Sunday, March 22, 2015

A quiet dinner

Last night I joined a friend at a new-to-me Paris restaurant, Clover. ( It’s a recently opened, well reviewed,  informal place created by a well known chef.  The kind where you have to plan in advance to reserve and still are told you can come at 7:30 or at 9:30 pm.  Always a full house.

Given that this is a tiny spot, full house means about 20 people.  It’s a long rectangular room with seating on one side, with an open kitchen taking up about quarter of the space.  With three servers, four in the kitchen and 18 guests the space was full but didn’t feel cramped.

Part way through the meal I realized it was quiet enough to easily converse with my friend across the table.  Quiet I thought even though, as I looked around everyone seemed to be engaged in conversation.  Even the people sitting next to us were talking but  unless we were silent and strained to hear them,  their conversation didn’t interrupt ours.

For someone from Los Angeles this was noteworthy.  Fabulous actually.  Accustomed as I am to restaurants so noisy that you’d best only go with one person so you can shout across the table and hope to be heard – it was a happy surprise.    

It reminded me once again that one of the reasons I love Paris is the quiet.  In a restaurant.  On the metro.  On the street.  Conversations take place only between the parties involved.  Seldom is someone shouting into a mobile phone and certainly not at dinner sitting next to you. 

And how was the food you ask?  Delicious.  As lovely as the murmur of conversations up and down the room.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Starting the Day

Throughout our lives, from the time we are young children, we are told, and “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”   “Be sure to eat a good breakfast every day.”  But what is a good breakfast?

Bacon and eggs?  Coffee and a croissant?  Cheese, ham and bread?  Porridge and pickled vegetables?

A recent article by InterNations, ( a community for expats around the world published an article on just this topic.  Titled “Forget Bacon:  Breakfast Abroad”

 The writer pointed out what many of us know well – that for the first meal of the day we often prefer something familiar.  It’s not the time we’re most eager to explore the local cuisine in a new place. 

If coffee is our drink we hope to find it in a familiar form.  Even though you might find interesting local coffee in Turkey, Ethiopia or Mexico (with a bit o cinnamon) often North American travelers turn to Starbuck’s, if ones available, for that familiar taste.

As I’m about to head to a trip that will take me to Paris, Florence, Rome and London my thoughts about food are more focused on dinner than breakfast.  But I will share that in Paris I love crepes for breakfast and that I am most looking forward to starting each day in Rome with the crusty, air filled rolls I can only find in there.

Sometime its’ good to explore a little even to start the day.  Are you a strict traditionalist or an explorer first thing in the morning?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

What's for dinner?

Where will we/should we eat?  Is often a serious question raised by travelers whether the trip is for business or pleasure.  What’s the most famous local food and am I likely to enjoy?  What’s the ‘hot” restaurant?  

Traveler writers tell us that to get the local feel of a place we should eat where the locals eat.   Which locals?  The cab driver that takes you from the airport to hotel or the concierge at your hotel?  Everyone has an opinion, a recommendation.  Check the websites, read the magazines, talk to friends and you’ll have more places to go than you have nights in a city.

But when the trip is business - hectic, meeting filled business,  sometimes the only meal you want is the one delivered to you by room service.  And when that’s the answer what do we eat?  And does our choice have anything to do with where we are? 

Sara Rose, a writer for the Wall St. Journal explored that question.  To do that she interviewed a vice president of food and beverage for the Four Seasons Hotel chain.  (According to the articles they have 95 hotels in 39 countries).  What today’s traveler wants he said is “comfort food”.  How that’s defined differs from place to place.  Burgers (Silicon Valley), Club Sandwiches (Beirut) and Hainanese Chicken Rice (Hangzhou) are top sellers in their locations.

What would your choice be?