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Top 10 Dishes of the Trip

June 17, 2014
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Here are my favorite dishes of our trip:

Steak Frites with a marrow boneSteak Frites with Marrow Bone at Aux Tonneaux des Halles in Paris, France. In this David Lebovitz recommended bistro, the steak was perfectly cooked and the fries were the best on the trip. The marrow bone was the perfect amount of added decadence to put this dish as number one. We ate outside and watched as our waiter got into a French-styled argument (angry whispers, finger pointing, and cursing) with a women walking her dog. Alex roughly translated the fight for me:

Waiter: “Don’t bring your dog here, this is where people are eating.”
Woman: “This place is no different than a cafe”
Waiter: “Something in French
Woman: “Something in French,” with finger pointing.
Waiter: “French cursing,”
Woman: “French cursing,” she continued her finger pointing and got right in the waiter’s face, before leaving with her dog.

Steak TartareSteak Tartare with Salad and Homemade Potato Chips at Le Bonheur Suit Son Cours in Vaison-la-Romaine, France. One of the couples at our B & B thought that this restaurant was a little “full of themselves,” because they had a very large wine list. Don’t show them the Canlis 75-page wine book. The tartare was served without egg and shallot. So the beef was the star. I scooped it up with the homemade chips.

FalafelFalafel Sandwich at L’As du Fallafel in Paris, France. Mark Bittman calls this the best falafel anywhere in Europe. Lenny Kravitz has endorsed this place. It has 4 stars through 983 Tripadvisor Reviews. And 4.5 stars through 515 Yelp reviews. It’s just pita, falafel, hummus, pickled red cabbage, salted cucumbers, fried eggplant, and spicy-hot harissa. There is always a line. But it moves fast. The Brits in front of me wanted a Sprite but got a Coke. They were too shy to correct them. I ate this under an eve while people danced in the street. With all of the hype you expect the sandwich to be underwhelming but it was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had.

Foie GrasFoie Gras, Cream, and Eggs at Au Lapin qui Fume, in Tours France. Three of the top ten dishes came from Au Lapin qui Fume. I don’t know if it was strictly the food or perhaps it was knowing that this was our first taste of French cuisine or maybe it being the our meal after this day but this place served some of my favorite food on the trip. This rich dish was one of my favorites. It was served with sliver slices of sweet rye bread. And when that was gone, I sopped up the rest with torn pieces of baguettes.

Chocolate BiscuitChocolate Mousse with Sweet Biscuit and Vanilla Meringue Cookies at Au Lapin qui Fume, in Tours France. This dessert featured the most intense chocolate that I have ever had. And the crunchy biscuit was the perfect pairing to go with it.

I ordered this dessert on our second time at the Au Lapin qui Fume (the only restaurant we went to twice on the trip). And the waiter/owner had been teasing me about my French the first time we went. So on the second visit, he got up, announced to the entire restaurant that I would be ordering my meal in front of them, in French. The restaurant suddenly silenced. I gulped hard. And ordered. In front of everyone. And every mistake I made he would correct me until I got it right.

CrepeReine Crêpe (ham, cheese, olives, mushrooms) at La Droguerie du Marais, in Paris France. When I got back from my France trip in 2012, I was haunted by one meal. Actually one crêpe. It was a crêpe I ordered at random place in the Marais. I didn’t know the name. Or the address. But it was one of the best crêpes I have ever had. Alex wanted to visit the Marais during our time in Paris. And when we got there, I ordered us to walk street by street in a grid until we found it. The chef lets the overflow cheese hit the crêpe iron and burn slightly. This is the key to a life changing crêpe. Alex almost fainted from hunger while waiting for hers. She admitted later that it was worth every minute she waited.

Beef Egg CrepeTimbre Poste Crêpe (ground beef, onions, potatoes, egg, swiss cheese, and cream) at Le Timbre Poste, in Tours, France. I love savory crêpes. I love runny eggs in my meals. And when I find myself in a new restaurant, I try to order the dish that they put their name on. Check, check, check. We found this place randomly walking toward old town. A group of college students sat a couple of tables over. I cut into the yolk and watched it ooze out over my crêpe. Perfect ending to a day of wine tasting.

RigatoniRigatoni with Eggplant, Sausage at La Voglia in Nice, France. Rigatoni with Eggplant and Sausage at La Voglia in Nice, France. With Nice so close to Italy, you expect some good Italian. Rick Steves said that this place serves great Italian at great prices. This is exactly what you want to hear toward the end of your trip. We sat outside engulfed in the warm Mediterranean breeze (maybe that was just the heat lamp). Two college aged girls next to us asked if they could smoke after their meal. Of course we said. The crispy bits of cheese and pasta made this dish a winner.

Strawberries Ice Cream Whipped Cream

  • Strawberries, Vanilla Ice Cream, Whipped Cream, and Shaved Almonds at Au Lapin qui Fume, in Tours France. After several bites of this dish, I claimed it was the best whipped cream I have ever tasted. Completely sober and back in the U.S.A., I still believe it. Such a simple but wonderful dish at a wonderful restaurant.

    Foie Gras ChampagneFoie Gras and Toasted Bread, at André GOUTORBE & Fils, in Damery, France. Aunt Paula asked our host if she made lunch for us. Our host laughed and said she gathered the components from local producers around the area. She did pick each element to pair perfectly with the Champagne. And it paired perfectly. This was a lunch I could do every day.

    There were other amazing dishes but these ten stand out to me.

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    Je Voudrais un Café, S’il Vous Plaît

    June 12, 2014

    I normally drink my 16 ounce, quad shot, Americano from Starbucks every morning. Add a dash of skim milk and a couple of shakes of cinnamon (for health) and I am on my way. But when in France…

    A café at the start and end of the day is perfect when traveling.

    Can you guess which one below was the most expensive? The answer is at the bottom.

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    Most expensive café was 5.50€. Located in the fourth row, the fourth one from the left (it was at the Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris). The second most expensive one was 4.50€. Located in the top right corner of the collage. It was shocking at the time but it did come with a freshly baked mini madeleine.

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    My Relationship Status Over Two Years Told Through Two Photos at the Louvre Museum

    June 11, 2014
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    The Street Art of France

    June 10, 2014

    Sometimes you don’t need a museum pass to find some great art in France. You merely just need to look up, or down, or closely gaze on a random wall.

    Below is a collage of some of the stencils, tile mosaics, and other art we found in France. The Space Invaders and the C-3PO and Chewbacca are done by a secret street artist Invader. Here is more on Vote Darkside.

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    Me, Standing On…

    June 8, 2014

    In the Frankfurt airport (at least in 2012), they offer free wifi. Which is amazing. This was particularly helpful for me as I was never supposed to be in Germany. My flight from Seattle to Iceland was delayed and I missed my connection to Paris. During my trip to France in 2012, I made a choice to post photos and blog entries everyday during my journey (the photos were easy, the blog posts, well proved much more difficult to keep up on). So when I had internet, I would furiously post and caption to Facebook the day’s batch of photos.

    Well, in Frankfurt the internet was free, but only valid for 15 minutes. So as the countdown ticked to zero, I madly rushed to post and caption all of my photos from Iceland and I posted this one with the caption, “Me, standing on a rock.”

    Me, standing on a rock

    Me, standing on a rock

    And with this photo and caption I accidentally created a Nick Peyton meme of me, standing on various objects.

    Of course in 2014, I had to continue this trend. Here is a collage of me, standing on various objects and in various places.

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    Wine Tasting with Poor Old Garrett

    April 27, 2014

    Garrett’s wife finally smiled on our last day in Vaison-la-Romaine when Alex said to her, “Good morning.” See, Garrett and his wife (a marina owner) had been staying in Châteauneuf-du-Pape for the past week before our paths crossed outside our bed and breakfast. Garrett and our B and B manger, Laurent, stood under a large leafy tree as the rain began to fall. They were talking about wine. Upon seeing our wine cache we were quickly invited into the conversation.

    Garrett is that strange combination of not recognizing social cues and being socially awkward (Alex and I kept on trying to excuse us from the conversation) crossed with also being an arrogant jerk. He not only tells you what wine he has tasted that day, he also includes the price (only if it is expensive) and the Robert Parker score in the same breath. I should mention that he is also from California.

    Perhaps after sensing our desire to escape, Laurent paused the conversation and invited us to a wine tasting later and where we would continue our conversation.

    Everyone was in the dining room when Alex and I came down. Laurent opened a Viognier (it received 98 points from Robert Parker) and a Gigondas (which could be purchased for 15€). Garrett brought a bottle that he had purchased along the way.

    During our previous conversation Garrett claimed he was fluent in French. During our hour long tasting two things became clear. One, Garrett is not fluent in French. And two, we questioned if Garrett’s wife even liked him. In my observations these past few weeks you see how openly expressive the French are. When they like you, they like you. And you know it. When they don’t or are offended by you, they let you know that two. When Garrett thought the woman (from France) didn’t understand where he said he was from, he slowed it down, “Saaan D-iiii-eeee-g-oooo, Cali-forni (yes, he said “Cali-forni”), comprendre?” Her whole body bristled and said that she understood with a level of disgust that even I understood without knowing any French.

    Garrett’s wife brooded at the corner of the table as the conversation moved rapidly (in French) from the Michelin guide (Garrett incorrectly claimed a restaurant he visited had two stars, the Belgium couple corrected him and grabbed the guide from the shelf as further proof) to the bright floral notes of the Viognier to the stylistic differences between Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Alex said she could comprehend 1 in 7 words of the conversation. I was more 1 in 40, maybe 50. In general, wine tasting is an intimidating activity. It is even harder when you don’t speak the language.

    We were saying our goodbyes to Laurent as we checked out and he asked where we were heading next, “Mt. Ventoux,” I replied. Garrett replied, “Us too.”

    So how do you defeat an arrogant Californian? Give him a dose of the ‘Seattle Nice.’

    While shaking his hand, I said, “It was nice to meet you. Maybe we’ll see you up there.”

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    House of the Rising Sun

    April 26, 2014

    As Alex and I sipped our cafes after lunch, Alex overheard our French waitress talk to another woman in the kitchen say in French, “An American and a Japanese man.”

    Two older men yelled over at us from a park bench in Reims and asked if I was Japanese. “Korean,” Alex responded

    Even Takoashi (a Japanese woman, living in Japan), from our Champagne tour asked if I was Japanese.

    Everyone thinks I am Japanese.

    We waited too long to purchase our train tickets back to Paris from Avignon and the only option was first class. In our car of about 60 seats, there are about 50 Japanese tourists. I look around at the men, of ages, and I look nothing like them.

    The Japanese tour leader was translating the French train instructions in Japanese to the group. A bemused train worker yelled over to Alex in French (the only white person on the platform) if she understood that. She smiled and said, “No.”

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