Tag Archive | "restaurants"

Letter from Paris: Kult, Casual Dining in Saint-Germain-des-Pres

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Kult, casual dining in Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Photo copyright Alexander Lobrano

By Alexander Lobrano

Inspite of its dopey name, Kult, the stylish but easygoing restaurant in the just-opened hotel Le Saint, is a welcome new option for good casual dining in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Surprisingly, the restaurant offer in this storied Left Bank neighborhood, the most loved district of Paris for upmarket visitors to the city, is relatively meager. To wit, if you want a good French meal within a five-to-ten-minute walk of the Cafe Deux Magots or the Cafe de Flore, your best choices are pretty much Fish La Boissonnerie, Semilla, Le 21 and, a little bit further afield, the excellent Cafe Trama on the rue du Cherche Midi.

Continue reading …

 

alecAlexander Lobrano grew up in Connecticut, and lived in Boston, New York and London before moving to Paris, his home today, in 1986. He has written about food and travel for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. He is a Contributing Editor at Saveur  and writes a weekly column on restaurants in French for the weekend magazine of Les Echos, France’s largest business newspaper. Lobrano is the author of Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 109 Best Restaurants (Random House), which was published in a second edition in 2014, and Hungry for France, was published by Rizzoli in April 2014. Visit his website,www.alexanderlobrano.com (Photo by Steven Rothfeld)

Gavin Fine, Jackson Hole’s King of Dining

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Q Roadhouse, Jackson, WY

Q Roadhouse, Jackson, WY

By Bill Triplett

Possibly having done the most to bring upscale dining to Jackson Hole, Gavin Fine and his business partner Roger Freedman now preside over six restaurants, a catering outfit, and a specialty grocer/bottle shop. The name of the overall company was probably inevitable – Fine Dining Restaurant Group – but there are plenty of people who’ll tell you the restaurants have all lived up to it.

Gavin Fine, the Danny Meyer of Jackson, WY

Gavin Fine, the Danny Meyer of Jackson, WY

Fine, originally from Chicago, came to ski Jackson Hole in the mid-1980s, and like a lot of others, eventually ended up moving here as a result. To pay bills he worked in restaurants and even baby-sat actor Harrison Ford’s kid, but he was focused on trying to combine his two loves – food and skiing. But the JacksonHole restaurant scene in the 1990s was lacking.

“You’d go into a place and the waiter would say, ‘Dude, what do you want?’ It drove me nuts,” he says. “I almost left.”

He did leave, but only for three months to study wine in Europe. When he came back in 2001, shortly before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he and Freedman opened their first eatery, the Rendezvous Bistro. “We wanted to have good food, good service, and not be expensive.”

Il Villagio Osteria

Il Villagio Osteria

It was a hit with both locals and visitors. A big enough hit, in fact, to embolden Fine and Freedman to open more restaurants – Q Roadhouse and Brewing Co., Il Villagio Osteria, The Kitchen, Bin 22, and most recently Bodega.

The secret to the success? “I believe in the good personal, face-to-face experience,” Fine says. “If that happens, people will keep coming back.”

 

 

 

 

William Triplett is the former DC bureau chief for Variety. Triplett has written about various destinations, from Scotland’s Inverness and Paris’s Pere Lachaise Cemetery to Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and the Beatles’ old haunts in Hamburg. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The Baltimore Sun,and Capital Style.

William Triplett is the former DC bureau chief for Variety. Triplett has written about various destinations, from Scotland’s Inverness and Paris’s Pere Lachaise Cemetery to Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and the Beatles’ old haunts in Hamburg. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The Baltimore Sun,and Capital Style.

Letter from Paris: Benoit

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Benoit. Credit C.-Sarramon

Benoit. Credit C.-Sarramon

By Alexander Lobrano

Paris without Benoit, a wonderful old bistro on the edge of the Marais that’s been in business since 1912, would be almost as unimaginable to me as Paris without the Eiffel Tower. Why? Though I’ve occasionally had a bone or two to pick with Benoit through the years, it remains an august monument to the eternal goodness of Parisian bistro cooking. And that’s why today I’m grateful to Alain Ducasse for taking it over in 2005. I was a bit skeptical at the time–after all, what could Ducasse bring to a bistro register as brilliant as the one perpetuated by the Petit family for 93 years? Not much, as it turned out, but in his quiet role as a restaurant curator and collector, he saved this place.

Without Ducasse, Benoit might have suffered the same ignominious fate as Le Grizzli, a once charming old-fashioned Auvergnat bistro across the street where I used to love the fricot de veau (veal stew with wild mushrooms) that’s now become an insipid could-be-just-about-anywhere  type of table–I mean, does anyone really come to Paris to eat skewered chicken with sate sauce?

My most recent meal at Benoit was born of a heart-felt desire to lift the spirits of a much-loved friend, a longtime American resident of Paris like me, who’s going through a very hard time. Aside from daily phone calls, I was trying to think of what I could do to cheer her up, to distract her, and then it occurred to me that a really good meal with some great wines would be perfect. So I invited her to join me at Benoit.

On the way to dinner, it was a soft Paris night in May when the air was scented by chestnut flowers, a distinct but soft and fleetingly floral moment in the city’s annual calendar that never lasts more than a few days, and I thought of the first time I went to dinner at Benoit, with Ken, a handsome guy from the corn-belt in Ohio who used to work for the same company I did. He liked to eat as much as I do, and we drank a what-the-hell expensive bottle of Cote Rotie with our meal, which wasn’t a long-planned event, but rather an off-the-cuff let’s-go-out-to-dinner feast before obligatory reservations strangled such spontaneous pleasures. Yes, there really was a time in Paris where you could walk in the door of a very good restaurant in Paris and get a table. What a shame it is that meal planning has become as strategic, intricate and carefully plotted as D-Day.

Asparagus with a truffled mousseline sauce. Credit Alexander Lobrano.

Asparagus with a truffled mousseline sauce. Credit Alexander Lobrano.

What was racketing around in my head on the way to dinner was my recurring exasperation with several of the most exhausted cliches of contemporary food writing, to wit, women love salad and fish, while men want meat and more meat, and younger people don’t want traditional French bistro food like older ones do but would rather have pizza, sushi and cheeseburgers. None of these ideas are true, actually, but their persistent existence throws any discussion about good food in Paris way off course. Many of the women I know and love are even more enthusiastic eaters of offal and big bloody steaks than I am, and a good number of my youngest friends crave blanquette de veau and coq au vin even more than I do.  So do you care to guess which one of us ordered the asparagus with a truffled mousseline sauce?

Well, we both did, but that was after we’d shared an order of Langue de Lucullus, a speciality of Valenciennes in northern France comprised of fine layers of smoked tongue interleaved with pork-liver pate; it’s a dish I never eat without thinking of Bruno’s lovely mother, who now insists I call her “Maman,” because I’m her ‘American son,’ since she was the one who introduced it to me. It’s sturdy old-fashioned French food, and as much as I love it it always induces an apprehension that I might soon be a worthy model for Rodin, the sculptor of large solid people, if he were still alive.

Boeuf Wellington. Credit Alexander Lobrano.

Boeuf Wellington. Credit Alexander Lobrano.

There were ever so many tempting things on the menu at Benoit the other night, but what caught my eye, oddly, was Boeuf Wellington, that ur American suburban dinner-party show-off recipe from the Seventies, which consists of a filet of beef anointed with a sauce Perigueux (foie gras and truffles) wrapped in pastry. I hadn’t eaten Beef Wellington in beyond the nets of recent memory, but since it’s served here for two (until the end of May 2015, as part of a tiny collection of wonderfully retro recipes) I had to be sure my friend was onboard as well.

She was, so we did, and it was wonderful, because the beef wasn’t the insipid filet most often found in the same preparation in North America, where tenderness is the ultimate and rather sorry measure of good meat, but juicy mineral-rich French beef with a pleasantly chewy grain. And as I ate it, I thought of the long butterfly-print culotte halter dress that my mother wore with tangerine sandals when she wanted to buck back against a world of make-up-free suburban women in wrap skirts with the same bob haircuts they’d had since they were twelve. Mind you, my mother was all scorn (and still is) when it comes to anything that might be construed as feminine wiles, but she still occasionally felt the need or desire for a little bit of glamour, a timeout from the spaded femininity of American suburbs in the Northeast in the sixties and seventies, and it’s true I’ve never ever known a man who looked at a metal duck-head belt buckle, one of the embarrassing emblems of female preppy privilege, and gone wild with desire.

So certain dishes become repositories of memory in all cities, all countries and all cultures. And this was why it was so poignant to eat Beef Wellington at Benoit–it fused France and America in a gentle subconscious soup of happy memory for two gastronomically exigent American expatriates (and I’d still insist that I’m not an expatriate, but rather an American whose curiosity led him to chose a life abroad). Mind you, the impulse could have gone very wrong if the dish hadn’t been so beautifully prepared–and this is Benoit’s glory, it’s Vieille France glorified by exquisite modern cooking methods and the exalted sourcing of the best Gallic produce.

Mind you, it’s expensive, and the service is still organised according to an unspoken and not always accurate table plan of snobbery that these days is probably snubbing some of the most interesting people in the room. To wit, people who still dress up get seats in the prized corral in the heart of the restaurant, those who are deemed runners up sit up front in the area adjacent to the bar, and everyone else is sent to the backroom, a dull dining room that was one of my bones to pick with Ducasse when he took this place over. The decision was all business, and it blunted the restaurant’s charm.

Poule-au-pot sur assiette. Credit Pierre Monetta.

Poule au pot sur assiette. Credit Pierre Monetta.

Benoit is still the kind of place, though, where you might have a gracious and unexpected surprise during dinner. The beautiful woman from Manila sitting next to us with her American husband insisted we try some of her luscious poule au pot, because she couldn’t finish it but must have been sporadically listening to our frenetic chatter about good French food, and when asked, the waiter didn’t blanche. After barely being able to finish the beef Wellington, it was stretch to eat anything more, but this bird was beautiful and the pool of bouillon it rested in was rich, restorative and earthy.

And then we finished up with an exquisitely made strawberry Charlotte, and a flirtatious little plate of chocolate-sauced napped profiteroles, which came to the table because the waiter liked us and wanted to please and provoke in equal measure. Our whole meal tasted of the food which made us decide to live our lives in Paris a longtime ago, but it was also fresher and more vivid than any of those remembered dishes of yore. This is where Ducasse, and acting chef Fabienne Eymard, have so admirably succeed, since there’s a very good possibility that the bistro cooking served here is even better today than it was when the Petits owned it. Memory is slippery by definition, but taste very rarely lies, because it’s so primal: Benoit is still a very good bistro.

Benoit. Credit Pierre Monetta.

Benoit. Credit Pierre Monetta.

20 rue Saint Martin, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, Tel. (33) 01-58-00-22-05. Metro: Chatelet or Hotel de Ville. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Lunch menu 39 Euros, Average a la carte dinner 85 Euros. www.benoit-paris.com

aleclobranohungryfe4e99_2 2Alexander Lobrano grew up in Connecticut, and lived in Boston, New York and London before moving to Paris, his home today, in 1986. He has written about food and travel for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. He is the author of Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 109 Best Restaurants (Random House), which was published in a second edition in 2014, and is a Contributing Editor at Saveur Magazine. His latest book, Hungry for France, was published by Rizzoli in April 2014. Visit his website, www.alexanderlobrano.com  (Photo by Steven Rothfeld)

 

Hexagone, Paris: The New Shape of French Gastronomy

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Hexagone, Paris. Credit Jerome Galland.

Hexagone, Paris. Credit Jerome Galland.

By Alexander Lobrano

There are many things to like about chef Mathieu Pacaud‘s new restaurant Hexagone in Paris. Not only does it serve some exquisitely refined contemporary French cooking that tips its hat at the great traditions of Escoffier, it also has one of the best wine lists of any recent restaurant in Paris. This lavish list, which also includes a spectacular selection of grand cru wines by the glass, is run byBenjamin Roffet, one of the city’s most talented and charming sommeliers, too. There’s also a serious bar at this address with a major mixologist in the person of Thomas Girard.

What I find interesting about Pacaud’s new place, though, is that it represents what a talented and ambitious young chef with a serious culinary pedigree–his father Bernard Pacaud cooked at L’Ambroisie for many years before turning the kitchen over to his son–thinks French gastronomy should be about in the 21st century.

Hexagone, Paris. Credit Jerome Galland.

Hexagone, Paris. Credit Jerome Galland.

Oh, and there’s also the wild card of its address in the 16th Arrondissement, a silk-stocking part of Paris which never previously attracted young chefs setting up shop. Now, though, it’s starting to simmer with the arrival of Pacaud and other terrific new tables like Restaurant Pages.

“Many of the old style three star restaurants in Paris are struggling right now,” Pacaud said during a chat I had with him when I went to Hexagone for dinner with Bruno the other night. “They’re too expensive and too formal. The meals they serve take too long, and the whole drill isn’t appealing to a younger generation of Parisians or foreigners visiting the city. So my idea here was to create a place that my friends would want to come–a place that’s relaxed and where you have a good time,” said the chef, adding, “And I chose the 16th Arrondissement, because it delivers a good clientele of business diners at noon and an interesting and international mixture of people at night. Eventually, I’ll open a real restaurant gastronomique on the same premises (Hexagone occupies a duplex space space in the former Hotel K),” says Pacaud, who also plans a new seafood restaurant sometime this year. “I think it’s a really exciting time in Paris, because the old guard is changing and the future is emerging,” says the chef, a who insists that despite coming off as a very amiable and easygoing guy, he’s actually intensely demanding. “I dine in my own restaurant regularly and we’re still fine tooth combing everything,” he said.

Pacaud may still be putting the finishing touches on this place, but it already has a lot of charm and is quite unlike any other restaurant in Paris. Arriving, it gives off a decidedly fashionable vibe that had me dreading an imminent bout of attitude from the staff and servers, but no, the welcome was warm, and the staff was charmingly playful from time to time, as if winking at the whole idea of the ‘very serious restaurant,’ and yet they were also flawlessly professional. We were immediately at ease in the good looking dining room designed by interior architects Patrick Gilles and Dorothée Boissier, too, because tables are large and widely spaced, the lighting is impeccable, and the tongue-in-cheek look of the place–the designers were inspired by “Alice in Wonderland”–was witty without going over the top.

Waiting for our first course, it was interesting to observe the evolving clientele here. There was a business dinner going on over my shoulder, and the crew of six hailed from several different countries and went back and forth between speaking French and English. A few pearls gathered from their chatter included the observation that “The United States isn’t a serious country if anyone could really take people like Mick Huckabee and Rick Perry seriously as possible presidential candidates,” (D’accord); “The food in Holland is terrible” (Wrong, the food in Amsterdam has become very good); and “Portuguese cooking is so peasant and basic” (And this with a very good-looking Portuguese woman at the table! I’m not sure if I’d describe it as ‘peasant and basic,’ but rather as often hearty and appealingly rustic, but then I like ‘peasant and basic.’) There were also several tables of well-groomed beautifully dressed middle-aged professional women, always a good sign, since this local tribe is both keen and discerning at the table, and surprisingly, a couple of tables of young stubbled types with their plastic motor cycle helmets sitting on the banquette next to them and their apparently bored girl friends, who spent a lot of time fiddling around with their phones. Soft lounge music played in the background, and for once it wasn’t irritating.

At Hexagone, you can order the tasting menu, a gastronomic phenomenon I no longer really enjoy, or go a la carte with a starter, fish, meat and dessert, since the portion sizes are perfectly calibrated to produce satisfaction without leaving you feeling overfed at the end of a meal. With the gizzards a little squeamish after so much lavish good eating during the holidays, I loved our first course, a feather-weight ‘Marquise’ of blanc manger meringues on a bed of truffled celery root puree that contained a slow-cooked egg hidden under a tumble of black truffles cut into fine match sticks. What intrigued about this dish is that it manages to be pretty and light but deliver a full punch of comfort-food pleasure, since the thickly runny egg yolk perfectly sauced the puree.

Crayfish from Lake Geneva  on a bed of star-anise-flavored aspic with green mango puree and cauliflower mousseline was magnificent.

Crayfish from Lake Geneva on a bed of star-anise-flavored aspic with green mango puree and cauliflower mousseline was magnificent.

For anyone who hadn’t guessed, Hexagone in French, means hexagon in English, and the reference here is more than just geometric, since the French often affectionately refer to France as the Hexagone, because of its six different borders with several seas and different countries. In this instance, the word has other resonances, too, since Pacaud aspires to serving profoundly French food, and in this he succeeds, because the modernity of his plated aesthetics and his dextrous culinary lightness notwithstanding, the flavor constellations in his dishes are indeed exquisitely French. If a single langoustine thatched with finely shredded root vegetables in a pool of saffron cream was pleasant, crayfish from Lake Geneva  on a bed of star-anise-flavored aspic with green mango puree and cauliflower mousseline was magnificent, with flowers decorating the plump sweet tails of shellfish and the percussion of the garnishes elongating their natural taste in a way that would make Escoffier proud even if the great French chef probably never worked with such ‘exotic’ seasonings.

Making things taste of what they are is Pacaud’s compass point, and the subtlety with which he pulls this off is thrilling. But his real shrewdness comes from understanding that Escoffier would have been horrified to find himself cast in the role of ‘curator’ chef, which is how too many French cooks see him today. Instead, I suspect that he’d rejoice at Pacaud’s intelligent gustatory innovations in the kitchen.

John Dory with shellfish.

John Dory with shellfish.

If my sole in vin jaune sauce was pleasant and very pretty with its carrot roses, both of us preferred Bruno’s John Dory with with a reduction of Noilly Prat vermouth that shirked its retro mantle with the clever addition of mace and garnishes of finely shredded leeks, cockles and razor-shell clams. Our meat courses were excellent, too–a riff on a carbonnade (beef in beer sauce from the north of France) for Bruno and braised veal sweetbreads with a garnish of black-and-green olives and a vivid green herb reduction for me.

Hexagone-Chocolate-dessert-520x390

Bayano Brésil ganache.

 

By the time we got to dessert, the quiet question that had been bobbling around in the back of my thoughts all night had been answered. To wit, is Mathieu Pacaud as talented a chef as his father? He is, I decided while tucking into a charming post-modern riff on a Poire Belle Helene. Meanwhile, across the table, Bruno was absent in the chocolate bliss induced by his Bayano Brésil ganache with honey ice cream, chilled buckwheat cream and a crunchy hazelnut wafer.

If Mathieu Pacaud is cooking this well just a few weeks after opening, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s on the starting blocks as one of the next great chefs in Paris.

Hexagone, 85 Avenue de Kléber 16th Arrondissement, Tel. (33) 01-42-25-98-85. Metro: Trocadéro. Bar open Tues.-Sat. 11am-2am; Restaurant open Tues.-Sat. for lunch (12pm-2pm) and dinner (7pm-11pm). Lunch menu 49 Euros; average four-course a la carte 175 Euros; tasting menu 180 Euros. www.hexagone-paris.fr  

Alexander Lobrano grew up in Connecticut, and lived in Boston, New York and London before moving to Paris, his home today, in 1986. He was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine and has written about food and travel for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. He is the author of Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 102 Best Restaurants (Random House), and a Contributing Editor at Saveur Magazine. His latest book, Hungry for France, was published by Rizzoli in April 2014.  Visit his website, Hungry for Paris. (Photo by Steven Rothfeld)

Alexander Lobrano grew up in Connecticut, and lived in Boston, New York and London before moving to Paris, his home today, in 1986. He was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine and has written about food and travel for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. He is the author of Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 102 Best Restaurants (Random House), and a Contributing Editor at Saveur Magazine. His latest book, Hungry for France, was published by Rizzoli in April 2014. Visit his website, Hungry for Paris. (Photo by Steven Rothfeld)

Snow Flurries: Palette Pleasing High Mountain Restaurants

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Zach's Cabin, Beaver Creek.

Zach’s Cabin, Beaver Creek.

By Kim McHugh

Serving Zagat Survey-worthy cuisine and postcard views, these snow country restaurants invite you to pull up a chair and eat yourself silly. From entrées such as Pecan Crusted Elk Tenderloin and Sea Bass with Manila Clams, Apple Cider and Chili Braised Beef Short Ribs, Crab Stuffed Rocky Mountain Trout, Vegetable Napoleon and Lobster Risotto, be prepared to be satiated at a higher altitude.

Allred's, Telluride.

Allred’s, Telluride.

Allred’s
www.tellurideskiresort.com
(970) 728-7474

At the top of the gondola Telluride’s flagship restaurant offers a memorable dining experience. Welcomed by General Manager Mario Petillo, patrons look forward to an extraordinary evening. A menu inspired by Chef Mike Regrut features delectable elk, lamb, steak, and seafood entrees, as well as fresh local vegetables, salads and a wonderful wine selection. Dinner served nightly.

Alpenglow Stube, Keystone

Alpenglow Stube, Keystone

Alpenglow Stube, Keystone
www.keystoneresort.com
800-354-4386

At an altitude of 11,444 feet, the Alpenglow Stube (pronounced STEW-bay) is North America’s highest AAA Four-Diamond fine dining experience. Draped with a lap blanket, guests arrive via a pair of über fast gondola rides. The menu features a choice of four- or seven-course dinners focused on Colorado and contemporary cuisine with Bavarian accents. Dining is offered Thursday – Sunday.

Alpino Vino, Telluride

Alpino Vino, Telluride

Alpino Vino
www.tellurideskiresort.com
(970) 728-7474
The highest elevation fine-dining restaurant in North America at 11,966 feet, Alpino Vino is reminiscent of intimate restaurants found throughout the Dolomites of Northern Italy. Traveling by heated snow coach guests are awed by views of the Wilson Range and then enjoy a five-course Italian-themed menu along with the warmth of a wood-burning fireplace. Dinner served Wednesday – Saturday.

 

Beano's Cabin, Beaver Creek.

Beano’s Cabin, Beaver Creek.

Beano’s Cabin, Vail

www.beanoscabinbeavercreek.com

970-754-3463

Hidden amongst aspens and evergreens at the base of Larkspur Bowl, Beano’s Cabin satisfies with AAA Four Diamond Award, DiRoNA award and the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence dishes. Accessible via skis, snowboard or snowcat-drawn sleigh, the restaurant features three- and five-course prix fixe dinners in a “Jeremiah-Johnson-meets-Ralph-Lauren” log cabin. Dinner is served Thursday – Sunday.

 

Cloud Nine, Aspen Highlands

Cloud Nine, Aspen Highlands

Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, Aspen Highlands
www.aspensnowmass.com
970-923-8715

A most aptly named restaurant, Cloud Nine Bistro is an intimate, Euro-style bistro with ski-in/ski-out table service for lunch or dinners on most Wednesday and Thursday evenings. The hearty European-style fare might include Raclette or Fondue, Duck Confit, Black Truffle Gnocchi, or Bouillabaisse. After 1:30pm, champagne bottles begin popping, the music volume increases, and a lively dance party takes over the cabin.  Also open for private dinner parties.

Couloir

www.jacksonhole.com
307-739-2675

Couloir, Jackson Hole’s most unique dining experience, is located at the summit of the Bridger Gondola at 9,095 feet. Named on the Condé Nast Hot Tables List, its seasonal menu features American cuisine with Rocky Mountain roots. The Wine Spectator award- acknowledged Executive Chef Wes Hamilton, who also offers Chef’s Table dining for parties up to six, helms the eatery. Dinner served Thursday, Friday and select holidays.

Der Fondue Band, Keystone

Der Fondue Band, Keystone

Der Fondue Chessel
www.keystoneresort.com
800-354-4386

A decidedly Bavarian vibe characterizes Der Fondue Chessel, which sits atop North Peak. After a pair of gondola rides, guests gather round the tables to perhaps start the evening with a traditional Swiss Cheese fondue—a blend of Gruyère and Emmentaler cheeses mixed with a little white wine and kirschwasser. Meats, veggies, bread cubes, crisp apples add to the dipping fun. Dinner offered Wednesday – Saturday.

Four Points
www.steamboat.com
970-871-5150
Located at 9,716 feet atop the Four Points chairlift, the Four Points Lodge offers a five-course culinary experience rooted in the traditions and flavors of Northern Italy. Guests travel by heated snowcat to sample Chef John Shaw’s innovative cuisine that focuses on healthy, made-to-order items featuring local ingredients, fresh made salads, pastas, homemade soups and hot-stone

Game Creek, Vail
www.vail.com
970-754-4275

Nestled in Game Creek Bowl, this dining destination is reached via skiing or snowboarding down Ouzo or by snowcat from the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Once inside, guests cozy up to the fireplace before venturing into the Mount Jackson Room. A fusion of American-French cuisine with regional and seasonal ingredients awaits patrons. Open for dinner Tuesday – Saturday.

Hazie’s
www.steamboat.com
970-871-5150

Enjoying a short gondola ride from the base, guests are treated to the best views in the Yampa Valley before reaching the summit and entering Hazie’s where the views are equally stunning. The restaurant, named after Hazel Mae Werner, Olympian Buddy Werner’s mom, features an a la carte menu with culinary delights such as a Blue Cheese Crusted Filet of Beef and Macadamia Nut Crusted Halibut. Open Wednesday – Saturday.

Grilled cheese at Alpino Vino, Telluride.

Grilled cheese at Alpino Vino, Telluride.

The Lodge At Sunspot, Winter Park
www.winterparkresort.com
970.726.1446

Board the Zephyr Express gondola and your next stop is this award-winning restaurant, whose stone hearth fireplace acts as a magnet. The culinary astute have been seeking its five-course dinners for years along with an excellent wine selection. Elk Tournedos, Steelhead Trout, Colorado lamb, fondue and vegetarian fare tempt patrons. Open for dinner Friday and Saturday evenings and select holidays.

Lynn Britt Cabin, Snowmass
www.aspensnowmass.com
800-525-6200 x4715

Traveling to the cabin by snowcat, up to 60 patrons can enjoy an exquisite, four-course dinner that kicks off with a basket of fresh baked breads and muffins. Menu choices might feature steak, trout, lamb or duck, and one of the tastiest treats is the live bluegrass and Celtic music played by local musicians. Reservations for the Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday seatings are required.

Lamb Chop at Beano's Cabin, Beaver Creek

Lamb Chop at Beano’s Cabin, Beaver Creek

The Peak Lodge
www.killington.com
800-621-6867

Built in 1967 as the Summit Terminal the original Peak Lodge was positioned to serve up panoramic views of the Green, White, and Adirondack Mountains. Able to accommodate up to 300 guests for special event/occasion dining, the restaurant is accessed via the K-1 Express Gondola. Expect cuisine crafted with robust flavors and healthy mountain living in mind.

Parallax at McCoy Station
www.mammothmountain.com
800-626-6684

Arriving by a luxury heated snowcat guests look forward to a gourmet dining adventure at 9,600 feet. A delicious four-course dining experience awaits at Parallax, the private dining room at McCoy Station. Start your ride with a glass of champagne followed by a Chef’s Table dinner perhaps comprised of Mussels in Cioppino Broth, Colorado Lamb Chop or Red Elk Loin. Seatings available Friday, Saturday and during holidays.

Ragnar's, Steamboat.

Ragnar’s, Steamboat.

Ragnar’s, Steamboat Springs
www.steamboat.com
970-871-5150

Ragnar’s, named in honor of ski jumper Ragnar Omtvedt, is fabelaktig (Norwegian for fabulous). Guests ride the gondola to the summit before traveling by a snowcat-drawn sleigh to this Scandinavian chalet in the woods. Tout de Mer, seafood wrapped in a pastry shell, Pomegranate Duck Breast and Herb Grilled Venison are a few of the temptations. Dinner is offered Thursday – Saturday.

The Roundhouse
www.sunvalley.com
208-622-2012

Since 1939 the Roundhouse has been serving delicious meals, soul-warming drinks and stunning views from Mount Baldy. After riding the Gondola to an elevation of 7,700 feet, guests savor American/European cuisine such as Cheese Fondue for Two, Braided Puff Pastry Salmon and Napoleon of Roasted Vegetables. Its central stone fireplace, and vintage photos of Sun Valley’s history enrich the ambience. Dinner Fridays and Saturdays.

 

The 10th at Vail.

The 10th at Vail.

The 10th
www.vail.com
970-754-1010

Overlooking the Gore Range, The 10th is Vail’s newest ski-in, ski-out fine dining experience. A nod to the World War II veterans of the 10th Mountain Division, including several of Vail’s founders, The 10th invites guests to arrive on Gondola One to enjoy a gourmet dinner atop Vail Mountain. With a focus on Modern Alpine classics, the cuisine is as impressive as the views. Dinner is offered Tuesday – Saturday.

Zach's Cabin, Beaver Creek.

Zach’s Cabin, Beaver Creek.

Zach’s Cabin, Beaver Creek
www.beavercreek.com
(970) 754-6575

Serving American cuisine with a distinctly Pacific twist, Zach’s Cabin is a perennial favorite of Beaver Creek visitors. Executive Chef Tim McCaw, a Colorado native, favors fresh Colorado produce in his amazing dishes. Awarded the Wine Spectator Best Of Award of Excellence for five years running, Zach’s is accessed by a sleigh ride and can accommodate up to 110 guests. Dinner is served Tuesday – Saturday.

Editor’s Note: Reservations are encouraged for these restaurants. When consuming alcohol keep in mind that the higher the elevation the more potent the effect (e.g. one glass of wine at sea level may feel like two or three glasses at 8,500 feet or higher). Ask if there is a child’s menu and associated pricing.

 

Kim McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has been skiing for 40+ seasons. His articles have appeared in SKI, Hemispheres, POWDER, Colorado AvidGolfer, Luxury Golf & Travel, RockyMountainGolfMag.com, The Washington Post, The Toronto Sun, The Denver Post and Tastes of Italia.

Kim McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has been skiing for 40+ seasons. His articles have appeared in SKI, Hemispheres, POWDER, Colorado AvidGolfer, Luxury Golf & Travel, RockyMountainGolfMag.com, The Washington Post, The Toronto Sun, The Denver Post and Tastes of Italia.

Letter from Paris: Les Poulettes Batignolles

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Les Poulettes Batignolles, Paris.

Les Poulettes Batignolles, Paris.

By Alexander Lobrano

After working for twelve years in Barcelona, Parisian-born chef Ludovic Dubois, son of the distinguished fromagere Martine Dubois, has returned to Paris and opened Les Poulettes Batignolles. It’s a good-looking modern bistro in a quiet side street with a very appealing Catalan inflected contemporary menu. “I really like the way the Catalans marry seafood and meat,” says Dubois, who runs the kitchen while his Catalan wife Judith Cercos, former sommelier at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Barcelona, supervises the dining room and excellent wine list. “I also developed an appreciation of arroz (rice), in all its many possible incarnations while living in Catalonia, an experience that tutored me in the Mediterranean palate,” adds the amiable Dubois, who apprenticed with Jacques Cagna and Michel Rostang before going off to Spain, where he cooked at the El Palace Hotel, among other kitchens.

An impeccably fresh sea bass tartare seasoned with seaweed and garnished with several types of fish eggs,

An impeccably fresh sea bass tartare seasoned with seaweed and garnished with several types of fish eggs,

Going to meet Marie, the lovely friend who tipped me off to this new address, for dinner on a frosty early winter night, I found myself thinking about how much I like Les Batignolles, a dense village-like neighborhood in the 17th arrondissement that only became part of Paris by decree of Napoleon III in 1860 and which is bisected by the train cut going into the Gare Saint Lazare. The old train yards at the north end of the neighborhood were intended to become the site of the Olympic village, had Paris’s bid for the 2012 games succeeded. Instead, they’re being redeveloped into a new urban neighborhood centered on a large garden named in honor of Martin Luther King. What will doubtless change this part of the city a lot is the arrival of all the courts now found on the Ile de la Cité in a new set of buildings, La Cité Judiciaire, which will open in 2017. For the time being, though, it’s a companionable and unpretentious old Paris neighborhood with a real vie de quarter, or neighborhood life, and with its chic pair of teal blue dining rooms, retro lighting fixtures, warm friendly service, and interesting menu, Les Poulettes Batignolles has immediately become a local hit with an enthusiastic following of regulars.

Since Marie once lived in Barcelona, and I’ve spent a lot of time there through the years and it’s one of my favorite cities, it was fun to discover the original but subtle cooking of Dubois and decipher the Catalan influences in various dishes. The Catalan love of seafood–Barcelona is still going mad for sushi and ceviche–was beautifully expressed by an impeccably fresh sea bass tartare seasoned with seaweed and garnished with several types of fish eggs, while the artichoke hearts and salad leaves that came with a coddled egg in bread crumbs with tartare sauce–a perfect

Artichoke hearts and salad leaves that came with a coddled egg in bread crumbs with tartare sauce

Artichoke hearts and salad leaves that came with a coddled egg in bread crumbs with tartare sauce

tapas sort of dish–reminded me of the tidy lovingly tended vegetable farms seen from the airport train that still fill the flat fertile plains between the city and its airport. This proximate patchwork of farms also explains why the produce in Barcelona is so good. In Paris, however, it comes from the rue de Levis market street where Dubois does his shopping every morning. “My cooking is completely market-

driven, so I really need to see and smell and touch the produce myself. It just wouldn’t work for me to be supplied by Rungis (the big wholesale market outside of Paris, bien sur),” said the chef. One way or another, I’m a hopeless sucker for tartare sauce, especially when it’s homemade–this might be explained by the fact that I liked this condiment as much if not more than the fried-clam strips once sold by Howard Johnson’s, a once-upon-a-time sincere Boston-based restaurant chain specializing in respectable quality American comfort food.What Howard Johnson’s never had, however, was the rich, melted-in-your-mouth jamon, or ham, which melded this dish together with a plucky porcine punch. With the possible addition of some good Cabrales, or Spanish blue cheese, I’d happily eat this perfectly pitched umami-rich soft ball for lunch everyday for the rest of my life.

Beyond the pleasure of Marie’s company–she’s not only beautiful but absolutely fascinating–the recurring reason for the strong sense of well-being all during my meal at this restaurant was the warm unselfconscious reflexive hospitality of Judith Cercos, a woman who deeply loves both wine and seeing the pleasure her shrewd choices bring to other people. I was too engaged by Marie and Bruno to break away from the good time I was having at the time, but later, I did find myself musing on the odd Paris phenomenon of

 Domaine Giudicel from Corsica.

Domaine Giudicel from Corsica.

restaurants that are run by people who would appear to find their customers a dreadful nuisance just for the fact that they’ve come through the door–Jadis and Saturne came to mind. In any event, the Domaine Giudicelli wine Judith served with our main courses was one of the best viniferous discoveries of the year for me, because I’d never have first guessed that it was a Corsican Patrimonio, because it was so supple and suave, but when we all paid it the attention it deserved, it had a lot of Mediterranean character and was a brilliant food wine.

In the quiet calendar of Parisian gastronomic pleasures I’ve learned so deeply it’s become the second much-loved almost subliminal alphabet that informs my daily life, few things are more welcome than the gusty arrival of seasonal crustaceans like oysters and scallops on the city’s menus. Perhaps with this in mind, but also likely guided by compasses of nostalgia with different true norths–hers, an old relationship; his, a lifetime of holidays spent on Catalan beaches over a span of more than forty years from the days of tents and ice cream cones purchased by Father to friskier adventures in Barcelona and Sitges–Marie and Bruno had the ‘creamy’ rice garnished with grilled artichoke hearts, mushrooms, squid, octopus, lobster and langoustines. What are I yearned for were the sweet fleshy Erquy scallops, which came cooked in their shells with breads crumbs, buttery leeks and a natty garnish of chives. “Rather nice, isn’t it, to be in a dining room where a pair of tattooed forearms fits in just as well as an Hermes pocketbook, isn’t it?” Bruno said, and it was true that there was a rare and bracing variety of Parisians around us who

Sweet fleshy Erquy scallops, which came cooked in their shells with breads crumbs, buttery leeks and a natty garnish of chives.

Sweet fleshy Erquy scallops, which came cooked in their shells with breads crumbs, buttery leeks and a natty garnish of chives.

were keenly enjoying their food as much as we were.

Since my sweet tooth, such as it exists, keens most to all forms of burnt sugar, aka caramel, then fruit, and finally really potent dark chocolate, I let Bruno and Marie rush in when it came to choosing a dessert–vanilla rice pudding with dulce de leche for her, and New York cheesecake for Bruno, who’s been obsessed by same ever since a first ecstatic artery-clogging encounter at the Carnegie Delicatessen in New York City a few months after we’d first met 17 years ago. Oh. And me? I know what a serious cheese mistress Ludovic Dubois’s Mom Martine is, so there was no way I’d pass up her Vacherin, that sublimely runny high-altitude cow’s milk dairy balm that’s in season right now, especially since it meant I could lay claim to the rest of the Patrimonio.

After dinner Ludovic Dubois came out of the kitchen to greet his customers, and watching him with Judith Decros, I finally got the X factor that makes Les Poulettes Batignolles so irresistible. This restaurant is an expression of their love affair, which they kindly decided to share with all comers. So if you want a really good and original won’t-break-the-bank holiday meal this year, I think you’d do very well at this charming table.

10 rue de Chéroy, 17th Arrondissement, Paris, Tel. 01-42-93-10-11. Metro: Rome or Villiers. Closed Sunday and Monday. Open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. www.lespoulettes-batignolles.fr Average lunch 30 Euros, Average dinner 40 Euros.

 

 

Alexander Lobrano grew up in Connecticut, and lived in Boston, New York and London before moving to Paris, his home today, in 1986. He was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine and has written about food and travel for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. He is the author of Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 102 Best Restaurants (Random House), and a Contributing Editor at Saveur Magazine. His latest book, Hungry for France, was published by Rizzoli in April 2014.  Visit his website, Hungry for Paris. (Photo by Steven Rothfeld)

Alexander Lobrano grew up in Connecticut, and lived in Boston, New York and London before moving to Paris, his home today, in 1986. He was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine and has written about food and travel for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. He is the author of Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 102 Best Restaurants (Random House), and a Contributing Editor at Saveur Magazine. His latest book, Hungry for France, was published by Rizzoli in April 2014. Visit his website, Hungry for Paris. (Photo by Steven Rothfeld)

L.A. Restaurants Go Global

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Kevin Luzande, chef de cuisine at Acabar in West Hollywood, was a Zagat’s “30 under 30”honoree. PHOTO CREDIT: Acabar

Kevin Luzande, chef de cuisine at Acabar in West Hollywood, was a Zagat’s “30 under 30”honoree. PHOTO CREDIT: Acabar

 

By Rochelle Lash

The top restaurants in Los Angeles are meeting the world half-way. Cuisine in La-La Land has gone global and stayed local – and both directions are trending at the same time.

California changed everything about European-style fine dining 40 years ago when Alice Waters of Chez Panisse introduced dressed-down food and farm-to-table ingredients to a world of gastronomy that had prized imported products and fancy preparations.

Creativity still abounds, with new dining spots opening as fast as Hollywood produces action flicks, and seamless new fusions emerging as chefs without borders embrace foreign flavours that complement Americana.

There is wine, of course, from exclusive Napa Valley vineyards to the great regions of Europe. But exotic mixology rules the L.A. restaurant scene for now – cocktails popping with vivid garden colours, turbo-fuelled fun and an array of zingy tastes.

Freds at Barneys New York, Beverly Hills.

Freds at Barneys New York, Beverly Hills.

Several events around L.A. celebrate food: California Restaurant Month (Jan. 1-31), Santa Monica Eat Well Week (Jan. 4-11), Los Angeles’ Winter dineLA Restaurant Week (Jan. 19-Feb.1), and the Summer dineLA Restaurant Week (July dates TBA). These culinary events will spotlight celebrity chef events, wine-pairing specials, gourmet prix-fixe dinners and seasonal tastings.

But we live in the Insta-moment. Right now in Beverly Hills, power lunchers and power shoppers are flocking to Freds which opened in October in the I-must-have-everything department store, Barneys New York. Freds is an established blend of couture and comfort cuisine for Tinseltown’s VIP clientele, It’s wildly popular for the Beverly Hills Club Sandwich and artisan pizzas such as robiola cheese with truffle oil. Carb-deniers are opting for Estelle’s Chicken Soup and salads of shrimp, kale, artichoke and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms.

Venturing farther on the culinary map, here is a peek at four L.A. dining spots that invited me to sample their interpretations of the essences of Asia, South America, Europe and the good old U.S.A.: The new-in-2014 Faith & Flower that is shaking up California style in downtown L.A.; the inviting, French-inspired Jiraffe in Santa Monica; the exotic, eclectic Acabar in West Hollywood; and the slick, worldly Hakkasan in Beverly Hills.

Faith & Flower in downtown L.A. boasts stunning post-modern décor and sumptuous cuisine. PHOTO CREDIT: Faith & Flower

Faith & Flower in downtown L.A. boasts stunning post-modern décor and sumptuous cuisine. PHOTO CREDIT: Faith & Flower

NEWEST OF THE NEW

Faith & Flower has been rocking the L.A. scene since it opened downtown in April. Spectacular post-modern interiors and the finesse of executive chef Michael Hung make this the city’s most important recent launch.

Chef Hung brings precious Michelin-starred experience from Daniel and Aquavit in New York and La Folie in San Francisco. His range is impressive: Think gossamer halibut carpaccio all the way to rich, aromatic quail and wild mushrooms, hot from a wood-fired oven with a hint of a European hunting lodge.

He calls the provenance “rustic Californian,” but I sense a universe of flavours and aromas in these delightfully different dishes: Tai snapper roasted in seaweed with scallion vinaigrette, kimchee devilled eggs, duck-liver mousse tarts, N.Y. steak tartare flavoured with miso cream, Longanisa sausage grilled over mesquite and pizza spiced with pork confit and chile verde.

Faith & Flower has an all-star team from drinks to dessert. Chief mixologist Michael Lay has adopted a Russian way of inhaling absinthe fumes, as well as cocktails brewed with Dutch gin, Japanese whisky and hints of basil, apricot and ginger.  Executive pastry chef Ben Spungin marries light textures and rich flavours with Greek yogurt panna cotta and a hazelnut chocolate feuilletine.

Jiraffe in Santa Monica. PHOTO Jiraffe

Jiraffe in Santa Monica. PHOTO Jiraffe

FRANCE VIA CALIFORNIA

If you stroll through the Santa Monica Farmers’ markets, you might run into chef Raphael Lunetta sourcing ingredients for his charming gourmet restaurant, JiRaffe.

JiRaffe is a rare gem: a real dining spot in unreal La-La Land, driven by a chef deeply committed to his calling. JiRaffe serves sophisticated food, but it’s not fussy or precious.

Lunetta, a popular personality on TV and in L.A.’s culinary community, has operated JiRaffe for nearly 20 years and it is has stayed as fresh as Day 1. Crystal chandeliers add a touch of Europe to a Santa Monica storefront and the pretty bistro decor in ebony and ivory reflects California’s casual style.

JiRaffe boasts no other frills, only authentic French-inspired food, good Champagne, Cabernet and Chablis by the glass and cocktails such as the white-peach vodka martini – infused with ripe fruit from the farmers’ market.

Lunetta was born in N.Y. and raised in Southern California, but when he was young, he regularly visited his aunt’s farmhouse in the south of France. The family would cook Mediterranean seafood and Provençale vegetables over open fires stoked with grapevines. Et voilà! A chef with a passion for French-style cooking was born.

The tasty treats start with JiRaffe’s caramelized onion soup, tomato tart with burrata cheese and balsamic, the summery shrimp salad with white beans and fennel and the dramatic black linguini with sea crab in a spicy tomato sauce. JiRaffe’s signature mains include pan-roasted venison or rack of lamb, halibut au poivre, mushroom salad with shaved black truffles and chicken with polenta and roasted grapes.

Acabar in West Hollywood boasts Moorish decor and a world-beat of delicacies. PHOTO CREDIT: Acabar

Acabar in West Hollywood boasts Moorish decor and a world-beat of delicacies. PHOTO CREDIT: Acabar

MOORISH MYSTIQUE

At Acabar in West Hollywood, the design is Moorish and the menu is a melting pot of Middle Eastern, French, Mediterranean and Asian dishes.

Acabar is an exotic space of Arabic arches and secluded booths, an exciting gathering spot for dinner as well as a pre- and post- stop for cocktails and bites, with weekly live music and DJs on select nights.

It has solid L.A. credentials with high-profile patrons such as Charlize Theron, Ashton Kutcher, Tyra Banks, Will Farrell, Jim Carrey, Halle Berry, Sara Silverman and Mila Kunis. And, Acabar is partly owned by movie producer-director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Patriot, White House Down).

Acabar’s drinks kick off with tequila, mescal and vodka in fruity, spicy, aromatic, floral and spicy concoctions. Then, there’s a category of just plain strong, like the Acabar Sazerac, a potent blend of cognac, rye and bitters.

Chef de cuisine Kevin Luzande is a former Zagat’s “30 under 30” honoree and he doesn’t hold back. Dinner is a world-beat of delicacies : crispy shrimp toast with Thai basil; spicy prawns in a Lebanese presentation of labneh and harissa; charred octopus with Spanish sausage, white beans and Valencia oranges; luscious lamb tagine with coucous. And the sea bass is served whole, for two people, with Chinese greens, peanuts and Sichuan peppercorn sauce.

By now, you have lost all will power, bowing to premium spirits such as Brazilian cachaca or small-batch bourbon from Kentucky. The build-your-own dessert plate is the final blow. It’s an unbridled platter of caramel, meringue, macadamia cookies, and bonbons of cherry, chocolate and banana.

Black pepper beef is one of the signature dishes at Hakkasan, a global group of 12 superb restaurants helmed by the Michelin-starred chef, Ho Chee Boon.  PHOTO CREDIT: Hakkasan

Black pepper beef is one of the signature dishes at Hakkasan, a global group of 12 superb restaurants helmed by the Michelin-starred chef, Ho Chee Boon. PHOTO CREDIT: Hakkasan

CHINESE EMPIRE

If you are accustomed to dining well in London, Shanghai, Mumbai or Dubai, you probably have experienced the exquisite Chinese fare at Hakkasan, a global group of 12 superb restaurants helmed by the Michelin-starred chef, Ho Chee Boon.

Hakkasan radiates the high life. The contemporary Asian interiors are striking.  The service is pitch-perfect. And the food is divine.

At Hakkasan Beverly Hills, the bar scene looks like a Scorcese-di Caprio take on swish night life: successful “suits” celebrate the day’s successes with meaningful drinks like the Dark & Stormy (rum-ginger) or Buddha’s Palm (bourbon-yuzu).

Moving to subdued tables behind an elaborate Chinese screen, the focus is on gastronomy. Chef Tong Chee Hwee creates Cantonese-inspired feasts such as wok-fried lobster, crispy duck salad, silver cod with Champagne, black-pepper beef rib-eye with Merlot. Grilled Waygu beef and black-truffle roasted duck.

The repertoire – and it’s a biggie — ranges from comforting jasmine rice and dim sum with scallops to the extravagant roll-your-own Peking duck with caviar, pancakes and veggies. The whole duck, a mouth-watering prospect, costs $288 for four.

The newly designed bar at Hakkasan Beverly Hills is a hot spot for cocktails such as the Dark & Stormy (rum-ginger) or Buddha’s Palm (bourbon-yuzu). PHOTO CREDIT:  Hakkasan Beverly Hills

The newly designed bar at Hakkasan Beverly Hills is a hot spot for cocktails such as the Dark & Stormy (rum-ginger) or Buddha’s Palm (bourbon-yuzu). PHOTO CREDIT: Hakkasan Beverly Hills

DETAILS:

Tourism info at: discoverlosangeles.com, visitcalifornia.com.

Acabar: 323-876-1400, acabar-la.com; 510 N. Stanley Ave. at Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood/Los Angeles, Calif.; Tues.-Sat., 6 p.m.-2 a.m.

Faith & Flower; 213-239-0642, faithandflowerla.com, 705 W. 9th St., bet. Figueraoa and Flower Sts.; lunch from 11:30 a.m, Mon.-Fri..; dinner from 5:30 p.m., Mon-Sun. Brunch, from 10:30 a.m., Sat.-Sun.

Freds at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills: 310- 777-5877, www.barneys.com; 9570 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, Calif.; open from 11 a.m., Mon-Fri.; from 10 a.m., Sat.-Sun.

Hakkasan, Beverly Hills: 310-888-8661, hakkasan.com; 233 N. Beverly Drive at Wilshire, Beverly Hills; dining from 6 p.m, Mon.-Sat.; bar from 5:30 p.m.  Other U.S. locations include Miami, N.Y., Las Vegas and San Francisco.

JiRaffe: 310-917-6671, jirafferesturant.com; 502 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, Calif; dinner from 5:30, Mon.-Sat.

 

Rochelle Lash is a career newspaper and magazine editor and writer in lifestyles and news. She has written about travel for the Montreal Gazette/ Postmedia Group, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Robb Report, The New York Times, and Town & Country.  A Montrealer, she has an M.A., in Journalism from Univ. of Missouri, Brad Pitt's alma mater (he dropped out).  When not traveling, she is skiing, cycling, paddle-boarding and reading. rochelle@rochellelash.com

Rochelle Lash is a career newspaper and magazine editor and writer in lifestyles and news. She has written about travel for the Montreal Gazette/ Postmedia Group, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Robb Report, The New York Times, and Town & Country. A Montrealer, she has an M.A., in Journalism from Univ. of Missouri, Brad Pitt’s alma mater (he dropped out). When not traveling, she is skiing, cycling, paddle-boarding and reading. rochelle@rochellelash.com

Alexander Lobrano’s Letter from Paris: Clown Bar

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Clown Bar, Paris

Clown Bar, Paris

Adjacent to the Cirque d’Hiver (Winter Circus), a handsome 1852 arena between the Place de la Republique and the Bastille, the Clown Bar has always been one of the most charming places in Paris for a quick bite and a glass of wine. Now under new management–a dream team that includes Sven Chartier and Ewen Lemoigne from the restaurant Saturne, plus Xavier Lacaud, it’s suddenly better than it’s been for many years. They recruited talented Japanese chef Sota Atsumi, who cooked at Vivant, another intimate little place with landmarked Belle Epoque tiles, to run the kitchen, and Atusmi’s short produce focused menu, which changes often, runs to intriguing small plates, which are easily composed into a pleasant and very satisfying meal.

There’s also a deep terrace on the quiet street out front, and this has instantly made this beloved address even more popular than ever with a diverse but stylish crowd of Parisians. Coming for dinner the other night with Bruno after I’d returned from New York City the same day, we toyed with the idea of the terrace, but sat inside instead to enjoy the beautifully restored little dining room, a real triumph of French Belle Epoque decor with a glass ceiling in the bar area painted with a circus theme and a wall of tiles from Sarreguemines, the northern town that was once one of France’s great ceramics towns, with a frieze of clowning clowns behind the big zinc bar. The last time I came here, the room, which had been closed for a while, still had walls that were amber tinted by years of cigarette smoke, but that’s all gone now, and the sleek contemporary furnishings, including tables with the silverware tucked away in secret compartment, are flattered by the vintage setting.

Camembert croquettes

Camembert croquettes

We started with a plate of two-year-aged Basatxerri ham from the Basque Country and some delicate herb strewn camembert croquettes, both of which went well with aperitifs of Edelzwicker and a Viognier from the Languedoc. The hors d’oeuvres were good, but lest I bring the natural wine (unsulfured) crowd down on my head, I couldn’t help but thinking that not all wines are better in their ‘unadulterated’ form, since oxidation can mask the nuances of gentler cepages (grape varieties). Even though they arrived at the table stone cold, an order of grilled langoustines from the Breton port of Le Guilvinec were superb–sweet, cooked just to that perfect point where the tail meat had pearled, and garnished with a winning simplicity of salt, a little lemon, a few needles of fresh rosemary.

Getting things to the table warm will be a recurring challenge here, since the kitchen is in the basement, but our second starter, bonito in a bracing foam of fresh horseradish, a really inspired idea, since the raciness of the root met that of the fish, didn’t suffer a temperature problem and was a succulent dish, which might only have been improved by being served with some hot toasted country bread.

Turbot, clams and asparagus at Clown Bar

Turbot, clams and asparagus at Clown Bar

Turbot with razor-shell clams, white asparagus and rhubarb in salted butter was one of the most satisfying dishes I’ve had for a long time, since the product was impeccable and the constellation of tastes made sense on the palate but was pushed just off-center enough by the rhubarb to be unexpected. A brilliant puree of dates and yuzu played the same role with an exquisitely well-made pithiviers de canard, or ground duck in a little dome of buttery golden pastry.

“Natural wines often taste the same to me,” Bruno said of our white Haute Cotes-du Beaune as we finished it up with a good cheese course. I suggested that maybe if he’d learned to drink natural wines before ‘traditional’ ones he might feel differently, although I personally find it really interesting to pinch hit between them and liked this provocatively different orange-colored quaff from the terrific little wine list.

Couple on terrace of Clown Bar

Couple on terrace of Clown Bar

A caramelized pignoli nut tart filled buckwheat flavored pastry cream was the happy ending to this excellent meal where the only recurring problem was the timing of the service, not just in terms of hot dishes delivered cold but some slackness that jarred the rhythm of an otherwise excellent meal. All told, it’s really heart-warming to see this delightful little corner of Paris renovated and rebooted in the service of seriously good food and wine once again, and I know it’s going to become a new Sunday night favorite, especially during the summer when the terrace is open. N.B. They also serve breakfast, since this place functions as a cafe cum wine bar between lunch and dinner serving hours.

Clown Bar, 114 rue Amelot, 11th Arrondissement, Paris, Tel. 01-43-55-87-35. Metro: Filles du Calvaire, Saint-Sébastien-Froissart, or Richard Lenoir. Open Wednesday to Sunday for lunch (noon-2.30pm) and dinner (7.30pm-10.30pm). www.facebook.com/pages/CLOWN-BAR-PARIS/1443072882610254  Average 40 Euros.

 

Alexander Lobrano. Photo credit Steven Rothfeld.

Alexander Lobrano. Photo credit Steven Rothfeld.

Alexander Lobrano grew up in Connecticut, and lived in Boston, New York and London before moving to Paris, his home today, in 1986. He was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine and has written about food and travel for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. He is the author of Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 102 Best Restaurants (Random House), and a Contributing Editor at Saveur Magazine. His latest book, Hungry for France, was published by Rizzoli in April 2014.  Visit his website, Hungry for Paris. (Photo by Steven Rothfeld)

Alexander Lobrano’s Letter from Paris: Aux Enfants Gâtés

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Aux Enfants Gâtés

Aux Enfants Gâtés

On my way to meet Bruno and some friends for dinner the other night, I was in sort of a bad mood. An old college friend had called for a chat just before I went out, and it had been terrific to catch up with him until the talk turned to our work. He’s a very successful lawyer in Washington, D.C., and I, well, I’m a food and travel writer who lives in Paris, bien sur. He mentioned having seen something that I’d written in the Wall Street Journal and said that he’d liked it. I’m so glad, I told him, and then there was an ominous pause. “Alec, one thing I’ve always wondered–I’ve always enjoyed your writing, but why did you decide to write about food when you could be writing about so many other things?” Oh, dear. Where to start? Some day, I’ll answer this question in much greater length and detail, but my brief reply was that my love of food was born as an expedient way for a shy boy to indulge his curiosity about the world and access a dimly perceived sensuality that was, I instinctively knew at the time, inappropriate for someone of my age. Also, there just isn’t a faster way, of course, to know where you are or learn something personal about someone than there is by eating that country or that person’s food. And besides, I’ve always loved to eat, and as the years have gone by, I’ve learned to eat almost anything, or at least once. So my love of food, and writing about, is just as essential to my seeing the world clearly as putting on my glasses every morning after the alarm clock goes off.

What I found wilting, however, was the implication that food writing is somehow unimportant or accessory, when I know with great certainty that it’s not. How could I ever have begun to understand Transylvania during a trip to one of the most beautiful places in Europe if I hadn’t visited the shepherds who were tending their flocks of sheep above the little village where I’d rented a house for a week and tasted their freshly made cheese? It was warm and tangy and dripping with whey, and it was startlingly funky and just delicious. Their gift made me shy, but I laughed when I ate it, and the shepherds laughed with me. Though I could sort of make my way in Romania, because I speak Italian and Romanian is, of course, a Latin language, our shared tongue on that hot afternoon, which smelled of freshly cut hay, sheep and the shepherd’s sweat, was cheese. And similarly, how could I have ever begun to make sense of Paris when I arrived here twenty-seven years ago with a knowledge of the language that was a confused and self-conscious linguistic school-boy pottage if I hadn’t started assiduously going to the city’s restaurants? Everyone one of them taught me something about the city and about France, and even though I now speak French, this is as true today as it was then. I love restaurants, all restaurants, because they’re like little theaters, where there’s always a show going on and a spectrum of lessons to be observed and learned.

Aux Enfants Gâtés

Aux Enfants Gâtés

So this was what was going on in my head on my way to Aux Enfants Gâtés, a place I’d read about in Le Figaro. It also happened to be a very pretty Spring night, however, and the terraces were full along the rue Daguerre, the spine of a nice little neighborhood where I’ve often thought it might be good to live, because it’s one of those avowedly gastronomic precincts that make eating in Paris such a pleasure. I was also hungry at the end of a busy day, and looking forward to seeing my friends (it goes without saying that I’m always looking forward to seeing Bruno).

I liked this little restaurant as soon as I came through the door, too. Nadine and Bruno were already at the table having a glass of Petit Chablis, and the small space had a warm witty decor that included attractive geometric wallpaper that stopped just short of being a tongue-in-cheek reference to French design in the Seventies, suspension lamps, and oak tables. A pleasant and welcoming blonde lady–Caroline, the wife of chef Frédéric Bidault–ex Grande Cascade and Lasserre with Jean-Louis Nomicos, as it turned out, was running the busy room with efficiency  and good-humor, and from the relaxed happy atmosphere in the space, I suspected we’d eat well, and we did, in fact, very well indeed.

 The short menu was impressively seasonal, and three of us immediately decided on the vegetables in aspic as our first course. I can’t speak for Nadine or Judy, but my decision was propelled by both an atavistic affection for aspic–memories of the wobbly tomato aspic Mom used to serve when she had a ladies luncheon during the summer came to mind–and a vernal desire for greenery, and what came to the table after an amuse bouche of foamy potato soup was just the little still-life I had in mind. Carrots and leeks suspended in a layer of vegetable bouillon aspic topped a bed of duxelles, or hashed mushrooms, and this deceptively simple–it was obviously a laborious thing  for any chef working on his own in a restaurant to have made–and sort of poignantly sincere, since you just wouldn’t have gone to the trouble to cook something like this if you weren’t motivated by a real desire to give other people pleasure. Garnished with lava beans, asparagus, red peppers and roasted tomato, it was also one of those wonderful dishes that was as healthy as it was gastronomic. The scattering of freshly chopped chives brought an image of the chef’s strong hand on a knife on a chopping board in the kitchen to mind, and also communicated the real pride and pleasure he takes in his craft.

Bruno’s pâté de tête (head cheese) was homemade, too, and made him very happy. I forked my way across the table, and loved the mix of tender meat, perfect seasoning and great garnish of freshly made celeri remoulade.

Lieu Jaune with radishes

Lieu Jaune with radishes

Our main courses continued the welcome theme of precise modern bistro cooking with beautifully sourced and vividly fresh produce, too. Judy and Nadine had the lieu jaune (yellow pollack), which came on a bed of wilted baby spinach in a light sauce of pan drippings, good butter and citrus, and was garnished with shaved radishes. “Just lovely,” said the ladies.

Roast veal and gnocci

Roast veal and gnocchi

Bruno’s saddle of lamb was stuffed with herbs and was a gorgeous piece of meat cooked rare the way it should be, and my roasted veal was garnished with morels and homemade gnocchi that had been griddled to give them a nice crust. The simple sauces of cooking juices on both of these dishes were expertly made and welcomely light. This was clearly food that had been made by someone with a deep love and knowledge of cooking, in a style that was pleasantly homey but decidedly professional. I rather doubt that the Clos Siguier Cahors–a bargain in terms of restaurant pricing at 23 Euros a bottle–we chose was an ideal choice for the fish, but it was good drinking with the lamb and the veal.

Fourme d’Ambert and romaine

Fourme d’Ambert and romaine

A perfect wedge of Fourme d’Ambert, one of my favorite cheeses, came garnished with trident of dressed romaine, and the others concluded this very happy meal with a streudel like tourte de pommes with caramel ice cream. All said, this meal was a perfect retort to the ongoing kerfuffle about whether French food is still good anymore or needs to be saved or some such. If the menace of industrialized cooking is a global plague for anyone who loves to eat as much as I do, Paris remains blessedly truffled with outstanding little neighborhood restaurants like this one, where I couldn’t help by being moved by the deep desire to please and nourish that so clearly motivates the admirably proud, hard-working and hospitable Bidaults.

4 rue Danville, 14th, Tel. 01-40-47-56-81. Metro: Denfert-Rochereau or Gaîté. Closed Sunday and Monday. Lunch menu 25 Euros, three-course prix-fixe 34 Euros. www.auxenfantsgates.fr

Alexander Lobrano. Photo credit Steven Rothfeld.

Alexander Lobrano. Photo credit Steven Rothfeld.

 

 

Alexander Lobrano grew up in Connecticut, and lived in Boston, New York and London before moving to Paris, his home today, in 1986. He was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine and has written about food and travel for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. He is the author of Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 102 Best Restaurants (Random House), and a Contributing Editor at Saveur Magazine. His latest book, Hungry for France, was published by Rizzoli in April 2014.  Visit his website, Hungry for Paris. (Photo by Steven Rothfeld)

“Hungry for France” by Alexander Lobrano

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