Taming the Beast from the East (updated 2/3/18)

DSC04163Cold front blowing in from Siberia, the French call it “Moscou-Paris”, all the better to feed ourselves with…

Before continuing this post, I just need to say how grateful I am to have a roof over my head and food on the table in front of me. I want to thank our city officials for their huge efforts to shelter the homeless. The cold sunny days made me feel intensely alive and also deeply worried for the people and creatures endangered by it. For many years now our family has been contributing warm clothing, sleeping bags, linens, and toiletries whenever possible through various charities, but it seems like a micro-drop in a bucket the size of an ocean. I generally post upbeat photos and information as a way to lift my spirits in the face of all this, not because I don’t know there is great suffering everywhere…

So, recently I was lucky to be invited to sample some of the best restaurants in my area of Paris, lovingly chosen among the Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmet selection for the arrondissements near me (X, XIX):


All of them share a commitment to ultra fresh farm to table ingredients in creative combinations, natural wines, original, low key decor and inspiring websites.

At the top of my list of recommendations:

Mensae, http://www.mensae-restaurant.com 23 Rue Mélingue 75019 Paris (be sure to reserve)

Remoulade of crab, rice chips, lobster shell powder (pictured above)

Wild Pollack confit and grilled, broccoli, and brussels sprouts in haddock mousseDSC04164 Wine: Sople e Joios, Mas de l’Escarida, Rhone

Followed by dessert: White chocolate and citrus sundae, clementine sorbet, fresh mint leaves and strawberry accents DSC04165 (Yes, I need a new phone/camera…)

Next on the list, Fraiche, 8 rue Vicq d’Azir, 75010 Paris http://www.fraicheparis.fr/photos/ See my previous post from July 8 2017 🙂

Marinated salmon with its beet “declination”DSC04168

Scallops, sweet potato chips and Iberian chorizo sausageDSC04169And instead of dessert, roasted St Marcellin cheese with herb sauce and apple confitDSC04171Served with Domaine Servin Chablis

Last but not least, Les Résistants, 16 rue du Chateau d’Eau, 75010, Paris. For lush photographs and mouth watering travelog, see http://www.lesresistants.fr


Smoked Lake Leman Fera with polenta, lemon, lamb’s lettuce, Atlanta leaks and fromage blanc

Wild pollack with heirloom root vegetables

Winter clementines, Conference pears, Corsican lemon sorbet, nut streusel, custard and fromage blanc

All on vintage dinnerware with an excellent Bourgogne Aligoté and an unforgettable organic Sauvignon from http://www.vinibee.com/nos-vins-naturels/la-pente-de-chavigny/

We are blessed

xxxxx Aliss


A Tale of Two Christmases (updated 12/26/17)

IMG_0927Rockefeller Center, of course 🙂

As Josephine Baker said, “J’ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris” (“I have two loves, my country and Paris”) That’s totally me! Both Christmas styles are genius, if very different…

It’s taken longer than I expected to synthesize my pictures and thoughts, due to jetlag and holiday socializing, but, here goes..

I had to go to the Washington D.C. area in early December for a family funeral in Arlington. It was very solemn but heart-warming, bringing family together to commemorate a life well lived.DSC03934a

It was amazing to return to the area where I grew up and then take the Amtrak train north from Union Station, like when I was in college.


Seeing NYC from afar over northern NJ  marshes reminded me of the first time I saw it rising on the horizon like the Emerald City when I was a teenager.


This time I was on my way to see beloved younger family members who are building careers in the theater and IT worlds. Not having been in NYC at Christmas time for several years, I had to make every moment count: a long taxi ride Uptown from Penn station with a very chatty cabdriver:  DSC03945

A walk across Central park for an afternoon at the Met:


Midtown Christmas windows:


Rockefeller Center:


Bryant Park Winter village:


Visiting in Washington Heights (near GW bridge) and Queens:


Theater outings (The New School, The Public, Japan Society):


Thai “smashed” ice cream on MacDougall Street:


Shopping and pilgrimage to the Stonewall Inn in the Village:


A gorgeous fluffy snow storm:


Singing along with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” at the top of our lungs with the crowd at a cool tequila and mezcal bar called The Ghost Donkey downtown, then Uber home on the FDR:DSC03983.JPGhttps://www.atabula.com/2017/10/31/images-panorama-de-11-buches-de-chefs-patissiers-stars/

Hours on steep subway stairways and deafening dirty platforms enlivened with occasional mozaics: DSC03954

Pounding the broken pavement between stations with a capella groups singing on street corners:DSC03978.jpg

And before I can blink, time to fly back to Paris: DSC03998

First adjustment: Paris is much farther north, so it gets darker earlier here and even a bright day is muted compared to NYC. Also Christmas lights seem to be more of a public than a private thing here. The shopkeeper in charge of ordering the display over our street has retired and no one has taken over. Local cafés, bakeries, chocolate and cheese stores did their best to cheer things up:


Our own little family invested in a very tall tree for indoors and a floor-to-roof outdoor string of LEDs for our balcony:


Driving around the city, I noticed posher neighborhoods all lit up with specially designed garlands, welcoming visitors and shoppers, but there’s less self-expression by private individuals here. It seems to be catching on slowly and the occasional bright balcony takes your breath away. A welcome relief: hopping on public transportation to shop is a breeze in Paris, quiet, clean and easy to navigate:


But another adjustment: most of the good Christmas playlists are in English. Maybe because everything in France is still less commercial, holiday music is mainly religious with a few notable exceptions, including francophone Canadian, African and West Indian imports.

For me, the epitome of French Christmas spirit is the Bûche de Noël or Yule Log cake, a form of edible folk art reaching new levels of refinement every year. Star pastry chefs are now vying to create more extravagant versions in every shape and color, from electric guitars to Santa hats to playing cards, at astronomical prices.


The less expensive ones in our humble local establishments are good enough for me: rolls of sponge cake and butter cream icing or slabs of mousse and ice cream with fruit glazes and every possible variation of tiny plastic forest scenes, wrapped gifts, Santas and snowmen.


Of course Paris is the uncontested world capital of food and can’t be beat for the availability of fresh ingredients for home cooking along with gourmet restaurants at affordable prices. Chef Philou’s foie gras and smoked salmon:Philou_boutiquehttp://www.facebook.com/Philourestaurant/

Lunch at Yam Tcha, Michelin-starred Franco-Chinese fusion:



And on the 24th, our French relatives hosted a traditional Christmas Eve dinner for 18 of us with almost that many nationalities represented around the table:DSC04041

In former days, everyone would have attended midnight mass. Now we open presents at about that time and stagger home in the wee hours to recover.

Our American background calls for stocking presents the morning of the 25th, then another round of gifts in front of a virtual fire, under the watchful eyes of our kitty, who got a new scratching box with catnip and lots of her favorite–ham:


This was followed by a late afternoon skype with the US family in their sparkling White Christmas landscape, whereas ours was dreary and Wet. They were spending the day in the kitchen, we were still full so didn’t have to…

So… New York definitely wins the contest in terms of music, personalized lights, and great music. Paris wins in terms of deliciousness, cozy internationalness, and human-friendly transportation. New York has the big tree at 30 Rock (see above) but Paris has the world’s biggest artificial tree, the Eiffel TowerDSC01934

… Feeling privileged to spend time with loved ones in both places and enjoy both atmospheres…

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël! On to 2018! xxxxx Aliss


Rockin’ the Cuisine Scene: Canal St M

In a tangle of streets fanning out along the Canal Saint Martin, Paris X, hidden gems await…THE spot of the moment, worth locating on unglamorous rue Vicq d’Azir near Metro Colonel Fabien, Fraîche, highly rated for top quality ingredients, creativity and fine service:  http://www.fraicheparis.fr (See website for prices)

DSC03602Above left: Seabream ceviche in sweet and sour marinade with taragon and piquillo peppers, sculpted radish, cucumber, herbs, and crisp. Right: Patience du moment hors’ d oeuvre, bowl of prawns in piquant herb salsa, spicy avocado dip, Asian cabbage, toasted bread from Liberté artisanal bakery and pâtisserie: http://libertepatisserieboulangerie.comDSC03601Catch of the day sea bass with artichokes in poivrade sauce, sea asparagus, aged mimolette accents and several other delicious secret ingredients.DSC03600Lemony madeleines to enjoy while we pay the bill (couldn’t resist mine)… And of course house-selected chilled rosé….DSC03604 (1)Gender-equal kitchen with a female and a male chef: Tiffany Depardieu (Top Chef Season 2) and Michel Boivin. An attentive maitre ‘d watches over your table. Family and couple-friendly.DSC03603 Venturing down the hill to your left, more possibilities for summer evenings:DSC03619Above, Le verre taquin, a highly-rated beer and wine bar: http://www.facebook.com/leverretaquinDSC03620La Baraque A tea room and coffee shop: http://www.facebook.com/La-Baraque-A-828761103855850/ praised online for delicious brunches and karaoke…DSC03621And La Fontaine de Belleville for tasty and reasonable café food: http://lefooding.com/en/restaurants/restaurant-la-fontaine-de-belleville-paris

Nourishment for thought (in French): an article about 40 female chefs rockin’ the cuisine scene in Paris, lots of addresses to try:


And courtesy of my favorite travel writer and style curator, Sylvia Sabes http://m.facebook.com/LoveOnlyNParis/ ten eateries open during the annual Parisian summer closings:


Enjoy! xxxxx Aliss


Taste Paris!


If you’re within traveling distance, don’t miss this event near the Champs Élysées, in the Grand Palais, a vestige of the World’s Fair of 1900, itself worth the trip!

Taste of Paris Ticket Info

Some of the delicacies and the people who create them:

DSC03503At the Ferrandi Culinary Academy stand: Onion stuffed with onion, crouton, sorrel and matured mimolette cheese + Mousseline goose egg, shredded goose neck, grilled corn and herbs from chef Amandine Chaignot (turning her back to her photo at left):


Chef Yoshitaka Takayanagi of Agapé:DSC03504

White asparagus, organic egg yolk confit (like a very subtle pineapple hollandaise sauce!), bottarga and flowers + Smoked red tuna tataki, beetroot medley, condiments and flowers:DSC03505

From Chef Philippe Labbé at the Tour d’Argent (vying to restore their two-star rank):DSC03508

Challans duck sausage by Liliane Burgaud, cabbage stuffed with duck, crumble, fresh dill, caraway seeds, home made ketchup:DSC03507

Star chef Thierry Marx posing with fans, in person he looks like Bruce Willis 🙂DSC03510

His Confit veal shank, macaroni au gratin and truffle emulsion + Heirloom tomatoes, strawberry, mozzarella di bufala, vanilla oil…DSC03512

Pastry star Christophe Adam’s creations at l’Éclair de Génie:DSC03515

Éclairs caramel noisette: caramel cream, hazelnut praline, wafer and caramel icing:DSC03514

But we chose his Vanilla pecan éclair sandwich with vanilla ganache, caramelized pecan praline, and milk chocolate:DSC03516

After sampling white wines (Chateau Le Grand Verdus, Expression 2015, and Domaine de Pouilly Clos de la Condemine 2016) and a red (South African Marianne Wine Estate, Okoma 2015), we sipped arabica expresso coffee by Illy and shared a glass of Laurent Perrier Ultra Brut Champagne…DSC03517

My advice: get there early, 11 or so, before the crowds, before the heat, if it’s sunny… Otherwise, tables in the shade around the perimeter. Keep your first set of plastic cutlery and goblet so you don’t wind up tossing dozens of utensils 🙂 There’s good live music:DSC03519

Also cooking classes, meetings with chefs and book signings, displays of organic vegetables, cheeses, wines, honey, coffee, tea, jams, mustards…improvised sing-alongs and choreography to Yanick’s danse hit “Cette soirée-là” led by the young team at Nubé:DSC03509

Don’t miss À la recherche des femmes chefs documentary film by Vérane Frédiani, coming out on July 5th Female Chefs

Thank you my dear Nicola Manwaring for sharing this with us!

To be continued! xxxxxx Aliss


Upstate of Mind (2)

With Paris as my prism, visiting small towns a couple of hours north of Manhattan…

Lucky to catch a beautiful show near the Rondout waterfront at the Art Society of Kingston by Mary Anne Erickson, co-creator of local food temple Bistro-to-Go, artist and neon designer among her many talents. A recent trip to India inspired photographic prints on silk, suspended on rods and transparent lines from high ceilings in a softly lit space. Here she is in a frock made from one of her photographs on fabric:DSC02832

Some of my favorites:



Mary Anne’s intro:DSC02835

To purchase the catalog and see more of Mary Anne’s work, including her paintings of America’s disappearing roadside folk art and the neon sign she designed for her Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go:


For the restaurant:


To be continued  xxxxx Aliss


Moments of Heaven


Palais Royal arcades, summer walk

So much hell in the world, I cherish every moment of heaven on earth. Sublime dinner at Versance restaurant on rue Feydeau near the Bourse Stock Exchange.DSC02795

Emblem: fresh frond on the tablecloth under the plate.

Mise en bouche (tiny hors d’oeuvre): Crème de pois chiche et tomate, piment d’espelette (mini glass of cream of tomato and chick pea soup seasoned with Espelette pepper from south west France).

Starter: Effeuillé de sésame aux langoustines et asperges, mizuna au jus de crustacés et crème fermière au yuzu. (Still trying to find a translation for this dish that transforms the Franco-Japanese ingredients into erotic poetry about bared sesame crisps, seafood and vegetables)… I was so taken aback, I forgot to take a picture.

Main dish: Pavé de caballaud confit dans son beurre aux épices et duo carotte: mousseline de carotte à l’orange en crumble café. (My photo doesn’t do it justice, and translation would kill it, but let’s just say it’s lightly caramelized cod, in Asian-influenced spicy butter sauce amidst a sculpture of colorful fresh garden veggies, with a hint of coffee in sprinkled croutons…)

DSC02796 Wine: Saint Veran Domaine Paradis, 2014

Instead of dessert, a selection of assorted cheeses, from Monsieur Chevinet.

Mignardises (hand made chocolates). Expresso. www.leversance.fr

DSC02798Romantic stroll under the arcades  of 17th century Palais Royal Garden, built for Cardinal Richelieu, inhabited by Louis XIV and later French author Colette…. Que demande le peuple?

to be continued…xxxx Aliss


Lunch Anyone? (updated 16/07/17)

Le Cap Pont Marie,  restaurant on the Seine just across from the Île Saint Louis…DSC02720

Lunch break during the Paris Writers’ Retreat with Wendy Rohm… Even nicer now that traffic has been barred along the embankment.


Enjoy!  xxxxx Aliss