Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Exciting times. Part I.

15 October 2013

Much has happened since June, the last time I published something here, and it was all good. A whirlwind. Busy, very busy. Fun too, sometimes stressful, exciting, beautiful, a little unnerving at times, but all good.

We packed up our life


How do you say goodbye to the place where you’ve lived for 14 years? Not really.


We spent time with friends


We went out


We may have revisited a coffee shop bench


We had lunch!


Oh, New York, you’re not making this any easier…


One last glimpse and it’s time to go


Hello London!


We found a park


And decided to build our life around it.

Travel | Two meals in Québec City and a night at the bar

11 January 2013


People don’t seem to gush forth with recommendations for restaurants in Québec City. Montréal is different, and off hand even I would know a few places I’d love to go to one day and might even recommend without having been. But we were off to Québec and had to eat, somehow. Every meal doesn’t have to be Joe Beef, but most cities have at least one café that makes a decent salad, or a diner that serves a good burger. I made a couple of timid social media attempts to snag recommendations and got only one response (thank you!) for a place outside Québec, which unfortunately wasn’t open when we were going.

It took one or two edible but unremarkable meals before I turned to Yelp and Chowhound, which pointed me in the direction of l’Echaudé, a simple and tasteful French bistro in the old city. It is by no means a ‘family restaurant’; our children were the only ones there, there are no designated kids’ options, but Louise was welcome with a jar of crayons to doodle directly onto the white paper tablecloth covers, and everyone found something very good to eat.


The blood sausage (shaped like a slice of terrine) was possibly the silkiest I have ever eaten, there was an above average steak tartare. Salmon tartare was fine too. The desserts, especially the tarte au sucre (which I must learn to make!) and a grapefruit tarte, were outstanding. It is not a restaurant to warrant the trip; I am a rigid seasonal snob and I do cringe at the sight of fresh tomatoes and zucchini in December, but it was a fine meal, and a lovely place. So, absent any proper research, without having perused all the options, I am not implying it is the best place in Québec but nonetheless here it is: unequivocally a recommendation.


For New Year’s we decided to have a hotel-room picnic, what with our brilliant view of the city fireworks. Thomas, who clearly has superior googling skills, discovered the Marché du Vieux-Port, promising feasts of Canadian products. Exactly what we were looking for. And so for a second recommendation.

At the Marché du Vieux-Port we found the mildest, flakiest, most delicious old-fashioned smoked salmon. The gentleman in line in front of me at Les Delices de la Mer urged me to also get the maple smoked salmon bites. Great advice. Les Canardises offered very good foie gras at remarquably decent prices. (I admit I was a bit envious of their flawlessly de-veined foie. Still have a bit to learn there.) There were amazing saucissons and excellent cheeses. As Mary had forewarned, finding Canadian, let alone Quebec wine was not easy. Mission Hill seemed the ubiquitous, reliable, readily available label. We drank champagne, too, from France. It was a feast, a fun and very delicious evening.



After a couple of days in Québec City we went skiing. And so for a third, most unlikely recommendation. When in Mont Tremblant, the best bet for a decent, relatively affordable meal may very well be the bar of the comfortable Fairmont Hotel nestled just at the bottom of the slopes. Again, no serious research resulted in this realization, just one outrageously expensive, horrific burger at Bullseye Grill. The place advertizes itself as a sandwiches and burgers kind of place, but once inside most options were well north of $30. We learned later that it is virtually impossible to find a medium-rare burger in Québec, where they are always cooked medium-well, which should warn anyone to stay away. But at $18, one would expect that the burger, even cooked to oblivion, would at least be 100% beef. If only.

And so back to the cozy hotel bar, armchairs and low light, a few manhattans, a bottle of wine, chicken wings, steak tartare, duck confit salad, the children outside tubing into the evening and barely disturbing the air as they rush in for plate of crudités and a burger (medium well, real meat – still there is some irony in serving raw meat but not pink hash). One last martini… The best bet.

Happy New Year!



73, rue Sault-au-Matelot
Québec, QC G1K 3Y9

1 418-692-1299

Lunch Mon-Fri 11.30 am-2 pm
Dinner from 5.30 pm
Brunch Sat-Sun from 10 am


Marché du Vieux-Port

160 Saint-André Quai
Québec, QC G1K 3Y2

1 418-692-2517

Mon-Fri 9 am-6 pm
Sat-Sun 9 am-5 pm


Nansen Lounge, Fairmont Tremblant

3045 Chemin de la Chapelle
Mont-Tremblant, QC J8E 1E1
1 866-540-4415
Daily 11 am-11 pm


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In Brittany | Mussels with shallots and white wine

25 July 2011

I am in France spending a large part of the summer with my family at my sister’s beautiful, old, and very run down farmhouse in northern Brittany.

While New York was smouldering under the heat last week everyone in France complained about the cold, and here, too, temperatures have hovered around 18°C (65°F) and it rains more often than not. But no one complains. Northern Brittany is known for blustery weather and beautiful coastlines, and we’ve been enjoying both.

Food-wise, beyond crêpes and savory buckwheat galettes – Brittany’s most famous culinary exports – the region has fresh fish and seafood in abundance, is famous for artichokes and pink onions, breeds pigs, and bakes far and kouign amann for dessert. This of course being just a cursory list. We’ve been enjoying all of that, too.

But first, mussels.

I forget how easy it is to cook mussels so I don’t make them often in New York, but here mussels are not only on every market but also on the beach, and on all of our minds. This is one of the most basic traditional French preparation: moules marinières, or sailor’s mussels, with shallots and wine wine. Add cream (as I do here) and they become ‘moules à la crème.’

Serves 4 as a main dish (count 1 lb of mussels per person)

4 lbs (2 kg) mussels*

4-5 shallots

2 cloves garlic

3 Tbsps butter

Olive oil

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

2/3 cup (200 ml) crisp white wine such as muscadet

2-3 Tbsps crème fraîche

Freshly ground black pepper

Large bunch flat-leaved parsley


Thoroughly scrub the mussels clean, wash them under clear water, and drain.

Peel and thinly dice the shallots. Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Wash and finely chop the parsley and reserve for later.

In a large cooking pot, melt the butter with a dash of olive oil. Add the shallots, and cook until they become translucent. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for another minute. Throw in the sprigs of parsley and stir again to combine the flavors.

The shallots shouldn’t turn brown. As soon as they start to turn golden, pour in the white wine and bring to a boil. Simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Add the mussels, cover with a lid, and turn up the heat. As soon as the lid starts to let off some steam, take the pot off the fire and, firmly, with both hands, shake it with a few gentle jerks in order to turn the mussels inside the pot.

Place the mussels back onto the stove for a few minutes more. Most of the mussels should be open. If not, jerk the mussels again and return to the stove.

Once the mussels are open, transfer them carefully with a straining ladle to a warm pot or bowl for serving.

Place the coking pot with the shallot/wine sauce back onto the fire. Stir in the crème fraîche (I prefer the sauce to become milky and not creamy, but add according to taste), and some pepper.

Pour the very hot sauce over the mussels, sprinkle with lots of parsley, and serve immediately.

*At home, poke breathing holes into the bag of mussels and store in the refrigerator.


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In Brittany | Home baked potato fries

At the market in Brittany | Artichokes

In Haute Savoie | Reblochon and tartiflette

14 April 2011

I’ve been going skiing in Haute Savoie since I was twelve. Initially with my family, later with friends, and this year – somewhat greedily – first with friends, and then with family.

Spending a (fairly boisterous) week together has been a lucky and indulgent way for us to keep in touch with friends who don’t live around the corner anymore. This year the children very nearly outnumbered the adults and there was no late night dancing, but it was, as always, a culinary treat.

Before going I was pretty sure I would want to write about raclette, which in these mountains is not prepared 1980s-suburban-dinner-party-style on little individual pans, but, rather, an entire half raclette cheese is mounted onto a simple heating device, melted, and scraped directly onto boiled potatoes, to be eaten, delectably, with cornichons, cured meat, and frisée or escarole salad.

But I am not going to write about raclette. We did eat raclette – no skiing holiday would be quite right without it – but by the time friends left and I had time to take a few pictures, spring had attacked with such full force that the idea of raclette receded too far back into winter to be summoned up again. Until next year.

Not so with reblochon, and tartiflette.

Reblochon is a typical round, creamy, raw-milk cheese from Haute Savoie protected by an AOC.* As the story goes, reblochon dates back to the 13th century. At the time, peasant dues to land owners were calculated according to the amount of milk produced in one day, so ingeniously, on inspection days, cows were not fully milked. A fraudulent second milking produced less abundant but creamier milk ideally suited to the production of cheese. The name reblochon apparently comes from the local dialect “re-blocher,” which means “to pinch a cow’s teats a second time.”**

Reblochon is delicious as is, a cheese plate in itself, but it is also decadent as tartiflette, another variation on cheese and potatoes, Savoie-style. Thomas and Valerie H are the masters of tartiflette. Every year they prepare the dish – or rather dishes, to accommodate 13 adults and 13 children, dietary needs, and picky eaters. I defer the recipe to them.

*Appellation d’origine contrôlée : A French certification that strictly regulates the geographic origin and production methods of certain foods
**Story loosely translated from



Recipe edited and approved by Thomas and Valerie H






Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Peel the potatoes, add them to the boiling water (whole or cut in half depending on the size – ideally all the pieces should have approximately the same size so that they cook evenly). Cook until just soft but still al dente. Drain and let the potatoes rest until cool enough to handle.

Cut the bacon into small strips about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long and 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) wide. Fry the bacon over medium to high heat in a large skillet. Remove, set aside, and drain excess fat, leaving some in the skillet.

Finely cut the shallots, add to the skillet, and cook in bacon fat until golden. Line an ovenproof dish (large enough to hold two reblochon halves) with a layer of half of the shallots.

Cut the potatoes into slices about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick. Place them on top of the bed of shallots. Add the other half of the shallots, the bacon, and spread evenly over the potatoes.

Slice the reblochon(s) in two horizontally and place it, rind side up, on the potatoes. Cut the sliced reblochon in further pieces to fill in the corners and sides of the skillet, so that the potatoes are completely covered with reblochen. No additional seasoning is required, the bacon, shallots, and the reblochon provide for everything.

Slip into the oven and bake until the cheese is golden and bubbling on the sides. Take out and let rest for about 10 minutes until the melted cheese cools down and begins to solidify slightly (If served too early, the tartiflette will be too liquid).

Serve with a large winter salad such as frisée or escarole. And white wine from Haute Savoie.


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