unique touch, and the freshness of the vegetables was incredible.

Even the whipped cream salted caramel crumble dessert featured edible flowers, although it was a bit too sweet for me, especially after eating my Bo Bun.

Now that I’ve got a full happy belly, it’s time for a nap 🙂

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