Postcard from Philadelphia: 13th & Locust’s Rainbow Crosswalk

It was the day after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide in the U.S. My parents and I were in Philadelphia to catch the Hermione tall ship while she was making her way up the East Coast. We were wandering around the city’s Mural Mile, a 2.5 mile loop through downtown, to catch some of Philadelphia’s most iconic street art. Suddenly, a pop of colour on the ground caught our attention for a change. At the intersection of 13th street and Locust, rainbow stripes had been painted on the pedestrian crosswalks, forming a bright and bold square.

Rainbow Crosswalk in Philadelphia

 

Turns out, this didn’t just pop overnight following the Supreme Court decision. It had been planned long before 😉 Starting with West Hollywood back in 2012, a handful of North American cities brightened up their crosswalks in historically gay or gay-friendly neighbourhoods like Vancouver’s Davie Street VillageSan Francisco’s CastroSeattle’s Capitol Hill or Toronto’s Church Street. Even Key West’s got a Rainbow Crosswalk and now Philadelphia. Isn’t it time DC got one as well!? As the Washington Post highlighted in this article last year, why can’t crosswalks be more fun, like this series of artist-designed crosswalks up in Baltimore’s new Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment District or San Jose’s crosswalks at Paseo de San Antonio? We got a decent start with the awesome star-spangled crosswalk that livens up the intersection of 14th and S streets NW, but it could use a little sprucing up right now, it’s looking quite faded. And we could use more!! Wouldn’t you love a rainbow crosswalk in DC? If yes, where do you think it should be? 

Dîner en Blanc – New York Edition

Last night, I joined 5,000 revelers at Pier 26 in Tribeca for the fifth edition of New York’s Dîner en Blanc. Being involved with the DC event, which this year will take place on August 29th and involve 2,500 guests, I can appreciate the sheer logistics of getting all of us, carrying our own tables, chairs, tableware, centerpieces and food, there!

Diner en blanc New YorkWashington Square Park

Diner en blanc Washington Square Park

 

Our evening started at Washington Square Park, one of 24 meeting spots throughout the city. Well, really it started on a bus to New York… but let’s not go there 😉 Following a quick glass of rosé on tap at Claudette (no it wasn’t weird at all to show up there with 2 chairs, I swear…), my friend Caitlin and I met Katie, our very organized table leader, as well our 48 diner mates.

Part of the concept of Dîner en Blanc, which originated in Paris (I mean where else??) is that the location of the diner is kept secret until the very last minute so we had no idea where we were headed. Previously, Dîner en Blanc New York has popped up at Bryant Park, the Lincoln Center and, more recently, Nelson A. Rockefeller Park at Battery Park. It took a good hour and a half to get from Washington Square Park to being set up in our designated area on Pier 26. With only two entry points to get 5,000 people in and out of the site, it was definitely a challenge to get everyone there and ready for diner, but the end result was worth all the sweating and slugging of white chairs in the metro and 33 degree heat!

Diner en blanc new york

Diner en blanc new York

Diner en blanc at Pier 26Despite being so close to last year’s location, which was a little disappointing, the backdrop of this year Dîner en Blanc – the Hudson River, New Jersey City Skyline and the new One World Trade Center – was absolutely stunning! You could even see a small  Statue of Liberty in the background! The site will be converted into a mixed-use recreational facility soon so this was the very last event held on the empty Pier.

Diner en blanc New YorkDiner en blanc New York

Caitlin and I opted to skip the picnic baskets provided by Chef Todd English and brought in our food, sushi from Beyond Sushi and macarons from Mille-Feuille.  Per New York regulations, we did pre-purchase a bottle of champagne to pick up on-site, from Dîner en Blanc New York sponsor Perrier Jouet.

Diner en Blanc New YorkDiner en blanc new York

One of my favourite element of the diner, which I hope we will have in DC too, was the Celebrity Cruises volunteers who not only had the cutest outfits as they held signs indicating the different rows of tables but also handed out white chocolate dipped macarons to all of the guests toward the end of the dinner. I cannot wait to see what they have planned for the event here in Washington, which they are also sponsoring!! 

Celebrity Cruises at diner en blanc new york

Have you ever attended a Dîner en Blanc event before? When? Where? Are you planning on attending one this year? I’d love to hear!!

Postcard from Wisconsin: Babcock Hall Dairy Store

Did your alma mater produce its own amazing ice cream on campus? I’m gonna guess no, unless you went to UConn, Penn State or the University of Wisconsin at Madison. One of my best friends, Cecile of The Worldly Bite, comes from a long line of Badgers, so ahead of my recent trip to Wisconsin, she gave me the scoop on everything I couldn’t miss while visiting her campus, starting with getting a scoop of delicious ice cream at Babcock Hall Dairy Storebien sur.

Getting some Ice Cream at Babcock Hall Dairy Store

Wisconsin is known as America’s dairyland so it’s not that surprising that UW-Madison would offer the best Dairy Science major in the country, host the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research (CDR), and operate its own dairy plant on campus using milk from its very own dairy herd. Named after Stephen Moulton Babcock, a pivotal UW-Madison researcher in the department of Agricultural Chemistry, the store helps to support the UW Food Science Department. While students, alumni and visitors like my parents and I flock to the store for its ice cream, you can also purchase cheese and milk there, as well as fair trade coffee roasted in Madison at Ancora Coffee Roasters.

Badgers Milk from Babcock Hall Dairy StoreGouda from Babcock Hall Dairy Store

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also tour the dairy plant and observe the way the products are made. 

Tour the dairy plant at Babcock Dairy Hall

 

In the shadow of Babcock Hall dairy Store, the university also operates its own buther shopBucky’s Butchery, as part of its Meat Science program in the Department of Animal Sciences. Sorry, dairy cows… I hear it sells amazing bacon though we didn’t visit since my dad doesn’t eat meat. Babcock Hall Dairy Store is located at 1605 Linden Drive in Madison and is open from 7:30am to 5:30pm, Monday through Friday and from 11am to 4pm on Saturdays. While you’re on campus, don’t miss a walk through the lakeshore nature preserve at Picnic Point then reward yourself with a pitcher of Spotted Cow at Memorial Union Terrace, overlooking Lake Mendota. Altogether, you’ll kinda wish you attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and not just for the ice cream! 

Paris vs New York: The Striped T-Shirt Edition

Paris mon Amour or New York my Love? That’s the question that JCrew’s little sister Madewell is asking in its second collaboration with the French label Sézane®. After a successful first capsule collection last year, Madewell x Sézane is back with flared jeans, a very Parisian-chic little black dress, Ulysse lace-up sandals, accessories like a flirty printed scarf to wrap effortlessly around your neck, a “Féminin et Masculin” gray sweatshirt that’s guaranteed to sell out as fast as the “Superbe” one did in 2014, and, my personal favourite, this set of two striped tees:

Paris Mon Amour New York My Love

Paris mon Amour New York my Love t-shirt image by Madewell

J’adore New York, but Paris will always be my home so I just ordered the red-striped shirt. I can’t wait to show it off around town here in Washington, D.C. The collection is only available online (check it all out right here) and will sell out so I wouldn’t wait too long if I were you. As a matter of fact, the madewell x sézane® striped knit dress is already gone. Le sigh. I really liked that one too 😦 

 

 

Cat-Ladying at Crumbs & Whiskers

This isn’t my first cat café post – cue in my previous posts on New York’s Meow Parlour and Paris’ Café des Chats. It’s not even my first post about Crumbs and Whiskers – see post on the launch of its kickstarter campaign. But it is my first post on DC’s eagerly anticipated cat café since it opened. And it’s my first post since actually going there!! My friend Cecile who writes The Worldly Bites has Gentlemeow Club member status so we snagged 2 weeknight spots during opening month and went to go play with the kittiens last night. Let me take you through our experience at Crumbs and Whiskers

Crumbs and Whiskers House Rules

 

Cat café is actually a bit of a misnomer when it comes to Crumbs and Whiskers. Yes, there’s cats. Plenty of them actually. But it’s not really a café at all. It’s more of a space to hang out with cats. The 2-story Georgetown house on O Street is actually quite narrow. The foyer, despite the best effort of the resident cat-greeter and of the café’s bubbly owner Kanchan Singh, is not really the most welcoming area. Upon checking in for your appointed time slot, you’ll be asked to sign a waiver if you haven’t already done so online and shown a quick menu of drink items, like coffee, that can be ordered and delivered from the place across the street. Unlike at Meow Parlour, you’re not required to disinfect your hands or take off your shoes, which is good because I’m not sure where you’d be able to store them at Crumbs and Whiskers. I’ll be curious to see how they handle coats this winter… After glancing at the house rules that are stated on the entrance wall, cat-lovers can make their way through the first floor or up the stairs to find a spot to settle at. Which is easier said than done. By the time Cecile and I arrived, at 6PM on the dot, and checked it, all the seats at the café were occupied by either a sleeping cat or a lady desperately waiting for a cat, any cat, to wake up. 

Crumbs & Whiskers

 

Quite frankly, Crumbs and Whiskers felt crowded. The cats looked peaceful and relaxed. Most were sleeping, which is what cats do, and that seemed amazing given how and busy everyone was around them. The minute a cat would wake up or show any willingness to play it would be surrounded by 5 girls all trying to get its attention. At Meow Parlour, in New York, my friend Caitlin and I sat and chatted peacefully while sipping the cups of coffee we had brought in from the Parlour’s coffee and macaron shop around the corner. A handful of other people were doing the same, playing with the occasional awake kitty that would deign pay attention to them for a few minutes before hopping off to a higher spot. Same in Paris’ Café des Chats, which actually is more of a tea-house than a ca and serves a full menu of food items since, you know, the French aren’t as uptight about food regulations 😉  At both, patrons seemed to be enjoying each other’s company, in a nice place that just happened to have a lot of cats. At Crumbs and Whiskers it felt more like people were only there to see (and play with) cats. 

Crumbs & Whiskers

All in all, I’m glad I checked out Crumbs and Whiskers but I probably won’t be back until the hype dies down a little. And when I do go back, I’ll pick a time slot that will be less busy, like the middle of the day on a Tuesday for example. But I’ll definitely encourage you to visit if you’re looking to adopt a cat (or more), though, again, not on evenings or weekends. All of the resident-kitties at Crumbs and Whiskers are available for adoptions through the Washington Humane Society and 9 of them have already moved on to forever home, which is really great given that the café has only been open for a month. As for me, if I want to get ignored by a black cat, I might save $10 and stay at home for now 😉 

Crumbs & Whiskers

Six Budget-Friendly French Wines for Bastille Day

From a baguette relay race at Paul to diner at Bistrot du Coin or a fancy patio fête at the Sofitel Hotel, there are plenty of options to celebrate France’s national holiday, le Quatorze Juillet, in Washington, DC. If you’re more of a homebody, why not stay at home and watch a great French film while sipping a good bottle of French wine!

For the films, I’ve narrowed down 20 of the best French films available on Netflix right here. And to help you find the perfect bottle of wine to go along whichever flick you pick, I turned to Michelle Lim Warner and Michael Warner, co-owners of DCanter, for some suggestions.  One of the things I love about the Capitol Hill wine boutique (other than the amazing chandelier in the tasting room!) is their “good juice wall” featuring affordable bottles in the $15 and under price range. In the spirit of that wall, Michelle and Michael recommended these six affordable French sippers:

Six Affordable French Wines for Bastille Day

 

PIERRE OLIVIER BRUT VIN MOUSSEUX NV

Champagne is the ultimate celebratory drink, but the price of a bottle can put a damper on your French party. Luckily, there are plenty of sparkly alternatives that won’t, like this $16 bottle of brut. This “vin de France” isn’t made in Champagne – it’s actually made in Burgundy using grapes from around the French/Spanish border – so it’s labelled as a vin mousseux which literally means foamy or bubbly wine (a bubble bath for example is called a bain moussant in French). Light and fresh, this “mousseux” will be a great aperitif to kick off your evening! It would also be great as a kir royal, with a few drops of cassis added to it!! 

CLOTILDE DAVENNE SAUVIGNON 2013

When you think Burgundy, you probably picture full-bodied reds, but the region also makes some great white wines like this Sauvignon Blanc. Most notable white burgundies like Chablis tend to be made from Chardonnay grapes so this wine is a bit of an oddity for the region. Another fact that makes this wine a bit of an oddity: it’s made by a woman winemaker, which sadly is still not that common in the male dominated wine industry. Like other white Burgundy, this sauvignon blanc pairs well with seafood (oysters and mignonette anyone?). 

Le Petit Gueissard RoseGUEISSARD LE PETIT GUEISSARD ROSE 2014

Since my grandparents lived in Bandol, I’ll always be partial to rosés from that part of Provence. Doesn’t hurt that they’re some of the best in the world either! Unfortunately, it’s hard to find an affordable bottle of Bandol, especially in the US. Just a few kilometers away from Bandol, however, is Sanary-Sur-Mer which also produces fine rosés like this $15 bottle. Pair it with Ma Vie en Rose or La Vie en Rose, bien sur 😉

ALAIN JAUME & FILS “HAUT DE BRUN” 2012

Alain Jaume and his three children make a great Côtes du Rhône that’s complex, yet perfect for every day drinking.

CHATEAU FESTIANO CUVEE DES FOUDRES 2013

Ever since I started planning my trip to the Languedoc-Roussillon I’ve been obsessed with trying as many different wines from that region as I can get my hands on! For research purposed of course. This juicy bargain, which retails at $15, is from the Minervois, one of the AOC in the Languedoc, and it’s definitely getting me excited for my trip!! Try it with some herbed cheese like Boursin, or blue cheese like Roquefort, whose caves I will also be visiting during my trip in a few weeks! 

CHATEAU BLOUIN BORDEAUX RED 2012

Bordeaux is probably the most well-know wine region in France, and this small right bank chateau makes a great red (80% merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc) with silky tannins and a well balanced finish. At $14, it’s a nice bargain that’s light enough to drink throughout the summer. 

What will you be drinking for La Fête Nationale on July 14th?

DCanter is located at 545 8th St SE near the Eastern Market metro. You can follow the wine boutique on Twitter, Facebook and Instragram for some cool wine tips! 

Liberty Enlightening the World… For 130 Years

Did you know that the Statue of Liberty, this universal symbol of freedom, is technically French? Yep, one of America’s most iconic monuments was born in France to Mr. Frederic Bartholdi, a French sculptor who modeled her after his mother, and given to the people of America as a gift of friendship from the French people. 130 years ago today, she arrived in new York Harbour after a long trip across the Atlantic Ocean in 350 individual pieces. These pieces took about a year to be reassembled and the 450,000-pound statue was officially dedicated on October 28, 1886, by President Cleveland. To celebrate the anniversary of the Statue of Liberty’s arrival in the United States, google created a cool little doodle, bien sur!
Google Doodle Statue of liberty June 17 2015
Did you know lady Liberty has a little sister in Paris? Well, actually, she has quite a few… but there’s a little (11.50 metres or 37 feet 9 inches) one on l’Île aux Cygnes near Pont de Grenelle in the 15th arrondissement that was given to Paris by the Americans as kind of a return gift. The Parisian statue of Liberty faces west in the direction of its American sibling and if you go to Pont Mirabeau, or walk along the quai Louis Bleriot between Quai Mirabeau and the Pont de Grenelle, you can snap a pretty awesome picture of both the Eiffel Tower AND the statue of Liberty (the inside armature for the American statue of Liberty were actually made by Eiffel!)  

Everything is bigger in America, including the Statue of Liberty 😉

And while Washington, DC doesn’t have a replica of the Statue of Liberty we do have a fountain designed by its creator, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, in one of my favourite hidden gem garden, the Bartholdi Park, right behind the US Botanical Garden. 

Hermione & the Spirit of Lafayette Back in the US


Nope, I’m not talking about a Hermione Granger, the Harry Potter character, but Hermione, the Frigate of Freedom, a ship. The replica of the ship that brought the Marquis de Lafayette to the United State some 235 years ago to carry the message from King Louis XVI that France was going to aid the colonies. In 1997, a group of people came up with the idea of reconstructing the frigate using the same building methods applied in the original. Some 17 years later, on April 18, 2015, she left Rochefort in France to set sail for Virginia and retrace a journey through American history. For the past month, L’Hermione plied across the Atlantic, retracing Lafayette’s journey. She’s set to arrive in Yorktown, Virginia, this week and then sail up the Coast to 11 additional ports. If you’re hoping to catch the ship, here’s her schedule:

11044588_331276043728780_4448991414628043060_n

  • Yorktown, Virginia (June 5-7)
  • Mount Vernon, Virginia (June 9 – not docking)
  • Alexandria, Virginia (June 10-12)
  • Annapolis, Maryland (June 16-17)
  • Baltimore, Maryland (June 19-21)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (June 25-28)
  • New York, New York (July 1-4)
  • Greenport, New York (July 6-7)
  • Newport, Rhode Island (July 8-9)
  • Boston, Massachusetts (July 11-12)
  • Castine, Maine (July 14-15)
  • Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (July 18)

At each stops, there will be a traveling photography exhibit covering the 17 years of the ship’s reconstruction and visitors will be able to tour the ship and enjoy other pier-side cultural activities. As always, New York gets the best stop of all, the one on July 4th, with a whole parade of boats that will accompany the Hermione as she sails from the Verrazano Bridge to the Statue of Liberty. Then of course, there’ll be fireworks, but I think those would have happened regardless 😉 I wish I could make it to that, but I’m hoping to catch the ship in Philadelphia since I’ll be out of town on a work trip pretty much the entire time it’s going to be in the DC-area. 

For more information on L’Hermione and her transatlantic trip, check out the website Hermione Voyage or follow her journey on instagram and twitter. The photograph used in this post was courtesy of L’Hermione.

A Taste of Burgundy: Jambon à la Chablisienne

Making Jambon à la Chablisienne is very simple and allows you to bring together two ingredients that are abundant in Burgundy: wine and ham. In this case, the wine in question is Chablis, one of the better chardonnays produced in the region. The original dish as it was created in the first half of the 20th century called for a whole ham cooked on the boned in Chablis with added flavouring and served over spinach or fresh noodles . Today, the recipe has been simplified: thick slices of ham are baked with a sauce made of tomatoes, wine and shallots and served over rice. Here’s how to make it at home…

INGREDIENTS

1 lb. cooked ham, sliced 1⁄4" thick; 1 3/4 cups chicken stock; 1 cup chablis; 2 tbsp red wine vinegar;  4 sprigs tarragon, plus 1 tbsp chopped for garnish; 2 large shallots, minced; ! small can of tomato paste; 1 1/2 sour cream; salt and pepper

1 pound cooked ham, cut into 6-8 1⁄4″ thick sliced ; 1 3/4 cups chicken stock; 1 cup chablis; 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar; 4 sprigs tarragon + 1 tablespoon chopped for garnish; 3 shallots, minced; 1 small can of tomato paste; 1 1/2 cups sour cream; salt and pepper

 

PREPARATION

Start by heating up the oven to 400° and preparing your ingredients. You’ll want to slice the ham (rolling it is optional, I didn’t, but most people do) and chopping the shallots into small dices. Measure all your other ingredients. The 1 cup of chablis is basically one hefty glass. Pour yourself a smaller one to enjoy as you cook!  

Before the oven is fully heated, you can start cooking the shallots and tarragon sprigs in the chablis in a dutch oven or ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Once it has started to reduce, you’ll want to add the 2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar and the chicken stock and reduce it all further until there’s only about half a cup left. At that point, you’ll want to blend the sauce in a mixer before returning to the pot and add the tomato paste. Once that has cooked a little (let’s say 3-5 minutes) add the sour cream, salt and pepper and simmer until the sauce thickens.

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Arrange the ham slices in an oven-proof dish (it’s ok if they overlap!) and strain the sauce over them through a fine-mesh sleeve. Shake the dish to make sure all of the ham slices gets coated with the sauce and bake for 30 minutes. Towards the end, you can add gruyere on top of the ham and sauce to make the dish into more of a gratin, but you don’t have to.

Once you remove the dish from the oven, sprinkle with one tablespoon of chopped tarragon and/or parsley and serve over 1 cup of white rice to absorb the sauce, as well as the rest of the chablis bottle you used for cooking! In the case of the recipe, a chablis (not petit, not 1er or grand cru) is best, as long is it about 3 years old. I chose a 2012 Chablis from Domaine Long-Depaquit that had been sent to me by Pure Chablis and it worked beautifully! 

 

 

Happy St. Honoré to all the bakers & pastry chefs

The Catholic Church has a long tradition of assigning saints as special guardians and protectors of different trades and professions, and bakers and pastry chefs are no exception! Saint Honoré, the former Bishop of Amiens in the North of France, is revered by bakers as their patron saint, in part due to a church that was built in his honor in 1202 that became the site of the bakers’ guilt. Technically, the patron saint of pastry chefs is St. Michel. But the line between boulangers (bakers) and pâtissiers (pastry chefs) is often blurred in France, with most boulangeries selling pastries in addition to bread. 

Saint Honoré Rose Framboise from Ladurée Soho

Saint Honoré Rose Framboise from Ladurée Soho – picture Laetitia-Laure Brock

The St. Honoré also happens to be a delicious dessert made of cream puffs, puff pastry, pastry cream and caramelized sugar. It’s not named after the saint, but after the Parisian street where the bakery that invented it was located. So not only do all boulangers and pâtissiers have a holiday to celebrate, they also have the perfect treat to celebrate it with!

Check out this great story in NPR to learn more about the holiday and its signature pastry, the St. Honoré pastry.