A Merry Christmas Week in Paris

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Paris is always a good idea—Audrey Hepburn

 

When the opportunity arose for us to go to Paris to meet our son and his family during the Christmas week, it wasn’t too hard of a decision for us.  The only thing that was of any concern was how our toddler grandchildren would do on the plane and handle the time change.

Needless to say it did put a crimp in my picture-taking, as I am always lagging behind and my family gets tired of waiting on me.  The unapproving stares from my wife relates just as well in French as in English.  So there is NO attempting long exposures and I didn’t even pack a tripod.  Toddlers and their parents and their grandmother don’t understand the painstaking effort it takes to get just the right exposure in dim lighting.

Oh well, that is why they make high-speed settings on cameras.

I hope you enjoy these photos of the week in Paris.  You can see black and white photos in the previous blog.

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I loved the lights on Rue Cler in the 7th arrondissement.

 

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The famous Cafe de Flore on Boulevard Saint-Germain.

 

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Boulevard Saint-Germain

 

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Cool Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame.

 

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Ralph Lauren on Boulevard Saint Germain.

 

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I just want to say, some activities take precedent over photo taking, but I’m not bitter.

May the joy of Christmas be with you all year.

 

Paris en Noir et Blanc

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We’ll always have Paris—Rick Blaine from Casablanca

 

There is very little to read in this blog.  It will be like my favorite books…lots of pictures.

The sky was cloudy and overcast the entire week we were in Paris and Brunoy.  I thought that made for better black and white photos with a white sky.  I hope you like these.

 

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It took three years of discussion to approve the Eiffel Tower.  I wonder who thought this wasn’t a good idea.

 

 

Public Service Announcement for French Tourists

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Well, it’s a rainy night in Paris and I’m sitting by the Seine

It’s a pleasure to be soaking in the European rain.

Now my belly’s full of fancy food and wine

Oh, but in the morning there’ll be hell to pay

Somewhere along the line.—Billy Joel from “Somewhere Along the Line”

 

The above lyrics are from one of my favorite Billy Joel songs.

On our recent trip to Paris, I ate wonderful food.  So what could be the problem that would elicit a public service announcement from Big Surf Daddy?

Now we didn’t have any rainy nights in Paris and with three toddlers, we didn’t sit by the Seine.  We didn’t eat much fancy food, but we did have some good wine.  It’s the next line that matters…

If you aren’t accustomed to eating rich cheeses and breads in your diet, you may need to introduce them into your stay in France gently.  I ate as much bread and cheese as I could the first few days.  Well “Somewhere Along the Line” came pretty quickly.

I had to make a stop at the local pharmacie in Brunoy, where we were staying for the week.  You see, cheese has a binding property in your digestive tract…you get the gist of this problem.

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The local pharmacie had the answer.  I was eating cheese and bread the next day.

Enjoy the cheese and bread in France, just don’t cram it in like I did.  France has been making great breads and cheeses for centuries, so they will be there tomorrow.

 

Eating in Paris…Deuxième Partie (part two)

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How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?—Julia Child

 

I know Julia Child was NOT talking about France when she said this.

We recently spent a few days in Paris over the Christmas holiday with our immediate family.  We met up with my son, his wife and two year- old daughter.  My daughter-in-law is going to be a mother again in about three months.  So “bun in the oven” continues in the bread theme here.

We also traveled with my daughter and her husband and her two children, ages two and one.

So based on what you know for now, if you tuned in to an episode of fine French dining experiences on these pages, you may be disappointed. Parisienne dining “adventures” may be more apropos for our days in Paris.  Afterall if you want to have a fine dining triumph in Paris, sharing it with three toddlers is probably not the way to go.  However we did eat some really good food. Of course, it goes without saying that our breads, wines, and cheeses were good everywhere.

The photo above is a nice cafe decorated for the Christmas season.  We did not eat here.  Are you kidding?  Look at those lights on the tables, how long do you think those would last?  But alas, you can dream in Paris can’t you?

So let me give some advice to those who want to go to Paris with small children.  It’s good to research cafes and restaurants before you go, but be ready to chunk those plans and make decisions on the run, depending on the mood of one of the children.  So most of our restaurant choices depended on who could accommodate a double stroller and a single stroller and where would be the least likely place to start an international incident.

Our first meal was a late lunch in the Latin Quarter, Cafe St. Victor.  We were ready to eat and did not want to walk anymore and they met all of the above criteria for our group.  The bonus for us… the service was really good and the waitress was so good and patient, especially with teaching me how to eat escargot with meat hooks for hands.

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Cafe St. Victor, near Notre Dame in the Latin Quarter.

 

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We shared a good assorted cheese plate for starters.

 

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I loved the escargot even though the utensils were quite cumbersome for me.  My dissection skills were long forgotten from college biology. In the end our waitress brought me a toothpick and said this may be better.  Just dig them out.  She was such a good soul.

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Mrs. Big Surf, had one of her favorite dishes, French Onion soup.  I wonder if they just call it onion soup over there.   Anywho, she loved it.

 

Our next stop was a real treat for me. We found Odette on Rue Galande in the 5th arrondissement in the Latin Quarter.  We bought some of their famous choux a la cremes.  This was a very good decision for all involved.

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So we had to wash down these lovely cream puffs with some hot chocolate and we found it at Shakespeare and Company Cafe.

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The hot chocolate was really good but it wasn’t the best we had.  This cafe is across from Notre Dame, with a good view of the famous cathedral.

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This was the best hot chocolate and some say the best in Paris.  Angelina is a famous tea room and cafe with a history as rich as its hot chocolate.  Ask for the African hot chocolate and as an additional treat get some of their memorable Mont Blancs.

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These are the Mont Blancs.  6 Euros each.

 

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Angelina is across from the Louvre so there are lots of people in the area. There will be a long line outside, but if you want to get your hot chocolate and Mont Blancs to go, you can circumvent the line and go on in to the bakery. We made the mistake of standing in line for about 45 minutes before we figured it out.  You’re welcome.

For the best meal, I went against my general rule of dining in famous cities, don’t eat near popular tourist stops.  I try to go at least two blocks away, however there are always exceptions to the rules, again especially when the children are ready to get out of the strollers.

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Our most memorable meal in Paris for the week was Le General cafe.   The Arc de Triomphe could be seen from the outside tables.  We dined for lunch here before going to the aforementioned Arc.  We were so thrilled with this meal. We ate outside. The heaters were going and I even took my coat off, it was really pleasant to eat outside in December.

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You can see the Arc de Triomphe from La General.

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Mrs. Big Surf and I, and my daughter, ate this wonderful dish of scallops on a bed of risotto made with squid ink.  This was my first experience eating squid ink and I must say, this was the best dish I had all week.

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Since this was an early afternoon meal, my son and daughter-in-law has this good-looking and tasty dish.

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My son-in-law had the chicken fricassee with linguine.

 

Later we stopped into one of the many creperies in Paris.  I was not in the mood for a crepe so I had some good coffee.  Most of our group had a sweet crepe here and loved them, my wife ordered off the menu for a chicken crepe and she did not like it, but in the defense of the creperie it was not the chicken crepe on the menu. They had a spicy chicken crepe that she wasn’t in the mood for.  All-in-all a success … since the children liked it.

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After spending some time at the Eiffel Tower on our last night in Paris, we decided to walk over to Rue Cler for our last meal in Paris.  We found a small cafe called L’Eclair.

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We loved this cafe.  They were very accepting of our children even though it was fairly crowded.  We all had good food and a very enjoyable time here.

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My wife and most of our group had the classic French sandwich called a Crouque Monsieur, kind of a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.  Some of our group had a variation served with a fried egg on top called a Croque Madame.

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I had a flank steak with a sauce made from olives and capers.  So tasty.

 

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At L’Eclaire, we dined under the glow of this neon sign saying, NO BAD DAYS.

This seemed to sum up our time in Paris, there were no bad days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brunoy, France…A Charming Stay Outside Paris

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Je suis sous le charme…I am under the charm.

 

I fell under the charm of Brunoy (pronounced Broon-wah), a community southeast of Paris, France. It has a long history of residences and the town developed during the Gallo-Roman era.

We reunited with part of our family for Christmas and spent a week in this lovely, mainly residential burb, about a forty minute train ride outside of Paris. We rented a lovely house about a ten minute walk from the train station. We were six adults and three children ages two, two, and one.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking…

Immediately we fell in love with the house and the surrounding neighborhood.

Our walks into the town center and the train station were very pleasant (or as pleasant as could be with three toddlers). We ate a few meals in Brunoy restaurants and we took “take away” meals back to our house.  Mainly it was our haven from the busyness and a respite from our days spent in Paris.

My wife and I had been to Paris last year and you can read about that trip in previous blogs here. However, here in Brunoy, I had the pleasure of experiencing a French community with genuine hospitality and friendliness.  The shop owners and workers were so nice and I felt they went out of their way to help us when we needed it.

So if you have the opportunity to stay in Brunoy and visit Paris, I highly recommend it.  The prices in Brunoy are cheaper than Paris, the food is good, the people are friendly, and it is an easy train ride into the city center.  We caught the RER D and rode it to Gare de Lyon and made easy connections from there.  The only issue we encountered was two strollers and many stairs.  But we had six adults and on one occasion a very helpful Brunoyen to help out the ladies when the men left them after a very rare miscommunication.

The following are photos of this charming town.

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A street in Brunoy with Christmas lights.

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This is the front of our rental house from Airbnb.  It was an excellent place to stay.

 

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Saint-Medard cathedral. Parts of this building has remains from the 12th century.

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Sidewalk on Avenue du President Kennedy.

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A skating rink in place for Christmas in front of the city building in the town center.

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This was our favorite restaurant in Brunoy.

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Eating in Brunoy, France

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In a cookie cutter world, be a macaron…

 

If you are staying in Brunoy, France for any amount of time, don’t worry…you will find good quality food.

We stayed in this small community, outside of Paris for a week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  The only time we were limited was on New Year’s Eve.  Since it was on a Monday, a lot of the restaurants were closed as is customary in the Paris area.  However, all of the bakeries and cheese shops were open.

This writing is just about the eating in Brunoy.

Now we had three small children, ages two, two, and one.  As you can imagine, sometimes eating was a challenge and most of our meals were carry out, or as they say in Europe, “take away”.

So here we go…

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My first purchase was a baguette baked with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.  Good start to the day as we made our way to the train station to go into Paris.

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Our best meal in Brunoy was at La Rotisserie, a classic French restaurant.

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Our first course at La Rotisserie was a truffle-stuffed ravioli with a white sauce and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.  This could have been the meal.  It was so good and rich. However, there was more food to eat, as seen below.

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At La Rotisserie, I had a duck confit with green beans.  This was a really good dish but not my favorite of the night.

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My wife had the best tasting dish at La Rotisserie, duck breast with raspberry sauce.  This may have been the best thing I tasted all week.

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Our mornings usually started with someone doing the eight-minute walk into the town center and getting fresh breads, pastries, and cheeses.  All of these boulangeries (bakeries) and patisseries (pastry shops) make their breads and pastries fresh.

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Almond croissants, chocolate au pains, round loaf of bread, baguette, and a ham and cheese baked bread, all bought from the local shops.

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We had good Mediterranean food from Chez Dada.

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We took home Thai food from Chez Lin.  While waiting for our food, they brought us some assorted pickled vegetables of radishes, carrots, and cucumbers.  A nice touch.  I loved the shrimp in a red curry sauce.

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This was one of my favorite stops in Brunoy. Nice and friendly with tasty breads and pastries.

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We visited here often also.  We found some nice chocolate treats.

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I loved stopping in this cheese shop.  The people were so friendly. When I couldn’t find the restaurant where I was meeting my family, one of the employers walked me to the restaurant.

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When I had a chance for a little Big Surf Daddy time, I ducked in for a cafe au lait and a chocolate au pain at the Tabac across from the train station.  This appeared to be local gathering spot for the men of the town.  I also got some cigars here to smoke one night.

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We had excellent sushi from Okayama.

 

The following are just some of the displays in Brunoy.

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I don’t even know where this salmon slider came from but it was so good.

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A very good wine shop.

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We ordered take out from Restaurant Tajmahal.  We had butter chicken, rice, curry vegetables, stuffed bread, and lentils.  All were delicious.

On New Year’s Eve, the only restaurant we could find that was open was Lotus Bleu. It was a good find because it was so tasty.

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For New Year’s Eve, I stopped for some wine, bread, and cheese.

The macarons above are from Delices et Gourmandises in Brunoy.

As I said earlier, if you find yourself in Brunoy, France as we did, there is a really good selection of good food choices.  We had French, Mediterranean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Indian.  One night we also ordered pizza and guess what?…it was good, too.

This doesn’t even include what we ate in Paris.  That will be a later blog.  Right now I am trying to get my digestive tract to accept southern food from the USA.  Au revoir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomatoes and Flames…Mt. Sterling, KY

 

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You better cut the pizza into four pieces because I am not hungry enough to eat six—Yogi Berra

 

I love pizza.

I know many of the few who read this blog will say the same thing.

Lately the lovely missus and I have been trying to make good pizzas at home.  So inevitably we go out to find good pizzas.  Not that we are totally incompetent in the kitchen, we just haven’t gotten the final result we want just yet. The only way I can get the pizza dough to cook at 800 degrees is to stick it in a pile of burning leaves and that just leaves it a little too smokey.

So we decided to go to the old country to find good pizza.

Now for us the “old country” turns out to be Mt. Sterling, KY. This picturesque small city was established in 1792 and if you know your Kentucky history, you will remember that this was the same year Kentucky became a state.  Mt. Sterling is one of the oldest towns in Kentucky.

A friend of mine told me about the pizza he and his wife had eaten at Tomatoes and Flames in Mt. Sterling.  Since I valued his opinion very much, we decided the hour drive would be worth it for good pizza.

 Tomatoes and Flames  is in a small intimate setting in an old building with bright yellow paint.  Most of downtown Mt. Sterling buildings are old, or historic if you prefer that term.  Just like the “old country”.

We had the Pizza Margherita.  We loved our pizza.  The Margherita pizza is simple in its ingredients and complex in its flavor.  It is so good when done right.  Let me tell you, this was done right.  It looked like the same thing we ate in Rome and it’s taste was the closest to the pizza in Italy we have had anywhere in the US.

The dough was wonderfully thin and crusty and the sauce was so good.  So simple, yet so remarkably delicious.

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The Pizza Margherita is a classic Neopolitan pizza and prepared to perfection at Tomatoes and Flames.

The bonus was being able to eat Crank and Boom ice cream that was sold in the restaurant…the icing on the pizza.

Pizza Margherita has a history that dates back to 1889 when King Umberto I and his Queen Margherita of Savoy visited Naples shortly after the unification and formation of Italy.  Legend has it they were tired of hoity-toity French cuisine and asked the most famous pizza maker for some common street food.  He provided a pizza made from tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves, which just happened to be the colors of the newly formed Italian flag (red, white and green).

The alternative theory is it was named after the Italian word for “daisy” which is margherita.  Evidently the shape of the pizza with the toppings resembled a daisy.  I’m going with the first theory.  That is what was told to us in Rome when we had our first Margherita pizza.

I am so thankful that we can get old world pizza within an hour drive at Tomatoes and Flames.

Mt. Sterling’s downtown is very picturesque and I enjoyed strolling through the streets.

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The brick oven at Tomatoes and Flames.

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You order at the counter.

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Cool door with windows.

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We never pass up Crank and Boom ice cream.

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I had a wonderful chocolate latte here at Spoonful of Sugar.

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