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Many famous American writers, artists, musicians, and performers have lived here, but my iconic expat is Josephine Baker. She lived a bit outside of the city, in Le Vésinet, about 10 miles from the center of Paris.

The small gardens and covered passages of Paris are like jewels sprinkled around the concrete and cobblestones of the city. The Seine is the main waterway, with the Canal St. Martin and the Canal de l’Ourcq offering alternatives on the north eastern side of the city. The liquid jewels of Paul de Lavenne de Choulot, a descendant of Louis VI, in Le Vésinet are the epitome of magnificent waterway design.

The center of the city is north of the train station built around the church, just like all old French cities, life revolved around religion, so all commerce gathered nearby.

Le Vésinet may be small and a bit away from the center, but it is a charming calm oasis. Many wealthy residents have made this their home because of views like this, where a pond is literally a backyard “pool”.

Even the gardening sheds are picturesque

The ponds and parks are public with benches along the walkways that offer views like this.

There’s even a trail along the ponds with huge trees and benches.

This is the house where Josephine Baker lived for 18 years (construction workers were entering so I got a look through open gates)

as I window shopped for a home of my own in the neighborhood

before heading back to Paris:)

Since my boxes arrived, I now have my heavy coat and plenty of clothes to layer, so I can venture out and enjoy the lights adorning the city.

There are no less than five huge Christmas trees within five blocks of where I live. It’s nice to have the pleasure of seeing all the festive decorations without having to do anything other than walk around:)

My friends had two birthdays within a week, so they combined the party and made a “simple” dinner. Yes, this is their version of simple for seven adults and three children. There was foie gras (which I haven’t had since they made it illegal in California), stuffed cherry tomatoes, spicy sausage, and a tuna appetizer. Of course no celebration here is served without champagne, so we shared several bottles, along with some wine with dinner.

Dinner was a simple green salad with chives, this tuna and tomato tart, and a quiche Lorraine baked without a crust.

We saved room for dessert, a Vacherin Glacé, made of sorbet, ice cream, whipped cream, and meringue, with one candle for each birthday person and a raft of candles for the kids to blow out.

It was an indoor version of the lights on my pedestrian street, lit up at dusk every night and illuminated until past midnight. The outdoor LED bulbs twinkle, so it’s like walking under a canopy of stars on my way home:)

For those of you who love sweets other than chocolate, today’s post is for you and chocoholics can reread my previous post:)

Believe it or not these flowers are made of candy!

These pâtes de fruits are like very dense jello/gummies which are as close to eating fruit as candy can possibly taste.

I had never tried Mazettes before, they taste like Jordan almonds but with pistachios and white chocolate; delicious!

Even though this was a chocolate centered event, vanilla was available at several stands.

 I saw several sweets I’ve never seen before, like Chardons, which are liquor filled candies

available in various colors to differentiate it from other flavors.

Guimauve is the French version of marshmallow, but they are flavored and colored accordingly. The big difference between this and anything that you would buy in a US supermarket is these are made FRESH, they have a very soft tender texture, and they have flavors unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the US, like passion fruit and lavender!

There were vendors with beautiful souk like displays of spices and teas from around the world.

Some chocolates were so colorful that they looked like jewels; this display was at one of the Japanese vendors who came to showcase their talents in Paris.

Nougat is a beloved sweet, and huge wheels of various flavors could be sliced by weight to be taken home to share (or not).

Dried fruit from goji to papaya were also available by weight.

Sweets from Morocco and made with almonds and almond paste reminded Parisians of warm holidays spent in a popular vacation destination.

Spiced bread, some made with salted caramel, offered a different take on “dessert”.

Marzipan also made an appearance in many shapes and flavors.

A live demonstration on how to make a proper chocolate mousse was held onstage by Ferrandi.

On another stage musicians performed,

and afterwards, awards were given to various chocolatiers for their delicious work.

Future chocolatiers and confiseurs got lessons with hands on experience.

Master sculptors competed with ice art.

Not everything sold was completely edible; these flavored lipsticks were made to be shared with kisses 🙂

Jewelry in the shape of macarons, cupcakes, and other sweets, meant to be worn rather than eaten.

Some stands had servers in costume.

Other stands served wine

or champagne that would compliment sweets.

There was also an educational display with examples (not edible) of the various sweets and the history of how they are made.

The most impressive display was this huge cake made of candy.

I’m sure at the end of the exposition, they have to remove all the stands; does anyone else want to volunteer to help clean up by eating the displays?

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

After 20 years, Houston’s closed in Century City this October. The space has now been completely remodeled to house Seasons 52. The idea behind the restaurant is seasonal menus based on local ingredients and they seem to have mastered both the spirit and execution of this popular concept. The result is a very welcoming outdoor and warm indoor space with an equally warm and welcoming service team.

With wines by the glass starting at just $8 (I chose an ’09 Bordeaux for $10.50) and a full bar for premium alcohol, you can come in just for a drink and some appetizers, like their varied flatbreads starting at $11, or their crab, shrimp & spinach stuffed mushroom caps.

Every item on the menu is under 475 calories, so this is the perfect spot to go for a sensible meal without sacrificing ambiance and flavor. Their salads are made with organic greens and they even offer an EU certified organic salmon (for a $6 supplement).

The mixed organic green salad was dressed in a white balsamic and the greens included pumpkin seeds, cucumbers, and grape tomatoes. This would have been the ideal light meal, but as a side to my Buffalo burger, it was a fresh and flavorful accompaniment.

Since bison is one of my favorite meats, I had to order the buffalo burger, oak-fired and served with roasted red pepper salsa, and spicy chili sour cream for $12. The description included guacamole, but aside from a thin smear of green, I can’t say that guacamole was evident in the burger (probably to keep within the 475 calorie allotment). It was done rare as I requested, and the quarter pound portion was perfect for me, although some hungrier people might have wanted a bigger serving.

Dinner items offer a much heartier portion. This crimini mushroom sauce on the bone in New York was a delectable way to enhance the meat without detracting from it. The sides of asparagus and roasted potatoes were simply done, but satisfying, and surprisingly this entire meal was still less than 500 calories! For $27, this dinner is easy both on wallets and waistlines.

A beautiful tray of mini desserts (all $2.75) allows you to choose from a Meyer Lemon meringue pie, a canoli with white chocolate filling, s’mores, peanut butter and chocolate, or a tropical fruit mix.

In keeping with the season, I opted for the pumpkin pie, decorated with a gingersnap 🙂 It was the perfect small bit of sweetness to round off my meal.

With a location next to shops, this is a great place for a respite from holiday shopping; after all even Santa gets milk & cookies, why shouldn’t you?

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

I tasted Bar Pintxos‘ food at the LA Food and Wine event Summer at the Shore (see my previous post) and couldn’t wait to try more, so I took two guests from back East to get a late night snack at this wonderful Tapas bar in Santa Monica.

One of my guests loves potatoes and when she saw the Patatas Brava, crispy potatoes, spicy tomato sauce, aioli and chives for $5, she knew what she wanted. I’m not usually a potato lover, but these converted me! They were tender on the inside, crispy on the outside, and the spicy tomato sauce and aioli added such a perfect accent that would gladly order these every time I come here.

My other friend wanted something light, so she ordered the white asparagus with green herb puree, seasonal sprouts, and marcona almonds with paprika for $6. This was a tender dish of fresh ingredients which would be a perfect choice for any vegans, vegetarians, or simply vegetable lovers.

I had to order the grilled octopus with saffron aioli and smoked paprika infused olive oil for $10. I LOVED this dish. I could have easily eaten three for dinner. The potatoes on my plate were a nice accompaniment to dip into the saffron aioli and they added a nice textual contrast to the octopus.

The atmosphere is exactly like a tapas bar in Spain, the service is warm and knowledgeable, and the food is amazing, so come here for their happy hour when tapas are only $6, or you can get a sampler plate like this (actually 2 orders on this plate).

The calamari was some of the most tender and savory I’ve ever eaten, and a bargain at $6 during happy hour (I ordered TWO)!

Go on a Thursday for their $34 menu of 3 courses. I plan to come next Tuesday when they do their fabulous paella for only $9 after 6pm.

Joe Miller, the owner, came over when he saw me taking pictures and asked if I was going to post them on Yelp, so I told him yes, and even better, on my blog, because after all, great food deserves great press!

Bar Pintxo on Urbanspoon

I will be traveling for the next week to spend some time with friends I’ve known since college, so if internet connections are reliable, I will post during my trip, but if not, here is a picture of one of the places I will be going….

If you’d like a hint : the picture shows the largest solar collection system of its kind in the world 🙂

Dear Readers,

As you may have already noticed, I am not posting as often as I used to on my blog. Some other parts of my life need my attention, and as much as I love writing about restaurants, travel tips and shopping, they are not the focus of my life. Please continue to read my posts, even if I only post sporadically and less often. I enjoy sharing my finds with you and will continue to do so as I endeavor to balance time with those I love and writing about things I love to do.

Elaine 🙂

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