Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Travel | Summer memories at Crêperie Sucré Salé in Trégastel

6 September 2012

The story repeats itself, and it’s as it should be.

When the fog lifts and the clouds clear, we drive to the beach. My sister’s house in Brittany is rather inland, so we have a range of beaches to choose from, and yet nine times out of ten we end up in the same place, Trégastel. It’s an old-fashioned seaside resort on a stunning stretch of coast, punctuated by huge pink granite boulders; inviting, menacing at times, teetering. It’s breathtaking. But the draw of Trégastel is more than the boulders and the beach; as Northern Brittany goes it can even become somewhat crowded on August weekends. Trégastel has become a story.

We dip into the water; sometimes only halfway, if it’s bitterly cold and the sea endlessly shallow from the ebb of the tide. The receding water of those notoriously steep tides leaves crabs scurrying, pools among the rocks with shrimp and small fish trapped until the flow. There are seashells to be gathered, sand castles to be built, and kites to be flown.

Everyone is getting hungry. As evening draws, we pack our beach bags, cross one stretch of sand, and climb the coastal path to the old harbor, the seaside center of town. It’s nearly 8pm but the sun is still high in the sky as we take our seats on the waterfront terrace of the crêperie. They aren’t particularly friendly there and our large groups usually upwards of ten often leave the staff visibly irritated. It’s a touristy location, right by the water with a postcard worthy view of the sea, the granite, the boats. But that’s all part of it — this summer ritual.

The galettes are very good, of course, which is essential. But it’s equally about the grumpy waiters, the setting sun, another cup of cider, the children running off to the beach the instant they’ve devoured their last bite, the elusive green flash, the treacherous walk back to the car in the dark. It’s become a tradition, perfect in all its imperfections.

A summer memory.


Crêperie Sucré Salé

Place du Coz Pors, Trégastel
33 (0)2 96 23 81 31

The galettes (savory buckwheat crêpes) are excellent here. I rarely stray from the classic ‘complète’ (with egg, ham, and cheese), though I’ve sometimes added tomatoes and onions, but all the garnishes are very good. For a bit of a change (not that I would), the mussel dishes are also delicious. I don’t find the sweet crêpes as exciting, so I always order my dessert crêpes on a buckwheat galette, and that combination is amazing.


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Rhubarb raspberry crostata

Baked mackerel with mustard and thyme

Mussels with shallots and white wine

Eating out | Shojin zen at Kajitsu

19 April 2012

When a couple of months ago I read that executive chef Masato Nishihara was leaving the vegetarian Shojin restaurant Kajitsu at the end of March I immediately booked a table.

I had wanted to go for a few years, ever since I’d read a dithyrambic comment by David Chang. Kajitsu had languished all this time on a putative restaurant wish list but the occasion never arose, or was never provoked. Suddenly there was some urgency.

Then, as these things sometimes will, it happened that on that long awaited Wednesday I was in the hospital with my son, who had just been operated for a nasty case of ruptured appendicitis (doctor’s words). Of course, I could have left Leo in his morphine-induced half-consciousness in the expert hands of the hospital staff, but my mind wasn’t exactly with it. So with great dismay I cancelled the reservation. I must have apologized half a dozen times, over-emphasizing how sorry I was to have to reschedule. Of course, I was sorry less about their booking concerns than my lapsed opportunity.

And when, having emerged from hospital limbo nearly a week later, I made a new reservation, I didn’t pay attention to the date. Unsuspecting last week Thomas and I went to Kajitsu.

Kajitsu lives in a half-basement space that first intrigues by its clever impression of spaciousness despite the low ceilings, and its entirely bare dull ochre walls dusted with the odd speck of hemp. The space is divided into separate areas each with just one or two tables. We sat at the bar. And so the journey began into heretofore untraveled Shojin cuisine territory. (I didn’t take a picture but I kept the menu, if you can make much sense of it. I couldn’t.)

Every dish was surprising. Each element felt very pure, in a restrained way, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether my palate, used to bolder seasonings of garlic, herbs, vinegar, especially with vegetables, might be numb to the subtleties of this deliberate cuisine. Because although the meal was entirely enjoyable — and not least for the many great sakes paired with the food which ranged from mellow and practically sweet to almost peaty — it wasn’t wholly delicious to me.

Later as I began writing I realized that we were already in April; we had been feasted by the new chef Ryota Ueshima; Masato Nishihara had moved on. So now I can’t help but wonder whether Nishihara’s cuisine would have struck that spark of deliciousness. I hope I will not miss the next opportunity to find out.

Although I’ve not been craving the food and I am not exactly restless to go back, Kajitsu was a revelation. Would I go now had I never been? Definitely.


414 East 9th St (betw. 1st Ave. & Ave. A)
New York, NY 10009


Open Tues-Sun 5.30pm-10.00pm, closed Monday


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Eating out | Fall soba noodles at Sobakoh

Eating out | Thrice-cooked fries (but not only) at the Breslin

Eating out | Brunch at Blaue Gans

Eating out | Thrice-cooked fries (but not only) at The Breslin

8 February 2012

Consider a game by which you make a hypothetical but definitive choice between two things. By choosing one you forgo the other for the rest of your life. You can apply this game to anything. Movies or television? Mountain or sea? Wine or spirits? Or — chips or fries? The last one was easy. I would have chosen neither. I’m pretty sure I could have lived happily ever after without either chips or fries. That is, until I tasted April Bloomfield’s thrice-cooked fries with cumin mustard.

Admittedly thrice-cooked fries are not the only reason to go to The Breslin. There’s the lamb burger that goes with it. There is the entirely sinful and irresistible three-grilled-cheeses sandwich. And also, in season, the kale salad. But I’ll take a step back.

About 8 years ago, just a few months after the Spotted Pig opened, I pitched a cookbook with April Bloomfield to the publisher for whom I worked. Or rather I suggested the idea. Granted, it may have been a little premature. Phaidon had barely embarked on its first cookbook, and it was still the restaurant’s very early days. But my motivation was selfish — I really wanted those recipes.

Because the maddeningly wonderful thing about the food at Bloomfield’s restaurants the Spotted Pig and The Breslin (I haven’t yet been to her latest the John Dory Oyster Bar) is that they feel like dishes one could make at home, but beyond the consistently flawless execution there is always a surprising and cryptic twist that makes them spectacular.

While the first thing that comes to mind with Bloomfield is often offal and pig’s ears (and they well deserve the attention), the dishes I still think about most often, longingly, many years later, are a revelatory artichoke stew; a simply perfect radish salad with basil and parmesan; the famous feather-light gnudi doused with butter and sage; the aforementioned fries served with cumin (cumin!) mustard; and just last week I had poached eggs over curried lentils for breakfast, which will certainly be added to that list. I don’t think I’ve had a disappointing dish in either place, and many are mind-bogglingly good. I will, insatiably, be going back for more.

And now very soon, in just a couple of months, that long awaited cookbook is coming out. Can’t wait.


The Breslin

16 West 29th Street (between Fifth Ave. and Bway)
New York, NY 10001


Open daily
Breakfast Mon-Fri 7am-11.45am
Lunch Mon-Fri 12pm-4pm
Brunch Sat-Sun 7am-4pm
Dinner 5pm-12am


The Spotted Pig

314 West 11th Street (at Greenwich Street)
New York, NY 10014


Open daily
Lunch Mon-Fri 12pm-3pm
Bar Menu from 3pm-5pm; Dinner from 5.30pm-2am
Brunch Sat-Sun 11am-3pm


Relates posts

Eating out | Up a cobbled street to Vinegar Hill House

Eating out | Brunch at Blaue Gans

Eating out | Fall soba noodles at Sobakoh

Travel | Shack at the end of the road, Las Galeras, Samana, Dominican Republic

9 January 2012

After Christmas we flew to the Dominican Republic for a few days. It was the first time I took a summer vacation in the middle of winter because I was somewhat reluctant. Thomas had been trying to lure me to the palm trees and pristine beaches of the Caribbean for years, but until now I had fairly successfully countered with irresistible fantasies of Georgia, Maine, Canada, upstate…

It was different this time because the goal wasn’t any random Caribbean beach, Thomas wanted to go back to one of the most beautiful beaches he had ever been to, 22 years ago. After high school he traveled through Mexico and Guatemala, continued onto the Dominican Republic, to Cabarete, where he started working in a windsurfing shop.

But after a few weeks Cabarete felt too crowded. Thomas was looking for truly remote, the end of the road. So Dominicans pointed him toward Samana. There he found a beach, with nothing but white sand and palm trees and wooden fishermen cabins. There was one place to stay, he was the only guest.

Somehow, the story convinced me. Naturally, things would have changed a little since 1990, but by the sound of guide books and travel sites, Samana was still fairly underdeveloped.

So on December 28 we flew to Santo Domingo and drove through the Dominican Republic to Las Galeras, the northeastern tip of the Samana peninsula.

Las Galeras beach, pan de coco picnic, hotel garden, snorkeling, palm trees, waiting for the motoconcho, Playita beach, playing cards at the hotel, coconut milk

Well, Las Galeras isn’t really remote, even by today’s standards. There are at least half a dozen small hotels and guest houses, and one modest resort a short walk away. But there are palm trees, beautiful beaches, and the turquoise ocean. And despite the few tourists strolling the beach, time there seems to expand, to stretch and wane. Quite soon your step slows down. You stop walking — you amble. You read a book. Finish a book. You mean to start a second book. But your gaze wanders up at the palm trees, down to the water. You do nothing at all.

For lunch there is a shack on the beach; it is quite literally at the end of the road. There are a few minuscule kitchens from which one can order lobster, fish, shrimp, octopus, or chicken. It comes with coconut rice, salad, and fried plantains. They also sell delicious pan de coco, an unleavened but very fluffy flatbread made with coconut milk. And if you order a piña colada — with or without alcohol — you get a pineapple, its inside crushed to a pulp, mixed with coconut cream, an (unnecessary) spoonful of sugar, and rum (or not).

There are plenty of little cafés and restaurants in Las Galeras, but this was the best and most simple, though, despite its appearance, not necessarily the cheapest.

This weekend the New York Times travel section suggested that Samana was a place to go in 2012, before the new highway from Santo Domingo and an international airport on the peninsula bring in too many tourists. It’s worth a thought.


When to go: Whale watching season is from mid-January to mid-March. Apparently April is to be avoided; Las Galeras gets very crowded during the weeks around Easter and the beach disappears beneath a mountain of trash.

Stay at Hotel Todo Blanco. A simple but handsome hotel with 8 spacious rooms, each with two double beds, a small fridge, and ocean-facing balcony.

Breakfast at Casa Por Que No

Lunch at the shack at the end of the road

Dinner at Le Tainos, Hotel Plaza Lusitania, or El Cabito, breathtakingly perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean east of Las Galeras


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Breakfast in Montreal: Le Cartet and Olive + Gourmando

Breakfast in Montréal | Le Cartet and Olive + Gourmando

17 July 2011

In my fantasy life I keep clearly organized folders of clippings, weblinks, and friends’ recommendations, collected over the years, about noteworthy restaurants and singular out-of-the-way hotels all over the world. That way, when one day I go to Sicily, Copenhagen, Singapore, or Atlanta, I will know just where to stay and what to eat.

In my real life I have no folders, I don’t always buy a guidebook in advance, and we rarely book a hotel before we leave. It’s charming and spontaneous, as vacations should be, and sometimes leads to unexpected, memorable moments like sleeping in a thousand-year-old manor house nestled on Dartmoor in the South of England. But not always.

So our family of five drove up to Québec over Fourth of July weekend in what may well be the last trip of our aging VW Beetle. The only room we were likely to find in Montréal during a weekend that turned out to be not only the height of the jazz festival but also Canada Day, was in a large nondescript hotel. And, despite the fact that since I acquired the cookbook five years ago the legendary restaurant “Au Pied de Cochon” alone seemed worth the trip up to Québec, I hadn’t booked a table.

We saw a lot of Montréal in a day and a half. We walked more than was reasonable with three young children, from the old port up past the recent Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec toward Parc La Fontaine and finally to Parc du Mont-Royal before heading to the jazz festival.

In the end we barely stopped for lunch, and didn’t plan for a civilized dinner; but we did eat two exceptional breakfasts. I would have stayed weeks longer just for the granola, the scones, and the apple cinnamon bun.

Le Cartet

Le Cartet has a store in the front with a large relaxed restaurant in the back. Everything on the breakfast menu seemed tempting and it was hard to choose. It’s the type of breakfast I like. You don’t have to decide for just eggs or just granola (though you can certainly opt to simply eat two soft-boiled eggs with toast).

The brunch plate I ordered included ginger granola with cashew nuts, yogurt, and blueberries; poached eggs on mesclun salad and whole wheat toast; cheddar; figs; and fresh fruit. And a very good cafe latte.

Le Cartet

106 McGill St
Montréal, QC H2Y 2E5

+1 514-871-8887

Open Mon-Fri 7am-7pm, Sat-Sun 9am-4pm



Olive+Gourmando was crowded on Saturday morning, as it apparently often is, so we decided not to wait and rather take our breakfast out to a small park around the corner: coffee, croissants, scones, and an apple cinnamon bun to put all apple cinnamon buns to shame.

The blueberry scones, too, were probably the best I have eaten, perhaps thanks to a generous amount of lemon zest and, I would guess, a respectable quantity of butter.


351 Rue Saint Paul Ouest
Montréal, QC

+1 514-350-1083

Open Tues-Sat 8am-6pm


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Eating out | Shack at the end of the road, Las Galeras, Samana, Dominican Republic

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