A Visit with Purple Door Ice Cream

P1070562 My earliest memories of eating ice cream are with Bubby, sitting at the kitchen table in our one bedroom, third floor walk up in West Rogers Park.   Chocolate was her favorite flavor evident by her all too often stained house coats and pockets plump with tissue.  Deliberately she would place each spoonful of ice cream into her mouth as she closed her eyes and swallowed.  When the bowl was close to being finished, Bubby would etch the spoon around the bowl as it collected the very last bits of melted chocolate ice cream.  She wasted nothing and savored every mouthful.

During those years, our apartment where we lived with Bubby would often become chaotic and if there were any quiet at all, it usually drifted into the back of the apartment, into our kitchen. There we would sit, among the burnt orange teapots dotting the wallpaper, the lamp above the table whose painted stars we lit for Papa Jack on night’s like his birthday, among the towels which draped from cabinet handles, and the canned fruits and vegetables strategically placed so her blindness would not stop her from knowing what was in her own pantry.   It was there where we sat and munched and slurped and scooped, licked our fingers and wiped ourselves clean.  The simplicity of those moments has never been lost on me, and  with the winter in Chicago being so brutal coupled with working long days and not seeing my Olive as often as I’d like, I have found great joy in the simple moments myself, always highly aware and savoring every moment.

When I was invited by Lauren and Steve Schultz of Purple Door Ice Cream to visit their new build-out, set to open in mid-March, I was thrilled.  I had first heard of their ice cream on an episode of Wisconsin Foodies.  At that time they were working out of Clock Shadow Creamery, a cheese purveyor  down the street.  Now, with their grand opening around the corner, Lauren and her husband Steve are expanding the team at Purple Door Ice Cream to include a part-time ice cream maker.  “Up until now it was me and Steve making every batch by hand.”  When I asked Lauren about the inspiration behind her store, she said “It had been a dream of mine since middle school.”   It was that same imagination and tenacity that helped bring Lauren’s dream to fruition. What sets Purple Door apart from other ice creams is the simplicity and boldness of its flavor.  Using local ingredients and hand crafting every batch, Purple Door Ice Cream keeps its taste simple, its texture rich, and does not disappoint in flavor.  “We have eleven base flavors, but we hand swirl all of our mix-ins.  We want to keep the integrity of the ice cream.”   The fourteen percent butterfat uses milk and cream from Wisconsin dairy farms while their quality ingredients are carefully selected from local artisans including Anodyne coffee beans, Rishi tea leaves, chocolate and even liqueurs to name a few.   “Sourcing locally provides a lot of inspiration”, Lauren tell us as she pulls pints for Matt and I to sample.  With the expansion of their store, Purple Door Ice Cream will also branch out into local restaurants and stores in Wisconsin and the Chicagoland area including Whole Foods, Mariano’s and Southport Grocery.

Chicago has seen dreary weather for many months now, and although I find myself longing for the sun’s affection, I try to acknowledge the small moments that are my own bit of sunlight; Olive’s infectious smile in the morning, Matt’s grasp as he helps me hurdle the snow, tastes of rich ice cream on a blustery February afternoon.  Our visit to Purple Door Ice Cream reminded me that summer isn’t so far away, and in the meantime I have much to celebrate.  For Lauren and Steve, they are growing their company while staying close to their Midwestern roots.  For Bubby, she celebrated hugs from me and my sister and bowls of chocolate ice cream.  Former Olympic runner and noted author, Don Kardong once said “Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.”  Lauren’s invitation (and the many, indulgent helpings of ice cream) helped bring light to this forever winter, evoking memories with Bubby, who in a time of uncertainty and confusion was always my forever light. 2060_771183305330_3658_n

Part Six: Burgundy

I am having trouble sleeping.  And in a fit, I tumbled out of  bed about 10 minutes ago, desperate for a hunk of bread smothered in creamy butter and dolloped with jam.  I guzzled it down with soda water and then beckoned Lola away from the yellow roses sitting in water on the windowsill lit by  amber street lamps along Wilson.  She’s eating the roses. I am no one to comment.  At this point, I would eat those too.

It may be the dead middle of night and although I have crumbs strewn about- all over me and all over the counter where I savagely pulled the bread apart and nearly slam-dunked it into the countertop butter- it is this type of fare ( and certainly not the way it was eaten) that reminds me of many meals across France last summer.  I have often asked myself why I have not finished my six part series about our travels as I have sadly neglected our favorite destination,  Burgundy.  I would love to say it was difficult to end the series because we were so very fond of our time there or that by writing this post I would be summoning a closure to the part of our lives that is just the two of us before we embarked on our growing family.  The truth is- I got lazy and as the months went on, Burgundy became more of a beautiful passing memory instead of something I could relinquish in words and images.  That was until tonight when this hunk of buttery and sweet goodness- for some reason or another -flooded my memory and filled my heart with the sights and tastes of Burgundy.

North to Burgundy

North to Burgundy

We left Cannes and I drove most of the way from the South of France north to Burgundy.  Tumbling in sunburnt and punch-drunk from our stay on the coast, I was immediately set at ease by the lush green hills rolling on  and into the sky from the highway, one folding into the other.   The air was cooler and easier to breathe.   It was clear from the onset that Burgundy was going to be the right way to end our travels- so much so that we cancelled our hotel in Paris and extended our stay in Burgundy by one night requiring us to drive in the middle of the night to make it to Charles De Gaulle for our flight home.   I turned to Matt to share in the moment only to find his head lobbying back and forth only to be interrupted by his mouth catching itself agape only to close and open again as he rocked back and forth with the motion of our car.  He needed sleep.  Burgundy had settled him into a listless nap.  We were in the right place. P1040767 We stayed in Beaune, a small town recommended by Matt’s boss, a professor at the university who has lived in France for many years.  Beaune is the epicenter of wine in Burgundy and some say the wine destination.  It is an ancient city, dating back to pre-Roman times, marked by medieval architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and business is officially and certifiably the growing and producing of wine.  Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the grapes most grown in the region, but you can also find Gamay and Aligote-  two of the more rustic varietals to their before mentioned big brother and sister.  Beaujolais and Chablis can also be found as they are technically part of the Burgundy region and south of Chablis is the Cote D’ Or where the Grand Cru vineyards reside.  This is just the tip of discovering Burgundy through wine.  There are regions upon regions based on terroir, soil, tradition and land.  We did our fair share of wine tasting, visiting caves(those are wine cellars to us) in the town center and moving on to Pommard.  We met an amazing wine maker who taught us traditional village songs and talked us through maps, bottles, and tastings that expanded our knowledge of the region and connected us to the people who are responsible for the beauty that is Burgundy. P1040762 P1040792 P1040801 In the center of Beaune, we stumbled upon what became one of our very favorite restaurants on our entire trip.  We did not follow much of the Lonely Planet suggestions for restaurants because I find them typically limiting and often unfullfilling no matter where we travel, however Beaune is small and we were quite hunrgy upon arrival and a quick go to was helpful.  We found ourselves at Le Bistro Bourguignon;  a quaint bistro filled with a mish mosh of eclectic and whimsical art work, exposed brick, and an advertised jazz night on the front door.  Friendly, warm, and serious about their food and wine.  Very serious- as we came to discover Burgundy’s focus is entirely about exquisite yet homestyle cooking accompanied by beautiful and approachable wine.   We ordered traditional dishes- beef bourgoginone and chicken in cream sauce with mushrooms.  Wine was recommended by the restaurant’s owner, Virgile whose family has operated the bistro for several years- in fact Le Bistro Bourguignon is the oldest wine bar in Burgundy.  The food, the wine, and the company were unpretentious and solid.  We loved it so much that we ate at the bistro the following night knowing  full well that this would be our last dinner in France.  We shared apertifs and chatted with Virgile at the bar, ordered Charolais beef burgers smothered in local Dijon mustard, and ate slowly and passionately savoring every fatty, mouth-watering piece – with a knife and fork of course.   By the end of dinner, Virgile was like an old friend to us.  He was even gracious enough to tape a Butter&Yolk business card to the bar…B&Y business card posted in the oldest wine bar in Burgundy? Win. And Virgile, if you are reading this, we cannot wait to visit again soon.  Thank you for making our last evenings in Beaune- and in Europe- truly remarkable.

Le Bistro Bourguignon

Le Bistro Bourguignon

Beef bourguignon

Beef bourguignon

Utter satisfaction after macaroons with yuza and fig and nougat glace

Utter satisfaction after macaroons with yuza and fig and nougat glace

Burgers at the bar

Burgers at the bar

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B&Y card in the bar!

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We filled the rest of our time in Beaune in a daydreamy state as we were ending a long journey that started in Amsterdam and brought us all the way from the chaos of Parisian streets to the humble cobblestone paths of Beaune.  As we moved together, hand in hand, we lingered in and out of local boutiques and bakeries sampling pate sandwiches, giant slabs of meringue, soft cheeses, and more wine of course.  We bought dark chocolate ice cream bars and sat in front of the town carousel.  We drank sexy wines in our budget hotel late into the night and looked forward to heading home yet marveled in our accomplishments in Europe.  For Matt and I, this was an important trip for it marked an adventure that him and I were taking on together.  We threw ourselves into unfamiliar situations in unfamiliar places only to more fully appreciate and discover our ever-growing love for each other.  It was- without a doubt- time to come home and try to bring life to a new soul that would symbolize our love for each other and be an integral part of the next adventures to come.  Indeed, we did just that.  And we welcome her nearly a year after our return from Europe.  Stay tuned for our newest adventure, Baby T, arriving this summer.  Until then, au revoir.

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Part Five: The French Riviera. An Ageless Sexy

Let’s face it.  No matter how frugal, green-minded, or liberal you are ( I assume everyone reading this blog is one of those things), you and I have always wanted, day dreamed, considered or pretended to be an incredibly sexy person.  I am going to go out on a limb and perhaps suggest that all of you are probably very sexy people and don’t even know it.  I tend to find the people who do not think they are sexy, the sexiest.  Sexy can be a lot of different things to different people.  For this post, I am focusing on an ageless sexy.  A James Bond, scarf around the neck, yacht cruising, martini sexy.  The kind of sexy splayed on movie screens and then perfected in our imaginations.  At least that is where I thought sexy had to live, until we traveled through the French Riviera.  Hello Jay-Z music video, hello Miami Vice (in a cool, celebrated retro way), hello fame.  Welcome to the Cote D’Azur.

Of all the places we planned to visit in France, I was especially excited about the South.  I love the beach, any kind of beach for that matter, from lake to ocean to bay…I am game.  Before we arrived in Nice, I spent weeks dreaming of how this part of the trip would go:

Beach? Check.

Amazing seafood? Check.

Careless attitude including drinking on the streets and driving above the speed limit? Check.

All of this seemed possible from the start.  As we made the turn onto Promenade de Anglais (Nice’s Vegas strip) it was clear that the Mediterranean coast was an undeniable force. Cliffs upon cliffs with houses and mansions toppled onto one another.  The sea laid out below, spotted with yachts.  Helicopter landings dotting the coast, and the unraveling of fashion studios, boutiques, cocktail lounges, and hotels surrounded by perfectly bronzed European vacationers whose lifestyles were indicated simply by the way they walked.  This was it.  I had arrived to the mecca of luxury and nothing was going to stop me from finally showing off the glamour that so often gets shuffled off in my normal coffee-carrying, reusable bag wearing, in-by-10-pm self.

Baller.

We arrived in Nice around 5pm.  We checked into our hotel and quickly realized we got duped.  This hotel, which I had personally booked from the states, looked amazing from its pictures and reviews.  Little did I know that three of the hotel’s rooms had yet to be renovated as the ones in the website’s photos had shown.  Since our stay was short, we got stuck in one of these rooms.  Blue carpeting? Yes.  Yellow wallpaper? You betcha.  Pastel pink, fluorescent lit bathroom sans shower head.  Definitely.  Flowers on the bedspread? Yes! Hearing our neighbors do everything. Oh yeah!  But, we did not care.  In one of the most beautiful places in the world and having lucked out with amazing hotels and apartments everywhere else…we were bound to get one shitty hotel during our road trip.  So what?  We had a blanket of blue skies and sea to engage us.  We just needed a place to sleep.  Having dropped our bags, we rushed outside in our swimsuits to catch the rest of the day’s sun.  I should point out that we stayed in Beaulieu Sur Mer, a small town 10 minutes outside of Nice.  It was suggested to stay there in order to beat the peak season crowds in Nice.  I recommend doing the same if you plan to travel during the summer.  In fact, Nice is extremely crowded and frankly sort of annoying.  Old Nice is worth the stop, but stay away from the center of town.  Unless you are into the Disney on crack meets Vegas meets Times Square on the beach sort of thing.  Or you are 18 and don’t give a shit.  Then, stay in Nice.

Center of town.

Promenade Des Anglais.

Where was I? Oh yes.  The first night.  Yes, dropped our bags and headed out to the coast.  Luckily, we were only a five-minute walk to the sea.  Starving, we stopped into a bakery.  Sick of ham or cheese, we scooped up a chicken kabob sandwich , four Heinekens, a bottle of water, and darted down the hill to the water.  We stationed ourselves on the pebbled coastline, ate, drank, dipped, I went topless (yes ladies, free yourself… it is Europe after all) and swooned over the salted water and equally salty air.  We made it to the South!

Later that evening, after a shower and a rest, we headed out for dinner.  We drove up and down the coast and finally arrived at an Italian influenced restaurant near the hotel.  The Italian presence is felt in the South of France considering the borders of Italy and France are so close.  Many Italians vacation in the Cote D’Azur in the summer.  We dined over seafood pasta, tagliatelle in red sauce and escargot; a marriage of French and Italian cuisine.

We went to bed immediately following dinner, sun-kissed, sleepy, and eager for the next day of adventures.  That morning we awoke.  Sea like skies outside our window greeting us with the morning sun.  I woke first and headed to the restroom to prepare for the days events.  Little did I know, the day would not turn out quite as I expected.  Matt and I would not spend the morning on the beach or drive to a recommended lunch spot for pan bagnat.  We would not explore the cliffside and drive to the highest point in Nice nor visit the museum of contemporary art and admire Warhols or Lichtensteins.  We would not do anything all that day besides lay in bed, in and out of sleep, tag team the bathroom, and reluctantly head out to search for a pharmacy that was obviously closed since it was Sunday and this was France and nothing is open regularly here. Nothing.  Nevermind it was 95 degrees and our accommodations were anything but luxurious.  We were sick.  Really sick.  Thank you chicken kabob sandwhich that had been sitting out since god knows when at said bakery before said beach experience.  Thank you.  The only relief? Watching 21 Jump Street on the IPad.

By 6pm we were over the worst of it and braved the outside world.  We figured best to see the center of town and try to eat something light.  Suddenly becoming hungry for the first time all day, we craved sushi.  Luckily, we found Sushi Spot; a walk in sushi establishment selling fresh and delicious nigiri, sashimi, bowls and snacks for carry out and delivery only.  It was a relief.  A relief from being sick, a relief from the guilt of a wasted day, the relief of French food even.  We grabbed our dinner and headed for the promenade where we parked it on the strip.  The night sea behind us, crowds strewn in front of us, we ate quietly, together, laughing at ourselves sitting on a sidewalk, in France, eating sushi.  It was my favorite memory of Nice and very, very sexy…in a Matt&Jenna kind of way.

The next day we affirmed our need for one more day in the South since we lost our time in Nice.  We booked a room in Cannes by eliminating one night in Paris (where we would return for the end of our trip).  But Paris kinda sucks, remember?  Before heading west to Cannes, we traveled further East.  The best part about the Riviera is that each city is only 15-45 minutes away from each other.  It is possible to see each place during your stay from St. Tropez to to the Italian border.  We decided it was best to drive through Monaco and visit Menton for the afternoon. Monaco because of its lavish history, Menton because of its Italian influence and native limoncello.

Although we did not stop in Monaco, I can tell you it seems to be a distinguished and pristine place.  It is quiet, still, and very, very easy on the eyes.  Menton was similar in stature but more quaint and familiar in certain ways.  Either way, this is where we will stay in the South the next time we come.  Away from the crowds and plucked from the everyday holiday attractions, Menton and Monaco were one of  a kind.  Menton, the last city before reaching Italy, is unique in that it captures the French-Italian relationship subtly.  The center of town is marked by its chocolatiers, olive oil purveyors, soap shops, and limoncello experts.

Perfumerie inside one of the limoncello shops.

Pan bagnat translates to sopped bread in Enlish as the bread is dripping in an olive oil soaked tuna with radishes and sliced egg…see why we wanted one?

After lunch and window shopping and a quick jaunt on the sugary sand beaches of Menton, we headed back west towards Cannes.  It was at this point that the South headed…well, south.  I don’t know if we were overstimulated, exhausted or absorbed by the seduction of the riveria, but Cannes was a bit dissapointing…and frankly, just like Nice.  By the time we got to our hotel in Cannes, we were over  it.  My inner sexy had vanished. The gleaming sun was now too hot.  The ooh la-la had washed away as fast as the sand on our feet.   James Bond became Toby McGuire.  We were not cut out for this.  We did make it to the beach.  We did find our pan bagnat.  But after a mediocre dinner, we knew it was time to head out of the sun and into the rural hills of Burgundy.  As we made our way past the sea and back on to the expressway the following day, to-go coffee nestled in cup holder and hoping to be in Burgundy before 10pm, I drove for the first time in this whole trip while Matt slept soundly by my side.  Driving exceedingly fast, back through Provence, up through Lyon, I bumped Outkast and shamelessly sang my heart out to Adele.  From time to time I watched Matt’s head flop down and left or down and right, his mouth gaping open.  Ageless sexy, my friends.  And I would not have it any other way.

Part Four: Raining Stars in Provence

I have put off writing about Provence because I was not sure how to put my feelings about this place into words.  To all of my friends, I have described it as “magical” or “very special” but these words weaken the swelling that begins in my heart when I think of the time we spent here.  One shut of the eyes and I am instantly taken back to  cornfield blue skies, intoxicating clean air, and food and wine whose memory flutters butterflies inside my belly.  We also made new friends in Provence which only heightened our too brief time in one of the most blissful places on Earth.

Our journey to Provence began in a small town called Monteux, approximately 20 km from Avignon.  Tucked away between fields of lavender and dandelions, Monteux is nestled away among Provencal agriculture while neighboring Carpentras on the outskirts.  We chose a bed and breakfast for this leg of the trip and if you have ever had to make accommodations online in a different country you know the feeling of hoping and praying that you chose wisely once you arrive.  Mas Les Fleurs d’ Hilarie joyfully exceeded our expectations.

Refreshing. Relaxing. Pristine.

Upon arrival…

We arrived around 5pm from Lyon and decided to it was best to unpack, open a bottle of wine, dip into the pool and have dinner on the property therefore not leaving the grounds for the rest of the night.  It was a refreshing break from our time on the road.  When we agreed to dinner, neither of us knew what to expect but figured it was worth it not to have to open up another map or reconfigure the GPS for the night.  We were so glad we stayed.  What began as “sure why not” turned into one of our most memorable evenings of our trip.  Below are pictures of that dinner.

An apertif began the evening’s festivities. Here we sat in the garden before dinner and became better acquainted with Olivier and Hilarie, the B&B hosts, and Alexis and Valerie who traveled from Grenoble France on vacation with their children.

The beginning of the meal: Melon and tapenade salad with sausage bread pudding.

This is me after the first course. I remember feeling sincerely at peace and reflecting on how blessed Matt and I were to be here together. He happened to get that on camera.

What was a beautifully roasted pork with roasted peppers and frites.

Apple tart.

After dinner, we lingered at the table well into night fall and buzzed over a bottle of wine with our now new friends Alexis and Valerie.  As their kids went off to bed, we exchanged stories about work and travel while they shared their own journey of raising children and the joy of having a family to call your own.  Furthermore, it was quite difficult not to notice the glittering black sky above and not mention or admire the dusting of stars that encompassed the Provencal sky that night.  Alexis told us that in french, meteor shower is translated to raining stars and ever since then I have been enamored by the idea of a rainfall of stars.  This is the “magic”  I refer to when I speak about our time in Provence.  I tend to think, however, that a homemade meal in the company of good-hearted people always turns out this way.

On our second day, we enjoyed a typical Provencal breakfast outside in the garden.  Mason jars overflowing with jams made from the apricot tree behind us, baskets stuffed with croissants, glass jars of milk and juice, it was everything breakfast is supposed to be; warm, sweet, and plentiful.

After breakfast, Valerie and Alexis were kind enough to invite us along as they visited one of Provence’s most celebrated markets in Carpentras.  I was set on finding Provencal soaps.  Indeed we found some and many other goodies for ourselves and for family.  One of our favorite moments with Alexis and Valerie was at the market with their kids as they eagerly explored along with us and shared their knowledge on everything from soaps, to blankets, to cheese and even comic books.

We parted ways from our new friends and set off to Chateauneuf de Pape.  Located in the southern Rhone Valley, this region of France permits 13 varietals with Grenache being the prominent grape.  This is a red wine only territory and the wines tend to be earthy and powerful depicting deep red colors and reflecting flavors of jammy red fruits, vanilla, and spice.  The landscape is painted with vineyards upon vineyards and within the village you will find gothic buildings made of stone that resemble the region’s history while offering a quaintness that is unmatched anywhere else.

Driving towards Chateauneuf de Pape.

Wine tasting in one of the town’s many caves.

We arrived back at Les Chambres d’Hilarie for our last swim before heading into Avingnon for dinner that night.  Many places were closed due to the holiday season, but we found ourselves quite satisfied at an Italian restaurant, dining alfresco.  We also happened to come across a Brooklyn based coffee shop in Avingnon that sold Brooklyn based products including local beers and bagels!  They were closed, but it was fun to see Brooklyn represented in Provence!

Back at our bed and breakfast, we found Valerie and Alexis just wrapping up dinner.  They invited us once again to sit under the stars over a bottle of wine.  They also surprised us with a gift.  As we found out the day before, Alexis has a love for comic books and at the market in Carpentras he found a comic about first time parents.  It is a parody on parenting as it deals with ridiculous situations that first time parents would normally never have to deal with.  For example, on the cover of the book is a man and wife with their children offering them cocktails and pampering them with massages while broken glass and garbage are strewn about.  It is a very funny book and is right in line with our sense of humour.  Most importantly, Alexis and Valerie thought about us and waited an entire day to give us the book as a farewell gesture.  Inside they wrote:  “We wish you all the best in your new adventures…This is a survival parenting comic, hopefully you will find here a few useful tips…and learn french as well.  Thanks for visiting France.”  It was signed by them and their children.
Beyond Provence being the France I was looking for in Paris, it matching every postcard, every movie, every dream I ever had of this country, Provence also offered us the opportunity to breathe.  Matt and I reflected on how blessed we were to be on this journey together and dreamt of our family one day returning to Monteux.  Making new friends like Alexis and Valerie seemed to fit perfectly into that picture of friendship and family that Matt and I are still carving out for ourselves.  I believe that the stars were raining on us in Provence, and I only hope I can bring a little shine back to my own family when Matt and I begin our journey into parenthood.  For now, Provence will always be in our hearts, reflecting off of the stars in Chicago all the way back to Monteux and over to Grenoble, where we hope Alexis and Valerie and their kids are happy and peaceful, too.

Part Three: Lyon, City of Indulgence

If Paris is like New York City, then Lyon is France’s Chicago.  Situated between Paris and Marseille, Lyon meets somewhere in the middle between city and country…France’s Midwest, if you will.  It’s second largest city, Lyon maintains an urban vibe speckled with quaint streets that twist and turn throughout the city landscape.  Life slows down a bit in Lyon, wine bars crowd intimate alleys, I found people are generally friendlier, and the landscape glitters at night.  The real highlight, however, is the food.  Lyon is known to be France’s gastronomy headquarters housing some of France’s most renowned chefs.   Pork is number one from sausages to tripe, but one will also find an abundance of steak tartare, blood sausages, and snails that litter Lyon’s bouchons without being pretentious.  You come to Lyon to eat.  And eat we did.

Our first stop HAD to be Brasserie Georges.  We initially read about this brasserie in Slyvie Bigar’s article Frances Route 7: The Road to Paradise from Savuer magazine’s June edition.  After further investigation, we realized this place was not to be missed.  Making its debut in 1836, it is the oldest brasserie in Lyon and possibly one of the largest in Europe.  The menu is huge with dishes ranging from sausages and sauerkraut, to pates and mussels.  Interestingly enough, they have their own brewery on sight and make a variety of delicious beers that make any dish easy to wash down.  When we arrived, we instantly noticed bone marrow and table side steak tartare on the menu.  These are two of our favorites and we had not seen these anywhere else on our journey thus far.  We ordered them up with a side of frites as starters, assuming we would take our time and order more after.  The suit clad server graciously brought us our beers and we were ready to go!  As soon as the steak tartare arrived, my jaw weakened, my eyes grew big and I began to salivate.  This was no joke.  The server unveiled a silver tray which included one plate dolloped with mustard, chopped onion, relish, and parsley.  Next to it was another plate with a perfectly round, dense gathering of ice-cold raw beef topped with a single orange egg yolk.  He asked me “How hot?” as he began to elegantly fold and unfold the ingredients into the beef and yolk (on second thought, maybe that is what this blog should have been called?) dotting the dish with hot sauce as he went.  Next, arrived the bone marrow and toasts.  The size of these bones was insurmountable to anything I have ever seen in the states.  Glistening with salted fat, each bone inviting us to dive in as we spread each buttery dollop on our toasts and frites.  This was foodie heaven for Matt and I.  A pure indulgent moment that kept our mouths silent as we smiled with our eyes and met only to exchange plates halfway through the meal.  When it was all said and done, there wasn’t room for anything else.  When I asked the server if two people typically manage to finish both dishes and then move onto to a second course, he exclaimed “Mais oui!”.  I was stunned.  These portions were obscene.  We felt like gluttons, but gluttons in Lyon in the oldest brasserie in the city.  Gluttons indeed!

 

The next day we ventured to Parc de la Tete d’Or, France’s largest urban park. It was the perfect respite to cure us from the food coma we had ensued the night before.  Beyond its lush trees and grass, this park also includes a zoo with everything from giraffes to ostriches, a lake for paddle boating, fishing, and canoeing, bike rental for leisurely rides throughout the grounds, a charming rose garden, carousels, and snack bars.  Grab a blanket, a bottle of wine, take a nap if you will.  We could not help but be captivated by its whimsical energy.

Les Halles de Lyon is the mecca for everything foodie in France.  Although many cities in France have this type of indoor market, none compare to that of Lyon’s.  Located in the 2nd arrondissement, Les Halles de Lyon is where the city chef’s come to purchase and play.  For anyone that loves food, it is a breathtaking sight.  Our eyes moved wildly over the variety of products as we dipped into our pocketbooks for immediate gratifications and souvenirs alike.  Check out the pictures below for an inside look to this very famous and undeniably decadent market experience.

Along the river are many docked bars housed on old boats that fill the evening with music and laughter.  We read about La Passagere and how this bar was known for its more laid back vibe.  We had the most wonderful time here, meeting new friends Frederique and Franck who showed us just how friendly and down to earth the French can be.  Accompanied by picnickers and day dreamers on the lawn that stretches the length of the river, our night was joyfully interrupted by  a traveling brass band who mirrored the evenings energy perfectly.

Below are just a few more pictures of some of the beauty and charm that Lyon has to offer.  As Brasserie George’s motto is “Bonne bier et bonne chere” (Good beer and good cheer), Lyon was an entertaining and delightful way to leave city life as we headed for Provence.

Fourviere Cathedral at the top of Lyon offering incredible views of the city.

More enchanting streets.

Saucisson Salad. Traditional Lyonnaise salad.

Seafood pizza.

On to Provence we went…

 

 

 

Part Two: Paris. It Kinda Sucks?

I am keeping this post short.  Very short. Why?  Because Paris (and I feel silly saying this because I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit, and I mean that) kinda sucks.  I didn’t get it.  Where was the magic?  The glimmering lights? The quaint storefronts?  Gently washed cobblestone streets?  Oh yeah.  Paris is a big city.  I know big cities.  Grey.  Rushing crowds.  Tourist attractions.  The only thing setting Paris apart from New York City?  It’s undeniable history, the Eiffel Tower, and the fact that I can drink outside, wherever I went and whenever I wanted (thank God).  Everywhere I went, I felt rushed, slightly claustrophobic, and dismissed.  Do not be fooled by the quaint picture above.  There were some highlights.  I’ll speak about those in the pictures below.  In general, skip Paris.  If you want a big city in France, check out Lyon.

Post Eiffel Tower visit, Matt and I accidentally walked into this restaurant:

We later found out that La Fontaine De Mars is one of the oldest bistros in Paris.  Located in the 7th arrondissement, La Fontaine has been open since 1908.  We sat upstairs in a very small room, perfectly decorated in Victorian wallpaper, checkered tablecloths, brass lamps and polished silver.  I was tickled.  In addition, President Obama and his wife dined in the adjacent room on a visit to Paris a few years back.  There was a plaque.  A brass plaque, of course.  If it were not for the obnoxious American couple sitting next to us (small room, remember) we would have had the room to ourselves.  Regardless, we ordered typical french fare including grilled top loin steak in bernaise sauce with frites, game terrine with fig chutney (probably a mix of rabbit and duck), and vanilla flan to end.

On our second day in Paris, decided to make use of our kitchen in our stylish Parisian apartment and take to the markets like a local!  Here were some of our finds (caution drool warning commence).

I have zero idea what kind of cheese we bought. There are so many cheeses. Everywhere. I told the store owner I wanted something gooey. “Gooey?” the bewildered man asked in a very deep french accent. “Um, yeah. Gooey?” I said. “Like this”, I pointed to some cheese I saw, and then I proceeded to do the worst thing I could do in a cheese shop in France. I touched the cheese. I almost felt like the man was going to slap my wrist for doing such a childish thing. I profusely apologized. I bought this cheese.


One of my favorite, favorite, favorite places five minutes from our apartment, and another accidental find, was La Maison des Tartes.  This is a must if you are visiting Paris!  Located in the 5th arrondissement, The House of Tarts has a small menu that offers up a variety of savory and sweet tarts.  They also offer reasonably priced plates where you can try combinations of savory and sweet tarts alike, a drink often included.  The pictures will speak for themselves.

Sausage quiche.

Almond pear tart.

Chocolate banana tart.

It is no secret that the French pay attention to their food and the way it is grown.  Every outdoor and indoor market is full of voluptuous looking fruits and vegetables that will make the most stubborn carnivore want to bite into a head of lettuce or a crate of apricots.  I am pretty strict in the states about buying organic due to the insane practices that are allowed by the FDA including massive use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms.  I wondered how popular organic practices were in France.  I found this article which cleared it up: France Seeks to Cut Pesticide Use In Half.

We did other stuff in France other than eat.  Swear.

Notre Dame. Breathtaking.

Hopped around to sights via boat.

Day trip to Montmarte and the Dali Museum.

The Louvre.

I’ll end this with our excursion to Christian Constant’s Les Cocotte.  Michelin star chef Constant, who often recognizes his mother as his first formal teacher and long time inspiration, owns four restaurants on Rue Saint-Dominique in the 7th arrondissement.  The atmosphere and food alike are clean and contemporary, offering up the best and of what modern-day Paris has to offer.  The service, very friendly.  In fact, the whole experience made us feel like we were back home, dining at a new concept restaurant with the kind of American service we were used to… but we were in Paris and the food was delicate and poignant down to the last bite.  Many of the dishes are served in Staub cocottes; cast iron pots.  This was also the first time I saw ice bags.  I now know you can order them on Amazon, but brought a few home because they were so darn charming.  These are the pics from our most favorite Parisian meal:

Gazpacho

Chilled watermelon mint soup.

Veal and potato casserole with spiced red sauce.

Langoustine filled ravioli.

Ice bag!

Now that we are at the end, and I have reviewed the draft of the post with all of its delightful photos, I think it might be hard for any reader to understand why I think Paris kinda sucks.  I think it is my own fault.  I assumed Paris would be more like the France I had always imagined.  Little did I know, that the France imagined was actually waiting for me in Provence and Burgundy (more on that later).  Perhaps this is the Paris you imagine.  If so, I will leave you with a few tips on traveling in and out of Paris.

What Sucks: *And note I am not your average look up at the sky and roll out my fanny pack American traveler.  I am experienced.  And I am a city girl.  I get it.

1. Its crowded.  Everywhere.  Be prepared for that when you visit major sights.

2. The Louvre: It is difficult to enjoy or take in the art work that tells the world’s history while you are being poked and prodded by tour groups and flashed in the face by cameras.  It was a very strange experience for me.

3. Do not expect anyone to move out-of-the-way for you on the street.  In fact, expect to get bumped.  A lot.  And ladies, men do not get out-of-the-way for you or open doors.  I never thought American men had manners until I went to Paris.

4. You should greet everybody in France with “Bonjour” and you should figure out how to say “Do you speak English” in French before you go.  It makes a big difference.  It says “I am a tourist, but I respect that I am in a French-speaking country”.

5. There are no public bathrooms anywhere.  Plan to go when you are at a restaurant or cafe and only if you purchase something.  The only place to do your business for free is McDonald’s.  And since everyone knows this, the bathrooms at Paris McDonald’s are DISGUSTING.  Take it from a girl who has peed on the side of the road and in alleys (yes, it happened…happens)…anyway, effin gross.

What Doesn’t Suck:

1. You can walk around with an open bottle of wine or beer and plop down wherever you damn well please for a spontaneous rendezvous.

2. The boulangeries, patisseries, markets, and cheese stores are plentiful.  You can get good food anywhere at most times.

3. People watching is fun and can be done from most street corner cafes over espresso or  a pint of Kronenberg. (P.S. Beer is always offered in small and large sizes).

4.  Public transportation rocks.  From electronic boards giving you the time of your next train, to an easy to use mapping system, you can get anywhere in and around Paris easy peezy.

5.  You are in Paris, afterall.  And the chance to visit does not suck.  At all.

Alas, this post was not short.  In fact, it is quite long.  Maybe Paris and I need to get to know each other better?  Maybe.