Favorite Summer Destination: Paris, I Love You

30 Aug

How amazing can a summer vacation be? Pretty friggin’ spectacular, especially if the destination is Paris. It’s true what every one says about easy it is to love Paris and after spending some time there, the city can make us feel like it loves us too.

louvre

louvreapollogallerymonalisa

In Paris, we can spend hours getting lost in the Louvre, one of the largest museums in the world and home to some of the most famous works of art. An experience that will guarantee moments that will take one’s breath away.

pontdesarts

A short walk, or in our case a short pedicab ride, away from the Louvre is the Pont des Arts or Passerelle des Arts bridge, a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Seine River. Couples come to this “Love Bridge” to memorialize their undying love by writing their names or initials on “love locks” (padlocks, which can be purchased on the bridge), attaching the lock to the railing or grate on the side of the bridge, and throwing the keys into the Seine. This romantic gesture is meant to represent committed love that can only be broken by unlocking the lock; impossible, as the keys are at the bottom of the river. Looks like it’s Sarah & Danny Forever!

palaceofversaille

palaceofversaille2

palaceofversaille3

Before the Louvre, many of Paris’ historical paintings, like the Mona Lisa, covered the walls of the Palace of Versaille; however, I should say “unlike the Mona Lisa,” because I learned that this masterpiece was actually on an easel, not on the wall. We’ll notice that most of the paintings at the Louvre have no frames, and we’d have to go to the Palace of Versaille to see the frames that now house replicas of the real things. About a 40 minute drive from Paris, the Palace of Versaille is a must see destination. Renting a golf cart can save a ton of time when touring the gardens and property, especially if you’re like me and want to see it all. During busy seasons with heavy tourist traffic, or not, a private guided tour is also recommended. This guided tour gives tourists access to areas that aren’t permitted with the normal entrance fee, such as the library, music room, theater, etc. Plus, a knowledgable guide accompanies the tour’s guest(s), who can explain the history of the Palace (and it’s former residents) as well as answer any questions we can think of. Once I discovered what it was like in the general areas when walking to the exit to see the Hall of Mirrors (while still amazing, super crowded and unbearable at times), I realized what a life-savor being on private tour was.

moulinrouge

The Moulin Rouge was always a place I wanted to go, so I bought two tickets to it’s resident cabaret show and revue, Le Féerie. VIP tickets will avoid having to wait in the long entrance line and guarantees great designated seats, champagne, macrons, a program, and souvenirs. While the show is no “Cirque Du Soleil,” walking into Le Bal Du Moulin Rouge, so popular for it’s French can-can, makes it’s guests feel like we’re participating in it’s unique history and tradition.

parissights

parissights2

There are so many sights and monuments in Paris, like the Arc de Triomphe, which was a short walk from our hotel on the always lively Champs-Élysées. The history of the city is so rich and the architecture and design of it’s buildings and monuments are so beautiful and impressive.

notredamecathedral

One of the sights that I got to see was the Notre Dame Cathedral. As I kid, this was a place I thought I could only dream about visiting. It was a humbling experience to finally see and realize that dreams are not too far from reality.

lesecuries

During my vacation, where I indulged in some of the most incredible meals I’ve ever had, I realized that I absolutely loved Paris. Paris told me that it loved me too when I had the best crepe ever at Les Ecuries.

middayinparis

eiffeltowerday

The eiffel tower has got to be the most prominent symbol and icon of Paris and France. I was able to savor every sight and moment after ascending to the second level by walking the stairs. It was unreal!

eiffeltowerviews

eiffeltoweratnight

midnightinparis

Going to the eiffel tower once in a lifetime is magical in and of itself, but going twice in one day is more than a girl who craves nearly everything could even ask for (the second time around, we took the elevator). We started the last day of our trip in Paris visiting the eiffel tower and ended the day there. Seeing the tower illuminated at night is stunning, but seeing the light show (where the tower twinkles) was amazing and incredibly romantic. In between these two visits (specifically at dinner), there was an engagement! In Paris, I savored some of the best times of my life, and came home with a fiancé (which may have contributed to this being my favorite Summer destination). Je t’aime Paris!

Craving Parisian Cuisine

18 Aug

Where does one go for some of the most incredible dining experiences ever? Paris has got to be a foodie’s paradise, and dining at four three Michelin starred restaurants while in Paris was like dying and going to food heaven. After the marathon dinner at Arpege (the first of the four restaurants with three Michelin stars), we knew that we had to pace ourselves and set aside at least three or more hours of our day to get the full experience of the Parisian restaurants that require some planning (or possible last resort pleading) to get a reservation to and multiple emails or phone calls for double or sometimes triple confirmations to assure our bookings. The term “Michelin Star” is a hallmark of fine dining quality, and since three stars is defined as “exceptional cuisine and worth a special journey”, we were looking forward to discover what all the hype was about, and what we found was those stars were given for very good reason, and them some.

Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athenee

plazaathenee

AlainDucasse

AlainDuscassedessert

A friend of our’s described a dinner at Alain Au Plaza Athenee as one of two of the best meals he’s ever had, and we found out why. As soon as you walk into the hotel and into the gorgeous restaurant with magnificent chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, we wondered if the Michelin stars came from the decor. I looked it up, and the reviewers are supposed to concentrate on the quality, mastery of technique, personality and consistency of the food, and not on quality of service, table setting, or ambiance. One we began eating, we agreed that the food was just as spectacular as everything else in the restaurant. We had the langoustines rafraichies with caviar, I ordered the Homard, Pommes de mer, and for Les Desserts, we shared the Baba au rhum and all of the other additions that came to the table, including the pre and post dessert desserts that we made sure to make room for.

Epicure
Le Bristol

epicure

epicure1

epicure2

epicuredessert

epicuredessert2

epicuredessertbar

lebristolepicure

Men must not forget their dinner jackets at many fine dining Parisian restaurants. Contrary to what we think casual may mean in America, in Paris, causal means a suit jacket, preferably with a collared shirt and optional tie. While dining at Epicure in Le Bristol Hotel, I can see why people must dress up to dine there… the food looks just as fashionable. The food is presented so beautifully, it made me feel under-dressed. Just like the Paris runways are updated with new styles, Epicure’s menu was presented according to the season, and I ordered the seasonal tasting menu, which included the Mozzarella and Tomato souffléed with olive oil and salt, ox’s heart tomato, “green zebra: tomato, and pineapple tomato, Rock Pool Red Mullet with a roasted eggplant in a zucchini flower, and yellow pepper sauce perfumed with argan oil, and Carribean Chocolate with creamy, emulsion of spicy caramel, and roasted coffee ice cream. The palate cleansers between courses, fresh Madeleines, and dessert bar with marshmallows, caramels, candies, and macarons were great treats, but the fine seasonal cheeses offered before the desserts (as many and as much as one could handle) were incredible! In collaboration with two master cheese makers, Marie-Anne Cantin and Bernard Anthony, Epicure’s cheese board had a number of new selections of impeccable quality and taste that had me craving for cheese like never before.

Guy Savoy
guy savoy

guy savoy2

guy savoy3

guy savoy4

guy savoy5

Guy Savoy was where we dined the last night of our trip in Paris. Like many of the other restaurants on our trip, I started with a coupe de champagne rose, and with extensive wine lists and breads at all of the restaurants we went to, it’s impossible not to notice how each place demonstrated attention to the perfect compliments of wine and bread to it’s food and cheeses. We took the recommendations from our server and ordered the Autour de la tomate, Bar en ecailles grillees, soupe d’artichaut, Selle, carre et epaule d’agneau, Poelee de girolles, fomage, and dessert. If I wasn’t already convinced, Guy Savoy completely sealed the deal on Paris being the city with the most crave-worthy restaurants on the planet. Im sure we could have probably spent another week in Paris and continued to be impressed by the quality of food and pure genius of the chefs. My taste buds were completed enchanted with Parisian cuisines and although I don’t know when I’ll return, I’ll forever be inclined to seek out the gastronomic delights of Paris.

Craving Arpege

25 Jul

restaurant Arpege

grandscrusdespotagers

coqeutier

soba

surprise1

surprise2

surprise3

tomoatoesorbet

aiguilette de homard bleu nuit aciduleaumielnouveau

fines ravioles potageres multicolores

collectiondetomates

surpirse4

fish

surprise5

vegetables

fomage

Millefeuille

surprisedessert

sucreries

Ile fottante moka-melisse

happymeal

Where can we find a culinary artist that creates beautiful and insanely delicious masterpieces? In Paris, on Rue de Bourgogne, there is a chef by the name of Alain Passard, who designs picturesque dishes looks as good as they tastes. When my bf and I dined in his restaurant, Arpege (which is not the easiest to make reservations to BTW), Alain Passard came out of the kitchen and said hello, asked where we were from, and asked if we liked vegetables. Of course we liked vegetables, but after having the dinner that was served at Arpege, I am now in love with vegetables. I’ve always heard that Paris is the city of love, and now I’m an official believer because I fell head over heals in love with the incredible and unique recipes at this Parisian restaurant and Arriere-Cuisine that satisfy cravings as well as the visual appetite. AP’s designs and technique have given life to probably the most gorgeous food I’ve ever laid my eyes on and if we think something can’t taste beautiful, well we’re wrong. Either the way AP’s food tasted made the food look better, or the way AP’s food looked made the food taste better, or both, or neither. All I know is that I felt like I was looking at a super model physicist, confused because it never happens… food should never look and taste that good. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. My bf said that it was the best meal he’s ever had in his life (and this was only 5 dishes in to an over 15 dish meal, not counting the dessert).

Just to make our lives easier, we both had the tasting menu of AP’s specialty and signature cuisines, and I had a glass of their recommended Riesling. The menu included Coquelier, Collection de tomates, Aiguillette de homard bleu nuit acidule au miel nouveau, Fines ravioles potageres multicolores, Turbot de la pointe de Bretegne grille entire au, Robe des champs, Rostisserie, Fomages Bernard Antony, Mille, Sucrereis, and several surprises that I can’t pronounce or repeat even if I wanted to. The only reason I can even list the items on the menu was because the staff gave me one to take home. I tried keeping track of the courses, but after the 10th item, I was already I delirious (with joy and satisfaction); however, even when I thought I could eat no more, I found that I kept clearing my plates. During my meal, I told my bf that Arpege is the true “Happy Meal,” because it can really make a person happy. The funny thing was we actually left with a “gift.” Arpege gifted a souvenir, which was the dinner knife we used during dinner. The staff cleaned it and folded the blade into the handle like a pocket knife. Engraved in the wooden handle is “Arpege 2013.” Although already an unforgettable experience, I now have a remembrance of my Arpege love affair of pure indulgence and bliss.

Vale! Savoring Barcelona

24 Jul

IheartBarcelona

What’s the one word you must know when in Barcelona? Vale, which can probably be one thing a person can use in every conversation and most likely get by during an entire vacation. During our stay at the beautiful Hotel Arts, which is a Ritz Carlton property, the resort is staffed with employees from many parts of the World that cater to tourists. So, although we can do both, speaking and/or understanding Spanish isn’t mandatory. Interestingly; however, during our stay, we have never heard “vale” used in such a manner, by so many people, and so frequently. Vale is like saying in Spanish “de acuerdo,” meaning ok, yea, yes, I agree, understood, sure… Since there isn’t much that the staff at the Hotel Arts wouldn’t do for it’s guests, all we heard was “vale.”
Barcelona is absolutely beautiful. The vibe is laid back, the weather is great this time of year, the food is incredible, and there is so much to see and savor. If there was anything I was asked to do, most of the time, my answer was “vale.”

Would we like the have the hotel breakfast buffet every morning? Vale. There’s an assortment of cheese, breads, pastries, a fresh juice station, crepe station, additional items we can order to the table, and more?! Vale.

breakfast1

breakfast2

breakfast3

Would we like to hang out and lounge by the pool? Vale. Something to drink? Vale, pina colada por favor.

hotelartspool

Would we like to play some card games at the Barcelona Casino? Vale. Go to the Beach? Vale.

casinobeach

Would we like to see the market and vendor shops at La Rambla? Vale.

la rambla

Would we like to walk down the shore of the marina after dinner? Vale

barcelonanights

Would we like to rent scooters and tour Barcelona? Vale.

cooltrascooter

Would we like to tour the stunning Basilica de la Sagrada Familia? Vale. Would I like the audio tour and see the city views from the bell tower? Vale.

sagradafamilia

familiasagrada

familiasagrada2

familiasagrada3

basilicasagrada

towerviews

barcelonatowerviews

Would we like to visit Guell Park, which features more of Gaudi’s most famous works? Vale.

guellpark

guellpark2

guellpark3

Would we like to see the Casa Museu Gaudi, where the famous Catalan architect lived for twenty years? Vale.

gaudihouse

If any one didn’t know what “vale” meant prior to visiting Barcelona, once savoring the sights, the food, and everything the city had to offer, that person would surely know it afterward. Vale!

Craving Passadis Del Pep

23 Jul

parradisdepep

paraddisdepep1

paraddisdepep2

parradisdepep3

paraddisdepepmain

paraddisdepepdessert

parradisdelpepdrinks

What kind of restaurant doesn’t have a menu? The kind of restaurant that doesn’t need one, which is exactly what Passadis del Pep is. Once we found this hidden gem down an alley and through a little passageway (a passadis in Catalan) in Barcelona, which can be a little hard to find, we were so happy that when we got seated, we didn’t have to order our dinner. Everyday, Passadis Del Pep prepares a new selection of beautifully presented, fresh mariscos (seafood) and whatever is brought to the table is what we get. After receiving a half bottle of cava (local champagne), dishes come straight from the kitchen to the table, as if we were guests in some one’s home. The courses; however, don’t ever seem to end. First, came the clams and sea snails, then the gambas (shrimp) and calamari, and after that a plate of salted shishito peppers. Two different kinds of prawns came next, and then we were warned that after already devouring seven amazing dishes, there was one more course before the main dish. Most people stop there, but we didn’t. We got the rice with squid and then we were asked to choose a main course, “pescado or carne?” I had the fish and my bf had the meat, which came out with a side of potatoes. For dessert, we shared the crème Catalan and chocolate profiteroles. We each had a cup of Café Americano, they brought out a few bottles of chilled dessert wine, which we could pour for ourselves and we were also offered any other alcoholic drink of choice. I could only handle a few sips. Passadis Del Pep was an unforgettable, almost 3 hour, dinner experience. Barcelona saved the best dinner for last, when I thought it couldn’t get any better.

Craving Los Caracoles

22 Jul

caracoles

LosCaracoles1

loscaracoles2

loscaracoles3

caracolesdessert

loscaracoles

caracolesband

Where do we go when dinner plans don’t go as planned? We try plan B, which turned out to be more than fine by us… In Barcelona, many restaurants are closed on Sundays and Mondays, so a few of the places on top of my food list got crossed off. My bf got a suggestion from a friend back home and we headed about a mile from our hotel to Los Caracoles, which is located in an alley off La Rambla. Outside of the restaurant is a huge wood-fired oven, blazing and sending scents of food through the street, enticing passerby’s to have what their kitchen’s cooking . Right when we walked in, it looked like a tiny bar and restaurant, but after walking past the ovens and chefs, up the stairs, and into the dining area, we were surprised to find that the establishment could seat well over 200 people. We got some great suggestions from the server, who started us off with bread in the shape of a snail with olive oil and vinegar. We ordered most of his suggestions: the verduras salteadas (sauteed vegetables), gambas al ajillo (shrimp fried in garlic), paella de mariscos (seafood “paella”), navajas a la plancha (grilled razor clams, and of course los caracoles especiales (special snails), which we had to try since the name of the restaurant is Los Caracoles (although I could only handle eating 2). For dessert we had pastel de fresas con maracuya (strawberry cake) and crema catalana (“Catalan” cream caramel, which is very similar to creme brulee). The ambiance and decor of the restaurant is as lively and flavorful as the food. Before we finished dinner, we got a nice surprise and got serenaded at our table by a Spanish band. The dinner experience was awesome, and I especially could not get over how tasty the vegetables were; Delicioso! They were the first thing I tried and even if I just had the vegetables, I would have still made up my mind that Los Caracoles beat anything and everything I could have possibly had at any “Plan A” restaurant on my list.

Arola Craves

21 Jul

arola

arola1

arola2

arola3

aroladessert

Frank gehry

What’s a great way to kick off a stay in Barcelona, Spain? Eating great food is always a great start in my opinion, which is exactly my bf and I did on our first night together. Located on the 2nd floor of the Hotel Arts, our home for the next few days, we dined at Catalan chef Segi Arola’s restaurant, which overlooks the ocean, located in front of Frank Gehry’s giant wale. We were given a few complimentary starters and a bread basket, with garlic, tomato, olive oil, and salt. For the bread, we were instructed to cut the garlic clove and tomato in half, rub the garlic on the bread, then do the same with the tomato, add a little olive oil, and a dash of salt, and eat. The bread was delicious, a perfect teaser for the tapas we about going to enjoy. We ordered White Asparagas with mayonnaise, olives from Aragon and sprout, Eggplant flame roasted, with arbeguina olives and pine nuts, Arola’s Patatas Bravas (mmmm, yum), and White Shrimp prepared with garlic. Our server advised of of ordering 4, maybe 5 items to share, but we didn’t stop at 4, we continued to order the Langoustines grilled with truffle vinaigrette, Mussels in brine with vitelotte potato chips, Crab prepared in Wontong pasta ravioli and dashi, and my bf had the Nebraska Beef loin, marinated with Xerez, vinegar and citrics with vegetables and sprouts. All of the tapas were amazing. Our great dinner, which started off our trip, also ended well with dessert or cocina dulce, pumpkin cake, passion fruit, and white chocolate. If this dinner was an indication of what to expect, I can’t wait for more of what else Barcelona has to offer.

Craving Pinkberry

14 Jul

pinkberry

What’s the best place to get frozen yogurt in town? In my town, it’s Pinkberry, hands down. The first time I had Pinkberry a few years ago, I was hooked. My bf and I were steady regulars and when our local Pinkberry began delivery service, we had the business card posted on our refrigerator (it was the only thing posted on the refrigerator) and in addition to going into Pinkberry locations, the phone number of Pasadena’s Pinkberry was practically on speed dial. Since we were going there so often, we started stocking our freezer with pints of fro-yo from Pinkberry. My fro-yo crave craze died down significantly since first being introduced Pinkberry. Actually, it had been a while since my last Pinkberry craving, but on a hot summer day over the weekend, the craving came back with a vengeance. I made it a point to head to Pinkberry to order my favorite, the original frozen yogurt with mangos, strawberries, and gummi bears. My second choice wasn’t available, which is green tea (seasonal) with granola. If that flavor was in season, I would have ordered both. It was just as yummy as I remembered, and my craving for Pinkberry was definitely satisfied. What satisfies your cravings on a hot summer day?

Zinque Craves and Savors

13 Jul

zinquevenice

zinque

zinquefood

zinque2

How many bottles of wine on the wall, how many bottles of wine? At Zinque in Venice, CA, when you take one down and pass it around, there’s that number minus one bottles of wine on the wall. After meeting up a group of pretty awesome friends at a house party in Venice to welcome back our fave New York couple, we took the party down the street to a French wine bar, Zinque, for a few bottles of wine and a bite to eat. I ordered the French fries and flatbread and our friend Bry, our Bartender for the night (and many other nights) ordered the wine. We all got to catch up and got to get to know a little more about friends that we didn’t know before. I didn’t count the number of bottles of wine on the wall or the number of glasses of wine that were poured. I can’t remember the number of conversations we all shared or the number of pictures we all took, but I do know that every minute was savored. And at the end of the night, when Denver hopped on the piano in the bar, I was reminded that in a year, there are five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear. We all had to join Denver to sing the lyrics of Rent’s Seasons of Love because, “It’s time now to sing out, Tho’ the story never ends. Let’s celebrate, remember a year in the life of friends. Remember the LOVE!” While we don’t usually count or remember each minute, it’s nice to know that we can always measure our life in love.

Craving Quality Food and Beverage

11 Jul

QualityFood&Beverage

Quality is always better than quantity, right? Well, when it comes to quality food, we may tend to crave a lot of it. When having brunch at Quality Food and Beverage in Los Angeles with a group of friends, I learned that a large quantity of quality food is like having the best of both worlds. After hearing so many great things about this restaurant, I was excited to finally try it out. While deciding on what Quality food to order, I drank my Quality beverage: my normal orange and cranberry juice mix. There were a few things on the menu that I wanted to order, so I did just that… ordered them all. I had one of the specials, the Hawaiian Papaya, Blueberry, and Cottage Cheese served with two perfectly poached eggs and a slice of house banana bread pudding, a side of Blueberry Biscuit (with butter), and since I couldn’t decide on the chocolate chip or banana pancakes, I requested chocolate chip AND banana pancakes (with syrup and butter). The server and chef granted my request, and everything was delish! Quality definitely lived up to it’s name, which means the quantity of my visits there will definitely be increasing.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 195 other followers