Articles on this Page
- 07/08/18--08:41: _Europe 2018 day 9: ...
- 07/09/18--07:47: _Europe 2018 day 10:...
- 07/10/18--08:10: _Europe 2018 day 11:...
- 07/11/18--08:37: _Europe 2018 day 12:...
- 07/12/18--01:41: _Europe 2018 day 13:...
- 07/12/18--08:24: _Europe 2018 day 13:...
- 07/13/18--08:31: _Europe 2018 day 14:...
- 07/14/18--08:58: _Europe 2018 day 15:...
- 07/15/18--08:30: _Europe 2018 day 16:...
- 07/16/18--08:37: _Europe 2018 day 17:...
- 07/16/18--20:28: _Europe 2018: the fi...
- 07/17/18--20:54: _Visiting UNESCO Wor...
- 07/19/18--08:38: _Jim's new playground
- 07/21/18--08:58: _Bongwater with Gaggan
- 07/22/18--00:00: _Celebrity Cuisine w...
- 07/23/18--07:58: _Dining with the ric...
- 07/27/18--22:57: _Canned food for Rus...
- 07/28/18--02:36: _Lunch #2 with bongw...
- 07/30/18--21:34: _Roast goose fix
- 08/05/18--08:33: _La La La, Laa La La...
- 07/08/18--08:41: Europe 2018 day 9: Franco-Italian-Argentinian garden
- 07/09/18--07:47: Europe 2018 day 10: casino royale
- 07/10/18--08:10: Europe 2018 day 11: art museum dining, part 2
- 07/11/18--08:37: Europe 2018 day 12: from McDo to Michelin
- 07/12/18--01:41: Europe 2018 day 13: 10 white men
- 07/12/18--08:24: Europe 2018 day 13: the little white rose
- 07/13/18--08:31: Europe 2018 day 14: under the pyramid
- 07/14/18--08:58: Europe 2018 day 15: Bastille Day
- 07/15/18--08:30: Europe 2018 day 16: Champion du Monde
- 07/16/18--08:37: Europe 2018 day 17: escape from Paris
- 07/16/18--20:28: Europe 2018: the final tally
- 07/17/18--20:54: Visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- 07/19/18--08:38: Jim's new playground
- 07/21/18--08:58: Bongwater with Gaggan
- 07/22/18--00:00: Celebrity Cuisine with celebrity chef
- 07/23/18--07:58: Dining with the rich and famous
- 07/27/18--22:57: Canned food for Russian cosmonauts
- 07/28/18--02:36: Lunch #2 with bongwater
- 07/30/18--21:34: Roast goose fix
- 08/05/18--08:33: La La La, Laa La Laa, La Laaaaaaa
Ever since I first met Chef Ricardo Chaneton, I've always been curious about Mirazur. And as the restaurant continued its meteoric rise up The World's 50 Best Restaurants, that curiosity got stronger. Of course nobody I know believes that Restaurant ABC is actually the #8 restaurant in the world... but the fact that a restaurant is popular enough to get the votes required to be among the top means that they are probably doing something right.
Mauro came to give us a tour of the restaurant's gardens, which are split into two parts. First we got a look at the citrus trees and herbs that are grown right next to and below the restaurant, including a very tall avocado tree which made my friends very jealous. There are, of course, the lemons that Menton is famous for...
We were then led to the larger part of the gardens, with most of the vegetables along with the chickens as well as the beehives. Mauro spoke to us about creating biodiversity through permaculture, and it's taken them 4 years to get to the stage they're at.
I loved seeing everything that they were working on, and was happy to meet Mauro's young son. My sole regret was not asking Mauro for permission to fly my drone over the gardens...
It was finally time to taste Mauro's cuisine for ourselves, and we were seated at a window-side table, where I had a great view of the border police building along with the service station while the ladies enjoyed the ocean view.
The appetizers came in quick succession:
Smoked Mozzarella ball - the smoked mozzarella was inside the black salt ball.
Raspberry crystals, peach with roasted vervain - raspberries, poached peach, with a broth made of peach skin and verbena, topped with a disc of frozen raspberry juice and garnished with verbena. The verbena fused with the raspberries so beautifully. So refreshing.
This was a fantastic dinner. One could really taste how fresh the produce was - especially the ones coming from the gardens. While I could not say it was my favorite meal on our trip, the cooking was nevertheless at a very high level. And as Hello Kitty rightly pointed out, at this level you're really trying to distinguish "between 98, 96, or 94 points". This is certainly one of the top restaurants in the world, and I'm very, very glad I made the trip here. I am, of course, also grateful for the warm hospitality from Mauro and the team. And many thanks to Ricardo for the introduction.
After a late breakfast with goodies from the local boulangerie, along with the lemon cake from Mirazur, we set off for the Principality of Monaco so that Hello Kitty and I could play tourist.
While I had thought about ordering the local Perles de Monaco oysters, my eyes lit up when I saw a certain item on the menu. With apologies in advance to my friends, I jumped at the chance to have this favorite dish...
L'andouillette artisanale label AAAAA grillée - served with a minimal of greens and a big slice of pan-fried ham. This was delicious. And stinky.
I was a little apprehensive since we were wearing shorts, but the bouncers didn't bat an eyelid. I guess there were tons of tourists like ourselves who were going in to have a look. And Hello Kitty decided to take out her Insta360 camera to get a shot of us. That was kinda fun.
er Prix Concours Cocktail de l'été 2018... Silencio was made with pineapple juice, passion fruit juice, lime juice, and kaffir lime syrup.
We retired back to our friends' house and watched the sunset from their terrace, with Antibes and Nice on the horizon. My friend prepared a casual and light dinner, which we washed down with a few bottles of wine...
2016 Léo de la Gaffelière - ripe and sweet.
We didn't find the products at Molinard interesting, so we ended up hitting the the shop at Fragonard. These guys are much better at packaging their products, and there was a constant stream of tourists coming in. We ended up buying a bunch of soaps to bring home.
Our last stop this morning was at Champagne Senez to pick up some bubbly for tonight's World Cup match. Madame offered us a glass of Cristian Senez Carte Verte while we chatted and decided about what to buy.
Its real claim to fame is their collection of artwork, which are on display just about everywhere. Many of these were payment-in-kind by the artists themselves for room and board. Where else can you just casually walk up to a room full of paintings by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, and Miro like that??
We shared two bottles of wine between the 5 of us.
We were pretty full, and took the opportunity to walk up the slope and explore the art galleries nearby. A pity that we did not stop at Fondation Maeght nearby...
We stopped by a local cheese shop on the way home so that we could pick up some goodies for dinner tonight. We would be eating at home while watching the France vs. Belgium semi-final match for the World Cup... and the Brie with ceps turned out to be a great buy.
France won the match against Belgium. Hello Kitty and I got very excited, because we knew that we would be in Paris on the day of the World Cup Final, when France is playing. That would be totally awesome!
I stayed up late chatting with our hostess, all the while trying to give Moses as good of a belly rub as he has been getting from Hello Kitty. I don't think I succeeded, but that didn't stop Moses from demanding that I continue to rub him every time I stopped...
After bidding farewell to our hostess and Moses, our host dropped us off at Nice Airport - where we once again put our luggage in storage. We then took the bus and headed into town for some last-minute exploration. In all honesty, we really didn't see much of Nice on the day we arrived...
After a not-so-quick stop to acquire boîte orange numero 1, we went back to the airport, retrieved our luggage, and flew back to Orly Airport for our second leg in Paris.
We picked another apartment via AirBnB, this time just off Avenue de la Grand-Armée and a few minutes' walk to the Argentine Metro stop. This, too, would turn out to be a great location for us.
It was almost 4pm now and we haven't really had lunch, so I decided to do the only sensible thing - hit a McDonald's. There is an outlet right next to Porte Maillot, which isn't too long of a walk. I always check out McDonald's in different countries to see what local specialties they offer.
We continued to walk along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, passing by the all-glass Publicis Drugstore before making a detour down Avenue George V. But there was only one place that I wanted to visit here...
86 Champs is the new outlet opened by L'Occitane in conjunction with Pierre Hermé. Besides selling L'Occitane products and Pierre Hermé macarons and chocolates, there are three separate dining areas located at the back of the store, right in front of the store, and on the promenade. The shop offered 3 types of hand cream created especially for this location, and also 3 new flavors of macarons inspired by L'Occitane and, of course, exclusive to this location. Of course we bought those...
We went back to freshen up and change for our dinner appointment. I had long heard friends rave about Passage53, and the restaurant has gotten themselves 2 macarons to boot, so it was high time for me to see what all the fuss is about...
There isn't a menu here as the diners give carte blanche to the chef. In fact we never saw a menu from start to finish.
We started with an aperitif...
Veal and oyster with seaweed gelée - the veal tartare had great texture but frankly not much flavor, as it was overpowered by the other ingredients like oyster and seaweed gelée... which delivered good umami as well as flavors of the ocean.
I suffered from sticker shock when I flipped through the wine list here... as some of the wines I had drunk in Belgium last week are now priced about double. Thankfully I was able to find something a little more reasonable...
This was a very, very good meal. Absolutely no fails tonight either in terms of execution or flavor combinations. With a Japanese chef in the kitchen - another Sato-san who is friends with Sato-san from Ta Vie 旅 - I could see the flavors being lighter... as the use of heavy cream was basically non-existent. I loved that so many of the dishes came chilled and involved fruits and vegetables with natural acidity, and the result was that one's palate was never overwhelmed in this scorching weather. This was exactly what I needed tonight.
There's an outlet of Eric Kayser just around the corner from the apartment we are staying in, so naturally this became our go-to place for coffee and viennoiserie in the morning. It won't be the best in Paris, but it's good enough to keep us happy.
This morning, though, I had something else to sample: the Pierre Hermé x L'Occitanemacarons I bought from 68 Champs yesterday.
Once again the Insta360 ONE comes out and we try to capture the experience.
We leave Jardin des Tuileries via the exit facing Place de la Concorde, and I am approached by a group of dark-skinned girls each holding a clipboard, ostensibly asking for my signature on a petition regarding Syrian refugees. I had seen other women doing the same a few days ago, and I smile but gesture my refusal.
But they don't go away, and soon I was surrounded by about 6 of them, and at least one started to tug at the sleeve of my jacket. Alarms go off in my head, and my senses begin to sharpen to see whether any one of them reaches for my pockets or tries to open my messenger bag.
That's when I saw THE Hello Kitty for the second time in my life.
Sensing that I would be unable to fight off the girls on my own, she screamed "GET AWAY!!!!" at the top of her lungs. At this point a lady who had been selling souvenirs at a stand nearby came out and yelled at the girls, and the girls reluctantly withdrew... with smiles on their faces and not a hint of shame or remorse.
From then on, Hello Kitty would remind me to walk around Paris holding the selfie-stick for Insta360 - which is like a lighter version of a monopod, and could be extended and used as a weapon.
Vegetables steamed with Himalayan rock salt, black olive and Parmesan dip
Each of the three parts of the dish was delicious. Hello Kitty was very, very happy with her choice.
Langoustines from Scotland, fennel/lemon - nice to have the shredded fennel for my veg intake, and the lemon paste was a surprise. But overall... ho-hum.
Honestly... I found this dish boring like I did the last dish. It didn't fail, nor was it poorly executed. I just didn't think the flavors were that interesting. Just no magic here... at all.
Silk grain veal, smoked eel - this was basically a hunk of côte de bœuf, which our waiter took time to slice up in front of us on the trolley. Served with smoked eel and steamed vegetables.
We asked our waiter whether this was, in fact, 'rare'. And he very confidently told us that, yes, it was certainly rare. He did not bother to ask us whether we were unhappy with the doneness. And he certainly did not offer to have the kitchen send us a new piece of veal. He just assumed that we should take his word for it.
I looked around the dining room, and noticed that of the 10 front-of-house staff, all were white men. And at this point I'm getting kinda pissed off, and I feel that the waiter's attitude was that us Asian tourists carrying cameras just don't know any better. But we chose not to make a fuss, and didn't bother sending the dish back. Both dishes I had ordered for myself were uninspired, and I didn't see the point of having the kitchen cook a new dish.
You wanna see a piece of beef that was cooked rare? This one from last night was just about perfect.
When the waiter came to take our unfinished plates away, he didn't bother asking us why we had left so much of our food untouched. Three-quarters of the veal was still on the plate, and not a word from him.
The staff came to prepare a dashi with lots of herbs, in the same way that one would prepare siphon coffee.
When I was choosing my restaurants for Paris, I knew I wanted to dine at an Alan Ducasse restaurant, and debated whether I should book the 3-star at Plaza Athénée or this one with "just" 2-stars. As we had originally planned on staying in Le Meurice, I chose to have a meal here. Unfortunately this turned out to be a huge disappointment. When a restaurant has two Michelin stars, one would expect the meal to be more than just decent. It is, after all, "worth a detour"... which this meal most certainly was not. But the worst part was the service. I certainly did not expect this poor level of service from a restaurant in such a legendary hotel, and certainly did not expect it from one of Monsieur Ducasse's restaurants.
We left with bitter tastes in our mouths, and the only solution to take the edge off was to go shopping at the boutiques nearby...
The afternoon's shopping session brought Hello Kitty some much-needed happiness after a disappointing lunch. After retiring to the apartment to freshen up, we crossed the river for dinner at Neige d'Été. Like Passage53 last night, and indeed a number of dining establishments we are visiting this trip, it was not immediately apparent that we had come upon the right place.
There is only one menu, and one has the option of adding caviar or truffle with certain dishes as a supplement.
The one thing that annoyed me about this dish was that we were not given spoons. I found it a little difficult to pick up caviar with just a knife and fork. Perhaps the chef could show me the tricks?
2-star restaurant where we had our lunch today, this kitchen does know how to do beef right. Just look at the color and doneness. Just the right amount of caramelization on the outside while most of the center remained juicy and, in fact, quite bouncy. Hello Kitty actually prefers this to the Galician beef we had last night.
Cerise, thym-orange, espuma de yahourt - the granité of black cherries came with orange thyme, black cherries, and was covered in a layer of yogurt mousse. Very delicious. The thyme was a nice touch, and the cherries were very ripe. The acidity in the yogurt foam worked well with the fruit.
For wine tonight, once again I reached for a bottle of bubbly that proved to be the value play...
1996 André Beaufort Ambonnay Brut, dégorgée en Avril 2016 - this has matured well, but still got some sharp acidity. Very full-bodied. Took about 2 hours to get the toasty notes to come out.
This was another really good meal at a Parisien restaurant helmed by a Japanese chef. Actually, the entire kitchen seemed to be Japanese as only Japanese was spoken. While I enjoyed my dinner at Passage53 more thanks to the flavor profile and the temperature, considering that this menu (without supplements) cost just under half of the one at Passage53, tonight would seem like a good bargain.
Today is museum day, and I've set aside the daylight hours for the Musée du Louvre. It's been more than a decade and a half since my last visit, and it would be interesting to see what has changed over this period.
|@ '16 Sanrio|
You can't come to Angelina and not have any chocolate, so I ordered up something they created specifically for this location - aptly named Richelieu. The chocolate pyramid contained crunchy almond biscuit, dark chocolate cream, dark chocolate biscuit, milk chocolate and hazelnut mousse.
Every time I'm in the Louvre, I must visit Room 801, which houses the 24 paintings of the Marie de Medici Cycle by Petrus Paulus Reubens. I fell in love with the large format paintings in this room during my first visit to the Louvre, and I make it a point to come see them on each visit. This time I've got the Insta360 ONE with me, which captures the grandeur of the series very nicely.
We manage to get through most of the works we wanted to see, and even had time to check out the exhibition of Eugène Delacroix's works - including the iconic La Liberté guidant le peuple, which had been moved to become part of this special exhibition.
After freshening up back at the apartment, it was time to across town for dinner. This was one of my most-anticipated meals this trip, and it wasn't at a place with multiple Michelin stars. We were going to Le Baratin.
For many people who love food and know Paris, this place and the husband-and-wife team behind it need no introduction. I have long wanted to come here and see for myself why my foodie friends - many chefs included - make it a point to stop here when they're in town. Raquel Carena is practically legendary among certain circles.
But the wine snob in me found this list to be too "plain" (read: too cheap, without any "rare treasures"). So I approached the gentleman at the bar (no, not Philippe Pinoteau... he was hanging out on the street admiring his motorcycle) and asked whether they had something "better" than the Syrah from Stephan. He promised to fetch me something.
What came was, of course, more interesting and far more expensive than what's on the wine list, although I was secretly hoping for something even more interesting and rare. Of course, I'm fully aware that unlike the table next to me, I'm not a regular customer. I'm a nobody to this restaurant, so why should they offer me the gems from their cellar?
Hello Kitty could tell from my face that I was a happy camper. I was happy to have made it here for the delicious food, and we both enjoyed the bottle of bongwater. I am now a fan, and I shall return for more goodies on future visits to the City of Lights.
I'm finally in Paris on Bastille Day! I am very much looking forward to the festivities today, especially the fireworks tonight.
We got ready to explore more touristy sites this morning, and just as we were coming out of our apartment not long before 10am, I saw a whole crowd of people standing in the middle of Avenue de la Grande-Armée. They seemed to be waiting for something.
A few seconds later I had my answer. The noise of jets flying overhead reached my ears and I just managed to catch the Patrouille de France fly past us with their tri-colored smoke. I immediately took my camera out of my bag and started filming.
When the fly-by was done, a third of the crowd dutifully piled into the Eric Kayser at the corner to get their breakfast, including the two of us...
One can read about the windows or even look at pictures, but the real impact cannot be truly felt until one is standing in the chapel itself. It is, for the lack of a better description, simply AWESOME. Which is why it's perfect for a picture with our Insta360 ONE. Scrolling around and zooming in and out gives different perspectives, and as Hello Kitty said after taking this picture, being table to get this shot of the chapel alone is worth the price we paid for the camera.
Our next destination was just a stone's throw away. As impressive as the latter's architecture is, I've always preferred Sainte-Chapelle to Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. We go in for a look, and one thing that's new since my last visit is a reliquery for Saint Paul Chen, a martyr in China canonized in 2000. I was pretty surprised to see this, and can't help wondering how much of the decision to have this on display here was to cater to the large amount of Chinese visitors coming through here.
As we walk down rue du Cloître-Notre-Dame, the lyrics of the Cocteau Twins'Road, River, and Rail popped into my head... especially the line "...naked and caught on the Île de la Cité..."
|courtesy of Hello Kitty|
We stop at Le Rousseau for lunch as it is just down the street from Le Bon Marché. I order steak frites and asked for bleu. The kitchen delivers.
After getting our shopping done, we return to the apartment and freshen up for dinner. We booked ourselves an early dinner at Au Passage. After our dinner last week, I couldn't get a certain magnum out of my head... so I was determined to go and drink it tonight. And I didn't care that we'd have to travel to the other side of town and back.
This... this was a thing of beauty. I normally don't go ga-ga over fish heads, but this was something else. While Hello Kitty took the bulk of the cheek - and she normally stays clear of fish heads - I attacked the collar. Plenty of collagen everywhere, and so, soooo tasty. Of course, it was even better with a little aïoli... I gotta say that this was the best 10 Euros I spent on the entire trip.
So... the whole reason we came back here was for a magnum of wine. This place has a surprising collection of wines from Jean-François Ganevat, and I had a very specific cuvée in mind...
2015 Ganevat J'en Veux Encore, en magnum - pretty light on the palate, with smoky and leather notes on the nose. Sadly served far too warm.
We knew we wouldn't be able to finish the magnum, and were originally planning to take the rest of it back to the apartment. But Hello Kitty suggested that we leave the rest of the wine for the staff, but ask to buy another magnum to take home. The staff was more than happy to sell us more bottles, but sadly I were told that we had drunk the last magnum of this cuvée... so we ended up buying something else instead.
We rushed back to the apartment to drop off the wines and to pick up my tripod, and hopped into a taxi to try to get to Champs de Mars for the fireworks. Of course the whole of Paris was trying to do the same, and the taxi driver suggested that we try to get to Palais de Tokyo on foot instead.
Not surprisingly the police had closed off the area around Palais de Tokyo, and we were stuck in a huge crowd of people with buildings and trees blocking our view. I never got to use my tripod or even bothered to take my camera out of the bag. I ended up getting a partial view of the fireworks, with an occasional glimpse at someone else's smartphone screen. Hello Kitty fared even worse. Naturally, she wasn't very happy with my poor planning and how things turned out.
There were of course no taxis to take us back, so we ended up following the crowd and walked back to the Arc de Triomphe. This being Bastille Day, I finally got the opportunity to see the Tricolore hung from the bottom of the Arc.
It's Sunday in Paris where many outlets are closed, including your neighborhood boulangeries. Since we can't get our caffeine fix at Eric Kayser and we were reluctant to patronize a touristy café with tables on the sidewalk, we decided to grab breakfast at... McDo!
We grabbed a taxi to visit Fondation Louis Vuitton, which is adjacent to the Jardin d'Acclimatation and not far from the apartment. It's an impressive structure designed by Frank Gehry, with terraces where one can relax while getting a view of the nearby parks and the skyscrapers in the distance.
Given this was Louis Vuitton, we weren't the least bit surprised to find Murakami Takashi (村上隆) represented here. Time to whip out the Insta360 ONE inside this particular room.
I had a very particular place in mind for lunch today... not for their savory items but for a particular dessert. So off to Le Royal Monceau we went, and we parked ourselves inside the outdoor courtyard of Le Bar Long.
I wanted something simple, so I just took a Croque Madame which came with some frites. These were OK and I most certainly overpaid for what I got.
Our celebrity sighting of the day, and indeed of the trip, was Chef Matsuhisa Nobuyuki (松久信幸) who happens to run Matsuhisa Paris within the hotel. He was dining at another table across the courtyard, and many of the hotel staff came to take their selfies with him.
We rushed back to the apartment after lunch to change. France was playing in the finals of the World Cup today, and of course I wore my navy blue T-shirt and shorts in support of Les Bleus. Someone on FB had suggested that we go watch the live broadcast at Le Chalet XVI because the place had "big screens" and "usually very quiet". Not having had made any reservations elsewhere, I decided to drag Hello Kitty there. And since we couldn't pick up a taxi, we walked a good 20 minutes or so on foot.
Only to find that the restaurant was completely packed, and instead of a "big screen" as promised, there were several smaller screens. So it's not difficult to imagine Hello Kitty's mood at this point, as we knew we would have to stand for the next two hours. But the mood improved as soon as the first goal was scored against Croatia, and we were glad to have watched the World Cup Finals in a French bar surrounded by French football fans who were complete strangers to us. That was certainly entertaining.
The crowd was moving towards the Arc de Triomphe, so we simply walked with them. The Place Charles de Gaule had been blocked off to vehicular traffic, and was now full of people. We saw people waving flags, setting off firecrackers and colored smoke, singing, and dancing on top of bus stops. The whole city was on fire, and it was amazing that we were in the middle of it.
After taking a quick break at home, we decided to go get ourselves some dinner. On a Sunday night. On the day France won the World Cup. We knew this would be incredibly challenging, so we called Hyatt Regency Etoile and asked about booking a table atWindo. Whoever was on the other end of the line told us not to worry and to just go over, so we walked westward along the Avenue de la Grande-Armée. People were still all over the streets, and we saw that a car has been overturned and smashed.
We went up to the 34th floor, only to find that Windo was under renovation. The person on the phone had said nothing. So we went back to the lobby level and got a table at Mayo. I could see that the place was severely short-staffed, and fully expected a long wait for food. Very few other tables were getting their food, so we waited. And waited.
About an order after we placed our order, our waiter came over to inform us that one of the dishes we had ordered - and we only ordered two items - was unavailable. He was very apologetic, and I knew it wasn't his fault, but this was fucking ridiculous. The kitchen sent word ONE HOUR after we ordered that they couldn't give us what we wanted?! We paid for our drinks and left.
Faced with the prospect of subsisting on semi-stale bread and water, I decided to stand outside the door of the restaurant - even though the sign indicated that they were closed. I kept looking at the owners inside, and Hello Kitty would tell me that I had the "sad puppy" look. Eventually the owners took pity on me, and came to ask me what I wanted.
As the chef was knocking off, the owners asked whether we could settle for take-out instead of dining in. We were only too happy to have some hot food tonight, and ordered 2 simple items which would have been quick to prepare.
This has been a helluva day. When I planned our trip, the only criterion was that we had to be in Paris on Bastille Day, and what we experienced today was totally expected, and as clichéd as it sounds - probably once in a lifetime. It's not something that I'll forget for the rest of my days.
It's our last day in Paris and we have a few errands to run. After storing our luggage at Gare du Nord - which involved a 1½ hour taxi ride with our luggage as a result of Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées being completely blocked off and jammed - we crossed the river for a quick errand, before coming back to the 8ème. I was looking for an easy lunch spot that wasn't an obvious tourist trap around the Place de la Madeleine when Hello Kitty came upon Chez Nicolas, the wine bar above the wine shop.We got ourselves a table by the window overlooking L'église de la Madeleine, in the comfort of air conditioning. Lo and behold, they even have something that's totally up my alley!
I was very, very happy. And shortly after, Hello Kitty also had her happy moment with the acquisition with boîte orange numerous deux.
We had changed our departure schedule to a later train, and suddenly had a couple of extra hours to kill. The staff at the station were not helpful at all regarding how to change our train tickets, so we ended up hanging out at the Burger King across the Gare du Nord...
After arriving back at Gare de Bruxelles Midi, we are back at the Hilton Brussels Grande Place. A shower and a quick change into respectable clothes, and we stroll down a few blocks to the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Brussels for dinner.
We had missed an invitation earlier in the year to try Chef Yves Mattagne's cuisine at the Solaire Resort in Manila, so I decided that this should be our last formal meal of the trip.
We were running a little late because of our schedule change, but the staff were nevertheless gracious and welcoming. After 17 days' of dining out, I assumed that Hello Kitty would want to take it easy and choose the smaller set menu. How wrong I was.
I started with a glass of Ruinart Brut - a Champagne I have never found to be remarkable or interesting.
When I first saw this dish my initial knee-jerk reaction was "Oh, another chef trying to impress me by putting Chinese caviar in front of me." I was ever so happy to have been pleasantly surprised. This was a beautiful dish, both in terms of presentation as well as flavors.
what I had at Le Meurice...
Royal langoustine : baked on stone / saké / goose liver / duck consommé / Chinese cabbage / black fungi / wakame - our waiter told us these were "rocking langoustines" on "hard rock", which brought chuckles from both of us...
Pan-fried goose foie gras and ravioli with Chinese cabbage, Chinese black mushrooms in duck consommé. The foie was cooked perfectly.
Creamy blueberries : lemongrass and ginger perfume / mango / exotic fruit sorbet - the yogurt mousse definitely had ginger and what I thought was cardamom (lemongrass?) flavors, with blueberry filling inside and sitting on a chocolate cookie base. There was a ball on the side made with hazelnut soy, as well as chunks of mango. The sorbet was made with passion fruit and certainly pretty sour.
And finally, some mignardises for us to finish...
As we were inside a hotel in Brussels city center, the wine list didn't seem to offer as many bargains as the other places we visited in Belgium. I almost picked another bottle of my go-to white Burg, but the sommelier suggested I take the other bottle I was considering... and I'm certain that was a good call.
This was a most excellent dinner to cap off our long trip. In fact, Hello Kitty said that this was her second-favorite meal of the entire trip, and that's quite something. The cuisine here is certainly very refined, with lots of modern touches. Thank you, Belgium and France, for delivering so many fond memories over the last 17 days.
It's been more than a decade since I took such a long holiday, and I figured it's worth looking back at some statistics:
Total days in Europe: 18
Number of countries visited: 4 (but mostly in Belgium and France)
Number of cities/towns visited: 15
Number of Michelin-star restaurants: 12
Total number of Michelin stars: 23
Number of visits to McDonald's: 2
Number of Asian meals: 2
Bottles of bongwater drunk: 4
Brussels waffles consumed: 2, both at restaurants within Michelin stars.
Hermès shops visited: 4 (in Brussels, Paris, and Nice)
Since early 2007, I have been wanting to gear my future travels towards visiting more locations which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are so many amazing places around the world to see!
Here is the list that I have already visited so far. Click on the links to see pictures from my Picasa albums.
Total count: 72 sites in 21 countries
Greater Blue Mountains Area - 1976
Sydney Opera House - 1976
The Architectural Works of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement - 2018
Belfries of Belgium and France - 2018
Historic Centre of Brugge - 2018
La Grand-Place, Brussels - 2018
Major Townhouses of the Architect Victor Horta - 2018
Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex - 2018
Stoclet House - 2018
Angkor - 2001
The Great Wall - 1997, 1999
The Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang - 1997, 1999 (Beijing only)
Mogao Caves - 1999
Temple of Heaven - 1997, 1999
Summer Palace - 1997
Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties - 1997
Historic Centre of Macao - 1990, 1995, 2005, 2010
Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an - Tianshan Corridor - 1998, 1999
South China Karst - 2000
Xinjiang Tianshan - 1998
Westlake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou - 1998
Bordeaux, Port of the Moon - 2009
Cathedral of Notre Dame, Former Abbey of Saint-Remi and Palace of Tau, Reims - 2002, 2009
Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars - 2002, 2009
Climats, terroirs of Burgundy - 2010
Historic Center of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge - 2011
Historic Center of Lyons - 2011
Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion - 2009
Palace and Park of Versailles - 2009
Paris, Banks of the Seine - 1994, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2018
Roman Theater and its Surroundings and the "Triumphal Arch" of Orange - 2011
Agra Fort - 2007
Taj Mahal - 2007
Fatehpur Sikri - 2007
Humayun's Tomb, Dehli - 2007
Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Dehli - 2007
Borobudur Temple Compounds - 2005
Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy - 1997
Prambanan Temple Compounds - 2005
Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration - 1983, 1985, 2002, 2004,
Himeji-jo - 1998
Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) - 1998, 2006
Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara - 2006
Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range - 2003
Shrines and Temples of Nikko - 2007
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement - 2016
Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi - 2008
Petroglyphs within the Archaeological Landscape of Tamgaly - 2008
Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an - Tianshan Corridor - 2008
Changdeokgung Palace Complex - 2008
Jongmyo Shrine - 2017
Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straights of Malacca - 2003
Ancient City of Qalhat - 2007
Bahla Fort - 2007
Falaj System of Irrigation - 2007
Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belen in Lisbon - 2006
Historic Centre of Oporto - 2006
Alto Douro Wine Region - 2006
Singapore Botanical Gardens - 1974, 1975, 1976, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1999, 2004
Cape Floral Region Protected Areas - 1995
Works of Antonio Gaudi - 2006
Lavaux, Vineyard Terraces - 2008, 2011
Historic City of Ayutthaya - 2008
Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns - 2008
Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church - 1976
Tower of London - 1976, 2005
Grand Canyon National Park - 2015
San Antonio Missions - 1995
Statue of Liberty - 1994, 2006
Yosemite National Park - 2015
Itchan Kala - 2008
Historic Center of Bukhara - 2008
Historic Center of Shakhrisyabz - 2008
Samarkand - Crossroads of Cultures - 2008
This list will be continuously updated as my travels take me to more sites.
I rarely hang out with my professional peers socially, but one of my good friends invited me to join a networking dinner with people in similar positions at myself - people I normally only run into at conferences. Since the dinner was gonna be at The Flying Elk, I agreed to join the gang even though I knew I might be tired after my long trip to Europe.
I was ever so grateful that, for once, nobody asked me to do the ordering. Not even for the wine. I was happy to just go with the flow.
The lobster soup was rich but at the same time came with plenty of acidity.
"After Eight", mint and chocolate - once the mint ice cream and mint leaves are combined with the chocolate fondant, the flavors remind one of After Eight chocolate mints.
This was clearly a crowd in need of some alcohol, and we actually did OK... polishing off 5 bottles between the 9 of us.
We had a pretty good time tonight, and judging by the dishes we had, we probably went through more than 3/4 of the menu here. Many thanks to Jim for sending us some extra goodies.
I had just paid my first visit to The Flying Elktwo nights ago with a bunch of people from the industry, but when Gaggan Anand comes to town and invites you to dinner... you don't utter the words "...but I just ate there!" So I bit my tongue and brought a few bottles of bongwater with me to dinner.
Once again I did not have to order from the menu, because everything was up to Chef Jim Löfdahl. I've tried most of the dishes two nights ago, anyway, so I won't bother with notes on the same dishes.
Grilled pineapple, Swedish punsch, brown sugar, star anise ice cream - ginger and brown sugar crumble on top of the ice cream.
"After Eight", mint and chocolate
Gaggan has been brainwashed by Vladimir into loving bongwater, so I knew what kind of wines to bring... Although as it turns out there were 10 of us, so the 3 bottles went very quickly.
2014 Ganevat Grusse en Billat
2014 Yann Durieux DH Rouge - nice and floral, almost a little like Leroy. A little ripe and sweet on the nose with dried herb notes. Good acidity on the palate.
It was good to see Gaggan back in Hong Kong, and I was grateful (and more than a little shocked) to receive the gift that he had Vladimir pick out. Time to up my game!
The Great One and I try to take Gaggan Anand out whenever he's in town, partly as a way to reciprocate the favor since he's never allowed us to pay for a meal in his restaurant or at his pop-ups. We know he loves the local food in Hong Kong, so The Great One booked us a table at Celebrity Cuisine (名人坊) for some dim sum.
We have always been fans of Chef Cheng Kam-fu (鄭錦富), although I vaguely remember my last dim sum lunch here years ago as being underwhelming. I guess that's why I haven't been back for lunch in many years...
Bird's nest stuffed in chicken wing (燕窩釀鳳翼) - another signature dish. Gaggan wondered if this is where Zaiyu from DEN got the idea of stuffing chicken wings, and of course... Cantonese chefs have been stuffing chicken wings with glutinous rice or birds' nest for a while now.
Deep-fried crab claw stuffed with minced shrimp (百花釀蟹拑) - this was pretty decent, but I'm usually not a fan of this dish... as the crab claw inside is too tiny and it's mostly the deep-fried shrimp paste - and comes at a premium because the claw.
Jisheng cha with red dates and egg (名人蛋紅棗茶) - dessert was also on the house as the chef wanted us to try this. Besides the "egg without yolk" and lotus seeds from Hunan Province, there were also silverweed roots (人參果) from Tibet. The brown sugar for the soup came from Xinjiang.
1989 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett - nice acidity on the palate. Nose of white flowers and a little flint.
Over 2 months ago my friend L told me she wanted to dine at Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう) in Hong Kong, and told me that she would make her way here as long as I got a booking, so I got us 4 seats at the counter tonight. But L's schedule changed just before I left on my extended European vacation, so I ended up asking around for replacements. Thankfully Baller was more than happy to step in and brought along a friend.
This was the first time for me to sit in front of Fujimoto-san, as I had always been served by Kobayashi-san on my previous visits. They know about my preference not to have any tuna, so there would be appropriate substitutes along the way.
Uni trio (雲丹三種盛り) - this is always one of the highlights during dinner service. For some reason, I only took pictures of one type of sea urchin...
Pink sea urchin (赤雲丹), Saga Prefecture (佐賀県) - very dark in color but very sweet.
Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹), Rishiri Island (利尻島) - orange in color. A little more bitter, and flavors were more concentrated.
Next we moved on to the sushi portion of the meal.
We brought along 3 bottles of wine, including the el cheapo Champagne that I like and thought would pair well with sushi... and we ended up paying MUCH more for corkage on the Champagne compared to the cost of the bottle... Oh well.
This was my fourth visit to this restaurant, and there always seems to be something about my neighbors that bothers me on each visit. I think it has something to do with how difficult this place is to book... how "exclusive" it is... that attracts a certain type of clientele. While I don't usually pay attention to who sits near me when I dine out, Hello Kitty immediately recognized the media tycoon and an internationally-famous movie star who took up the other 4 seats at the 8-seat counter.
The thing about our neighbors was that despite being easily 100 times more wealthy than I am, or despite one of them reportedly having a hand in restaurants and wineries... it was pretty clear to me that they knew very little about what they were eating or drinking... or even cared for it. To them, it just seemed like an expensive meal which they could easily afford, at a restaurant that was getting a lot of attention where reservations were hard to come by. They didn't seem to be getting anywhere near the sort of happiness that the four of us were getting from eating the same food and drinking a very expensive bottle of brand-name sake.
In retrospect, I'm very happy that I have learned to appreciate these things a lot more.
P.S. Quite a few of my friends have asked me in private who these people were. My standard answer is that if I actually revealed their identities, I might find myself hospitalized with broken bones or limbs...
Today is the 1-year anniversary of the Soyuz MS-05 launch, which I traveled to Baikonur Cosmodrome to watch. Even if it's not "once in a lifetime", it's still a very special day that I will remember for a long time to come.
While shopping for souvenirs at the Baikonur Cosmodrome Museum, I picked up two cans of food meant for the Russian cosmonauts. The pricing of around USD 20 for each can was definitely a rip-off, but I guess I'm the exact kind of idiot they were looking for...
So I decided that today would be the perfect time to open those cans and taste how bad the cosmonauts have it up there.
Токана мясо-овощная (Tomato with meat and vegetable) - creamy texture in the vegetables with onions, red pepper, and potato. Was there perhaps a little cheese?
Свинина со сладким перцем (Pork with sweet pepper) - this was OK. The little cubes of pork were clearly fully-cooked, but the texture wasn't too bad.
One doesn't expect gourmet bites from cans that have a 4-5 year shelf life. I only hope that Bresnik and Nespoli had something better to eat than Ryazansky.
Not long after I nibbled on some overpriced Russian canned food, I went over to Caprice Bar to see Hairy Legs and Victor. This was my real lunch date, and I brought along a bottle of bongwater that I had carried all the way back from Paris.
But the main event - besides discussing a little business about my upcoming wine dinner - was the wine. And I was pretty excited about opening this magnum...
2015 Ganevat Le p'tiot Roukin, en magnum - very fragrant and fruity. After 25 minutes floral notes came out, with leather, a little metallic and iron rust, also toasty. Beautiful wine!
A very enjoyable afternoon, and I'm expecting a knock-out menu when I come back next week.
It's been a while since I last hit up Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝), so I went for a quick fix at lunch.
So it's finally my turn to host a dinner for the MNSC boys. It's been a long time since any of us last hosted a dinner at Caprice, but I knew Hairy Legs would not fail me. Knowing this was a big thing for me, Hairy Legs, sommelier Victor Petiot, and I had a gathering last week to discuss the dishes that would pair with the wines. I asked for a short menu since some of the boys have been cutting down on the amount of food they take in, and Hairy Legs decided to put together a few dishes with plenty of truffles.
First came a trio of nibbles:
A few of the boys had stopped coming to Caprice for the last few years, and they were honestly surprised by the dishes tonight. Everyone was very, very happy with how well the dishes worked with the wines.
And speaking of the wines... I had been wanting to do a vertical tasting of my favorite wines from my favorite producer for a long time. Tonight was that opportunity. I left the treatment decisions entirely up to sommelier Victor Petiot, and the results were a little surprising to many. As it turns out, most of the wines still tasted as if they were very young wines - even the bottle that was more than 30 years' old.
First pair: opened 6 hours and 15 minutes prior to serving. Not decanted.
Third pair: opened almost 8 hours prior to serving.
Fourth pair: opened 8 hours and 40 minutes prior, and decanted 2 hours and 40 minutes prior to serving.
I loved lining up the bottles tonight for a "group shot", as I had been cellaring all of these bottles for at least a decade. Many thanks to Hairy Legs, Victor, and Ken for taking such good care of us tonight.