A hot night out

Mr French’s daughter was born in July, so we often celebrate her birthday here in Hossegor. The restaurants in town are fantastic, but a couple of years ago we were looking for something particularly special to celebrate her 30th birthday. Lucky for us, that very same year the Michelin starred chef, Coussu, from the Relais de la Poste in nearby Magesqc (that is not a typo, just a town with an oddly written name), was invited to open a restaurant in Hossegor.

It seemed like the perfect place to celebrate. The restaurant is in a beautiful, eco-friendly, contemporary building of raw wood and canvas on the dunes over looking the beach. The westerly walls are sliding glass and there is a large, protected terrasse bordered with wild grasses that add a sweet perfume to the typical restaurant aromas.

Coussu is famous for what he does with foie gras, but here it is all about seafood and vegetables. There were flowers in our food, with clovers decorating our plates. A crab entrée (“starter” for anglophones) was a play on sensations, with a bit of crab infused ice floating over the warm meat and a bit of room temperature crab coral cream. Other dishes played with textures; rough, crispy, crunchy falafel bits adding a delightful hit to a fish dish.

This is one of the few, perhaps the only, fine dining experience I’ve ever enjoyed with a show, because as we were served one stunning dish after another the sun began to set. The colors were stupendous and even blasé Parisiens were standing up with their cameras to take pictures of the sensation spectacle.

Then the desserts came out and at that very moment J’s friend, who had her back to the kitchen, started waving her hands wildly in excitement. Her arms flung back, hitting the waiter and his precious cargo. A few plates went flying, the flambéd desserts with them and in an instant our table was on fire. Everyone’s attention was on putting out the flames when I started to feel a bit warm derrière. My seat was on fire, and my skirt too…

Astonishingly, the waiter scampered off, never to been seen or heard from again. We were too drunk on the happiness of the moment to care, a flamboyant end to a truly brilliant evening.

What the chef has to say; “Born in the terroir of Les Landes, cradled between land and sea, I wanted this “place”, a unique setting to serve an incomparable cuisine to the perpetual chatter of the sea”

Setting sail

Mr French and I head to the beach every summer. I find it rather odd and sometimes constraining to return to the same spot year after year, but this seems to be a French tradition, and to be honest, after a very difficult year, I am quite relieved to be heading to a place where I don’t have to think. No planning, no guide books, no angst over where to dine, or hoping to see it all. Been there, done that, if not this year, we’ll be back. We both feel like we’re headed into a safe harbour after a year spent in stormy seas. But we’re not there, yet, we’re still in Paris, slightly on edge as we wait for Mr French’s passport.

Last night we needed to feel like we were away already, somewhere near the sea, so we headed to La Compagnie de Bretagne, a new-ish crêperie overseen my the Michelin starred chef Olivier Roellinger. At first, I was not a big fan of these new wave, gourmet crêpes, being the traditional girl that I am. But at some point I had to have to get over myself and admit that there are enough meals in a lifetime to enjoy the most excellent, traditional crêpes from my beloved Ty Breizh AND for the scrumptus new fangled ones from LCDB.

I love the ambiance here, especially the sunbeams pouring down from the skylight and the zen of an entirely black and white decor. It feels intimidatingly luxurious, but the prices are reassuringly welcoming.

Tonight I had a galette with grilled sardines and preserved lemons on a bed of steamed spinach. Absolute perfect for my palette and my waistline. My French had some squid with a divine safran cream sauce. Miam! For dessert there was an apricot clafoutis crêpe and the much more traditional caramel au beurre salé, both worth their weight in calories. And the cidres selection is rather impressive, with a serious cellar featuring artisanal bottles for every palette.

Usually you can go into the basement and visit M Roellinger’s cellars in their elegant, glass enclosed clay vaults. there restrooms are down there and they have an area for private events, but all that was inaccessible they day we showed up… there had been an incident involving fire and the basement was closed for the evening. Its seemed we weren’t the only ones needing a holiday!

We sailed home and crawled into bed, feeling like we were already by the sea.

La Compagnie de Bretagne / 9 Rue de l’École de Médecine, 6e / 0143293900 /         (M) Odeon

For something more traditional; Ty Breizh / 52 boulevard Vaugirard, 15e /                          01 43 20 83 72‎ / (M) Montparnasse-Bienvenue

Bonne fête, Maman

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in France. In the US it is known as a Hallmark holiday, pushed into popularity by marketing campaigns hoping to sell more cards and silly gifts. But, it turns out that Europeans have been honoring mothers since the citizens of ancient Greece would get together, celebrating Rhea, Zeus’ mom.

In the 15th century the British named it Mothering Sunday, tying it into the Lent calendar, but it was only in 1908 that the US established the holiday and it started being adopted across the globe in its modern format.In France, it is the last Sunday in May, UNLESS the last Sunday happens to be Pentacost, in which case the Minister of Health, who is responsible for this holiday, moves it to the first Sunday in June (laïc government?).








I try not to buy into all those Hallmark holidays. Mr French and I don’t even have an anniversary and my children are the ones who remind me that my birthday is coming. On the other hand, it is great to be spoiled for a day. And this year I got TWO Mother’s Days, so I was really spoiled rotten.

The first was in NYC last month when my daughters sent me their wishes and some funny emails. After living in France for most of my motherhood I was surprised by what a public holiday it is in the US. Total strangers were wishing me a HMD. The grandmother in the hotel elevator, the busboy at our local café. I felt like a character in a Dr Seuss book, “No, I am not your mother.” I know that the sentiment is kind, but I can’t help sympathizing for all those women who never wanted to be moms, or those who desperately want to be moms, but can’t.

My second Mother’s Day was back home in Paris. Mr French spent the weekend spoiling his own mother, so I had my girls to myself. E joined me for a standard café breakfast, which I hadn’t done in ages, and which I loved. Then M came home 20 minutes late. She was late because she’d been standing in line for 1/2 an hour waiting for a gorgeous strawberry/raspberry tart for her maman. She walked in the door with the cake and a sumptuous bouquet of pink roses.

At lunch M and I had some of my favorite Vietnamese food from Mai Do, just downstairs and we ran into her BFF celebrating with her Mom, so it was a party. Finally, the girls gut me a funny, comic book style card all the way from London, then they took me out to one of the very few Chinese restaurants I can eat at in the city. Most places use so much MSG that I end up with an incapacitating migraine for the next 36 hours, so Chinese has become a treat that I rarely indulge in.

Lao Tseu - chinese chic

One of the ticks I have adopted as a Mom is that I simply LOVE when someone else picks what we’ll be eating for a meal. It is such a relief! If somebody doesn’t like it, I am not responsible. As a result, I particularly loved that they chose and organized Sunday night dinner. Coming home to a clean kitchen wasn’t half bad, either!

Merci les filles !



A table

I was going to stop talking about dating Frenchmen after explaining the choreography of getting through the door on the first date. But last week, Mr French and I went out for a lovely meal and I was reminded that the dance continues while you’re at the table.

Okay, you’re sitting down, so it is not really a dance, but there is a routine. And you may, or may not want to follow this routine, that is totally up to you and your personal style, but like any skilled rancher, it is best to know the lay of the land before you start wrangling cattle (really bad analogie, but I’m having fun with it).

I realize that the year is 2012, not 1962, but if you are out for an evening with a traditional guy, you should not be surprised if he expects to place your order. Or not. At first, I thought that this was just happening because I am old and dating older guys and assumed that guys in their 20’s and 30’s do not do the same. I was informed otherwise by girls who would know. And because the French tend to love to confuse us (masculine and feminine nouns… ‘nuf said) your date may place your order one evening and expect you to order for yourself the next.

How’s a girl to know? If he asks you what you’re ordering before the waiter arrives, you can guess that he may order for you. Of course, he could just be asking out of sheer politeness and perhaps he is genuinely curious, or looking for a bit of inspiration for his own meal. You can’t be sure. Fortunately, the waiter will generally speak to Monsieur first, so your date will order for himself, and perhaps even for you and you’ll mercifully hear the order, which is your cue to order. Or not.

That bullet dodged, here comes one of those quirks of French etiquette that I have not yet learned to appreciate; a lady never pours for herself. Neither water, no wine. It is expected that she sit there and wait to be served. Love the concept. But in practice, I tend to get very thirsty, particularly at meals and I like to drink A LOT.  At dinner parties I find myself pleaing like Oliver, “Please sir, may I have some more?” Its only water I crave, yet I feel like an incorrigible lush after about the fifth or sixth request. On a date, this can be particularly bothersome. He may be gazing lovingly into your eyes, completely enraptured in the moment when you have to break the mood requesting that he serve you a drop to drink, feeling like a mother reprimanding her negligent son to clean his room. I have yet to find an romantic solution, but I was recently advised that holding up one’s empty water glass and shaking it works for women who have been married a very long time, so perhaps this would work on a date. I have me doubts….

Back to our dinner at Les Garçons. Les Garçons is a local café. Fun and easy with an impressively young crowd for our quartier. We were there for a casual Friday date and were enjoying the ambiance, food and wine immensely. Les Garçons serves traditional bistro fare with a decidedly international, modern twist. The have a burger of the day, with special sauces from across the globe and creative entrées that really follow the seasons. Like any true bistro, the menu tends to rely heavily on the meats. When it is quiet, the chef comes out of his kitchen to chat. He is very proud of his cuisine and it shows in the quality on your plate. We were having a lovely evening and Mr French was being particularly attentive. Which meant, he kept filling my glass. And filling it, and filling it… by the end of the evening I was hiccup-drunk!

If things are going well on a date, you may also let down your guard as he generously serves you glass after glass and before you know it, you’re dancing on the table tops and a complete stranger is sipping champagne from your mercifully new high heels. This is probably not a good idea in the beginning. I had to learn to sip delicately and keep careful tabs on the bar tab, oh, and I’d wear fabulous shoes, just in case things went too far and they ran out of champagne flûtes.

Les Garçons

Eating New York

Tipsy cocktailsI’ve been feeling like Godzilla lately, but looking more like the Incredible Hulk as my clothing strains and tears from the incredible pressure that is the result of inhumanly rapid growth.

“Did you have a bagel?” sighed my New Yorker expat friend longingly.

“Did you have a slice?” asked the Chief Parisienne eagerly.

“How were the street vendor dogs?” inquired my teens.

I didn’t try any of it. Unintentionally and completely unwittingly, this trip was all about cocktails and crustaceans. Merde! My nose just grew an inch. That was a lie. The cocktail part was absolutely intentional and completely planned. I didn’t look into restaurants before our trip, I researched bars. Food optional. But the seafood part was not planned, I swear!

When I tell My New Yorker about our food choices she starts to look a bit down, accusing me of searching out my own, native California cuisine. Its true, what I miss the most in Paris are the big, bright flavours of lime juice and coriander with lots of vegetables and plenty of heat. With the East Coast fisheries near by, my taste buds spent the week doing a happy dance; soft shelled crab, lobster and every style crab cake imaginable.

Some of our highlights were;

The Spotted Pig. I didn’t need to know more than the name and I was hooked. Didn’t even mind the 90 minute wait (probably because we spent that time at a wine bar next door) and was absolutely thrilled with their vegetarian plate main dish as well as their spicy cocktails. The rest of our party was bowled over by the shoestring french fries (fried with rosemary, thyme and garlic!) and their cheeseburgers. We were too stuffed to attempt their desserts.

Le Charlot. A bunch of Frenchies going to a French meal in NYC? Pathetic! But we had an excuse… I had reserved at the Central Park Boat House; upon our arrival, on a glorious spring day, with the red geraniums shining like party balloons and the white linen table clothes dancing in the breeze, everything looked perfect for a Pah-Tay. But alas, the restaurant had been closed due to an emergency, the Maître d’ assuring us that our lives would be at risk if we were to dine there that day!!! Mulling over the mystery, (had a sous-chef lost it, stabbing his boss? Did the health department find rotting food?) We headed to Madison Ave where two helpful sales girls directed us to Le Charlot. They had crab cakes on the menu, so our entire party was thrilled and our guest of honor, the French student who was living in NYC for the year, was ecstatic to see French standards that he craved from home. These were the best crab cakes we had all week and the rest was pretty good, too, although we were (again) too stuffed for dessert.

Beauty & Essex. More spicy cocktails. And then a few more. You enter this über swanky establishment through a door at the back of a pawn shop, although the three town cars waiting out front with the blazing marquee lights were a dead give away that we’d arrived. Upstairs, the barmaids wear the shortest little dresses and are only allowed enough fabric to cover one shoulder. It was an after work crowd with a drunken woman surveying which diners had read “The Many Shades of Grey”. I kindly suggested that she stop reading about it, buy herself some sexy lingerie, find herself a lover (preferably French) and start doing it. Oh, the food. Excellent. The ribs were melt in your mouth without being stringy and I could have had seconds of the lobster tacos and spicy greens. By now you can guess what we decided for dessert…

The Lobster Place. Fresh steamed lobster in a busy food court that was once the Premium Saltine cracker factory. Full of locals on lunch break and a sect of Japanese tourists who are obsessed with photographing their food. The lobster? PERFECT.

EAT. A café on Madison Ave. Ridiculously expensive, but really, really good and they had soft shell crab that was swoon worthy. Even the bread was good, which I don’t often say in the USA. Went two days in a row, it was that good (and somewhat convenient to our hotel).

Tipsy Parson. Only had drinks here. And a bourbon soaked dessert. Did I mention that I had planned to drink my way through New York? It was good and the atmosphere charming. Would have loved to have returned for a down home southern meal.

The rooftop bar at the Manadrin OrientalVue at the Mandarin Oriental. We went to this roof top bar for the stupendous view towering above the city and we were not disappointed by that, the thai beef salad, the Asian bento box, or the cheesecake. The cocktails were good enough that we all had a second round as we sat and watched the cars go round at Columbus Circle.

Okay, enough. I am starving now and I’ve just gained another kilo writing about all those calories!!!




Last night I was working, waiting for Mr French to get home from the office. The girls are on April holidays so just the adults are dining in this week. The children we live with are mine, so dinner responsibility is mine, as well, turning this week into a mini-holiday for moi. Only half the mouths to feed means only half the mouths to please.

20h30 the phone rings.
“I’m on my way home.” Mr French announces,  “What are we doing for dinner?”

It is late, I am starving and we’ve got another half an hour before Monsieur walks trough the door.

“Raviolis,” I improvise, “the truffle ones from the Maison de la Truffle that I got at Monoprix last week.”

“How about we go across the street to that wine bar they opened last week,” he proposes.

Now, I LOVE truffles. I go to great lengths every winter for my truffles, but I am faithful to my men, not my food. I start doing the happy dance… no kitchen duty for me tonight!!!

Bakkus, the new wine bar, (hey, that’s a pun… Bakkus, Bacchus, only took me three days to get it) reminds me of Semilla; exposed walls, lots of wine and a younger crown than we generally get in this part of Paris. One wall is lined with glass enclosed wine bottles, each bottle attached to some new-fangled digital contraption that serves the exact amount of wine requested by the server. Directly facing that wall is a large chalkboard listing the day’s offering, each dish divided into three; avocado/crab/green apple entrée, or cod/anchovy/green sauce main. Ordering made easy.

Keeping in sync with the über modern serving devices, the wine menu is on an iPad that has information for each wine offered. Which is not a bad idea, because Bakkus offers some heavy hitters and it is probably good to know exactly what you’re ordering before investing in a Montrachet or St Julien. There are friendlier, more reasonable wines available, and there are three different serving sizes, so you can even create your own flight.

The food arrived and it was lovely. Served on slate or white porcelain, the presentation is original without being fussy. The flavours are pure and textures play an important role. The meal was not perfect, the house-made artichoke purée had an unintentional, yet distinctly burnt taste and I think a few of the sides would do well with a bit more seasoning. My favorite dish of the evening was dessert. A thick, perfectly carmalised slice of pineapple clad in a yogurt sorbet beret and a sash of verbena syrup. Light, with a palette pleasing balance of sweet and acid. Mr French nearly applauded for his alarmingly green pear that had been poach in a mint syrup. Secretly, I am afraid that he was thrilled to have found an easy, local joint for those moments when he just can not take another night of my “cooking”.

Bakkus – 97 rue du Cherche Midi, no website, yet.

It’s a date!

Friday night was the beginning of the long Easter weekend and the end of a particularly full week which included an extended business trip for Mr French, so it was a special treat when he walked through the door at 19h, looking relaxed and ready to play. As is often the case, I picked up the phone and tried to get reservations some where. Anywhere.

But it was last minute Friday night, and Easter weekend means that half of Europe is in town anticipating a long romantic weekend. Everything in my petit livre noir was fully booked, désolé, madame. Even La Table d’Aki, which was still off the foodie radar as recently as three weeks ago.

A Maître Ouvrier de France at work

Mr French changed into something more comfortable while I racked my brain for inspiration. Restaurant 21, another favorite for fish, had a table at 22h, a bit late for my ravenous appetite,  so we headed out for a stroll as I proposed creole tapas from La Rhumerie, or the Italian wine bar Oenosteria, run by our friends Chicha and Simone.

Strolling through the festive crowds, everyone was thrilled to be on a long weekend, except the waiters, who were thrilled at the thought of the extra tips they would be earning. Suddenly I remembered a restaurant I had walked by earlier in the week. It was still under construction, but looked bright and welcoming and I already knew that it was part of the group that owns Cosi, Fish La Boissonerie and La Dernière Goutte, so bound to be decent. The menu boasted cheeses by Marie Quatrehommes and listed the names of their suppliers for meat, fish, olive oil and hazelnuts. A place that is proud of its suppliers is bound to be good.

Semilla bouquet

Not your average bouquet

The place was throbbing with energy as we arrived. The exposed pipes and high volume made me feel like I was in NYC, while the menu made me think of California cooking with starters featuring spring greens, mangos, green apples or shitake mushrooms. The mains are either grilled, steamed or in broth, making for light, healthy eating that was simply delicious. I was intrigued with the tangy sweet mango mixture, but loved the deep, woodsy flavours of the grilled shitakes, the bright flash of the gremolata with a monk fish osso bucco and the fresh, pure taste of the pumpkin purée that accompanied my perfectly cooked pollack.

The desserts took more courage to attempt. By this point, we had total confidence in the chef, Maître Ouvrier de France Eric Trochon, but we were not in the mood to brave the avocado ice or the aloe vera cream. We settled on the carmalised bananas, which were so good we both awoke the next morning, their flavour lingering in our memory.



Feeling crab-y?

OOoooohhhhh….. a lovely weekend in a luxury hotel, just off the Champs Elysées! Mr French and I couldn’t wait to be out exploring, but first we were starving. Taxi, check-in, room check, luggage. We were in such a rush we barely took the time to admire our gorgeous suite (although I did have the time to notice the Jacques Genin chocolates on our pillows, AND the JG caramels on the desk).

According to the menu posted across the street, we were at “The Indian restaurant in Paris”, Annapurna. We went in. Really fresh, really spicy, over priced. I wouldn’t return.

We were ready for a stroll. Past the Hustler Club, near the Crystal Bar and through the Queen nightclub crowd, we arrived on a Champs Elysées teeming with humanity from across the globe. It was not our Paris scene, and it was kind of fun watching the staid German families walking out of the Lido cabaret, unaware burka clad ladies passing drug dealers and young girls hobbling comically by on stilts disguised as shoes.

The next day we decided to play it Rive Droite, lunching at an anonymous café, checking out the illuminating Neon exhibit at La Maison Rouge, exploring the Village St Paul and ending up at Auld Alliance to catch the final match of the Six Nations rugby tournament (excuse me while I stop to polish my girlfriend halo.)

Inside Le Crabe MarteauAnd I wrote all that just to get you to dinner. Dinner. I’d been wanting to try this restaurant ever since I first read about it in FigaroScope a year ago. Wood-lined walls with fishing nets, newspapers on the tables, slop buckets on the floor and sailor clad waiters… these guys had Parisiennes wearing bibs and eating with their fingers! Le Crabe Marteau specializes in crab and anger management, which explains the wooden mallets on every table. You’re served a large stone crab and authorized to whack it open, sending bits flying before picking out the succulent meat. When you’re ready for a break from the physical labour, there is a wooden pail full of the sweetest, steamed new potatoes with raw milk butter to melt away in your mouth, chewing optional. I felt like I’d died and gone to Brittany….

Weapons of mass digestion

Le Crabe Marteau

ps… a major THANK YOU to Elle, who made this weekend possible. Bises!!!

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