Postcard from New York: Meow Parlour

Meow ParlourCrumbs & Whiskers‘ kickstarter campaign has raised over $35,000, has gotten all of the necessary permits from the D.C. government and, this just in, officially signed a lease for a Georgetown location. So Washington is definitely getting a cat café in the near future though it probably won’t open until late summer. And until it does, I thought I’d share what I hope Crumbs & Whiskers will be like. And that’s basically Meow Parlour.

Meow Parlour is New York’s first, adn to date only, cat café. Or perhaps I should say a space with cats, where you can bring coffee purchased at another location around the corner. Unlike Paris’ cat cafe, Cafe des Chats (which actually is more of a teahouse than a café), D.C.’s Crumbs & Whiskers will also technically not really be a café. The US has stricter restrictions on food service industry regulations that basically mandate that kitchens be not only cat-free but also in a completely separate space. When I talked to Crumbs & Whiskers‘ founder, Kanchan Singh, at her kickstarter campaign launch (yes, I’m pretty into this cat café business) she mentioned partnering with a food provider in order to comply with health code regulations. Just like at Meow Parlour, you’ll basically be paying for play time with kitties… and you can chose to bring in pastries and/or coffee from an approved vendor along. For Meow Parlour, that approved vendor is Macaron Parlour, an East Village bakery I first discovered when it was just a booth at Union Square Holiday Market and have enjoyed visiting since, even when they make crazy flavours like Cheetos macarons (which are actually quite delicious by the way). Macarons and cats are basically two of my favourite things, so the minute online reservations opened for Meow Parlour I booked two spots to check it out during a business trip to New York. I dragged my friend Caitlin, who may not love cats nearly as much as I do, but can’t resist the appeal of macarons, and checking out a hot new local business.

Before getting to Meow Parlour, we actually swung by Meow Parlour Patisserie just around the corner to pick up a coffee and some macarons, including some adorable Hello Kitty looking ones.

Meow Parlour

We then entered Meow Parlour, where the first thing we were asked to do is sign a lengthy waiver, take off our shoes and sanitize our hands. In New York in February this wasn’t my favourite thing to do so if you go, be warned: wear pretty socks or make sure you’ve got a good pedicure going! Once inside, you’ll find the space bright, clean and chic. Also, of course, full of cats! There’s definitely a strong cat-theme but everything is done very tastefully. There’s a wall of cats of course, with pictures of the current residents along with their “purrsonality type” but there’s no tacky cat trees.

Wall of cats at Meow Parlour

Instead there’s a full wall bookshelf with nooks and crannies and holes that allow the kittens to hop up and down, hide in scratchers at the top or lay next to you and a tasteful Le Chat pillows as you read The Cat in The Hat (or another cat themed book) from the library.

I love the design of the space at Meow Parlous! (picture courtesy Meow Parlour)

Meow Parlour

Meow Parlour

Before even entering Meow Parlour, you’ll probably spot a few kitties observing the traffic on Hester Street from oversized white wooden letters that spell the word “meow” at the floor to ceiling window at the front.

Meow Parlour

Meow Parlour

Back towards the shelves, there’s also soft cushions on the floors surrounding low hexagonal white coffee tables with see-through tops and cat beds inside, as well as cat head shaped holes on the sides. There’s typically a cat or two inside the table as well and you can watch them sleep peacefully 😉 If you’re here to get some work done, there’s high top tables and free wi-fi. Cats, it is a well known fact, love nothing more than laying on computer keyboards while you’re trying to write a blog post… so hopefully you have realistic expectations about how much work you can actually get done at Meow Parlour. And if you just want to play with some cats, there’s plenty of toys laying around and plenty of cats willing to chase stuff around.

Meow Parlour

Meow Parlour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since visiting, I have loved following Meow Parlour on social media since it opened. That’s another thing that the New York cat cafe does really well and I can’t believe there’s actually someone on their payroll whose job it is to hang out with cats of day, take pictures of them and post them on social media (follow Meow Parlour on twitter, instagram and facebook). Add the fact that there’s macarons involved in the business too and, well, you can pretty much guess this is my dream job. All jokes aside (I’m actually not really joking) the folks at Meow Parlour do a great job of updating followers on new resident kittens and on letting them know who found his or her forever home. Because, of course, all of the cats at Meow Parlour are available for adoption. In that regard, Meow Parlour and Crumbs & Whiskers, which will follow the same model, are kind of halfway houses for cats… it’s not quite like being in a shelter and the idea is that they shouldn’t stay there very long. I can only hope that Crumbs & Whiskers will be as tastefully a space as Meow Parlour and that it will enjoy the same level of adoption rates. There’s definitely been a lot of turn-over at Meow Parlour since it’s opened and that’s a sign that it’s doing something right! I certainly hope for the same success rate for the cats at Crumbs & Whiskers, which will all come from the Washington Humane Society.

If you’re interested in checking out Meow Parlour when you’re in New York, they take a limited number of walk-ins so you should definitely consider making a reservation online at meowparlour.com. A half hour of kitty time will set you back $4 and you can book up to 5 hours. They have children hours too if you have kids (check the website for details). Meow Parlour is at 46 Hester Street in the Lower East Side, and Meow Parlour Patisserie is around the corner at 34 Ludlow Street. All pictures unless otherwise noted were taken by me back in February 2015.

Les Merveilleux de Fred Opens in New York’s West Village

I spent the past week in New York City for a work event, and just had to find some time to visit the newly opened bakery Aux Merveilleux de Fred. HAD TO.

Aux Merveilleux de Fred is now open in the West Village

The Manhattan version of Frédéric Vaucamps’ meringue-shop looks like his many Parisian outposts, with a stunning chandelier, rows of merveilleux in display cases and an open kitchen that allows passers-by on 8th avenue to see how the pastries are assembled by hand. And the pastries? Well, they’re just as marvelous on this side of the Atlantic 😉

Aux merveilleux de Fred New York

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If you’re not familiar with the merveilleux pastry, you’re not alone. This traditional northern France sweet had fallen out of fashion until the late 90’s, when Fred decided to make it the star of Aux Merveilleux de Fred, his Lille pastry shop. It’s a marvelously airy combination of soft and not-so-soft meringues, held together with flavoured whipped cream and rolled in pieces of nuts, coconut flakes, or chocolate shavings. It looks a bit like a snowball and, for many, bitting into one evokes delicious memories of childhood. In New York, they are sold individually in mini or regular or large size and declined in 6 different flavours with extremely French names you might find hard to pronounce: le Merveilleux (chocolate), l’Incroyable (speculos and white chocolate), l’Impensable (coffee), l’Excentrique (cherry), le Magnifique (praline, almond, hazelnuts – my personal favourite) and le Sans-Culotte (caramel). The shop also sells cramiques, which are brioche-y breads.

A box of 10 merveilleux will set you back $25

But let’s get back to how fred ended up in New York. Following on fellow Lillois Meert’s footstep, Fred brought his marvelous pâtisseries to the French capital, a rare feat in itself. As Olivier Magny, the best-selling author of “Stuff Parisians Like,” note: “it’s a rare thing for Parisians to adopt a provincials’ favorite.”  And yet, that’s just what Fred achieved. Parisians can’t get enough merveilleux, at one of the six pâtisseries that are scattered around the city. His newest Parisian shop is actually around the corner from where I went to middle school. If you’re in Paris, you should go and check out the houses across the street at 11 and 13 rue François Miron. They’re some of the oldest in the city! Swing by Izrael next door too, it’s a tiny but fabulous spice shop. But I digress. Back to Frédéric and his merveilleux….The pâtissier is now out to conquer the world… starting with outposts in Brussels, London, and now New York. I can only hope Washington will be next! Spoiler alert: it’s not. Geneva and Shanghai will get sweet merveilleux before I do. So I like knowing that I can get my merveilleux fix in the West Village. And I should note that Aux Merveilleux de Fred is not the first New York bakery to sell merveilleux. Belgian expat Anne Sophie Diotallevi opened O Merveilleux in the Upper East Side last year, just a few blocks away from Ladurée and the French bookstore Albertine. Stay tuned for posts on both O Merveilleux and Albertine. Because obviously, I had to check these out too. HAD TO.

Aux Merveilleux de Fred is located at 37 eighth avenue (at the corner of Jane street). It’s open every day from 8AM to 7.30PM. Click here to view the addresses of the Paris shops.

Travel Highlights from 2014

2014 was a great year for me travel-wise. I made it home to France not once, but twice. I made the most out of a few work trips in New York, Chicago, Raleigh, Boca Raton and Austin, Texas. I even tested out Icelandair’s “the best part of a trip to Paris is Iceland” advertisement by doing a stop-over in Reyjkavik on my way back from Paris. The highlight of last year, though, was traveling to Brazil to cheer on my beloved Bleus during the World Cup, a trip I had been planning for and looking forward to for the past 3 years.

MAKING THE MOST OUT OF WORK TRIPS 

Chicago (and New York before that) happened in the dead of winter. For Chicago, I think I got to go because none of my colleagues were crazy enough to go there for a frozen 36-hour trip. But I really like Chicago and I can’t wait to go back. In the summer.

Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t justify renting a car in Austin since the event I was there for was at the hotel where I was staying, and unfortunately that hotel was not in the center of the city. As a result I didn’t get to see much of Austin as I would have to, but I did get to have some great BBQ and some fun food like Texas shaped waffles and Texas wine, at the Vino Volo at the airport of course.

Texas shape waffle

Texas wine flight

For Raleigh, it was really a combination fun and work since we have quite a few DC friends that somehow ended up there and we actually ended up going on 2 separate occasions. Since I’ve never owned a car (and didn’t have a car growing up in Paris either) I’m absolutely OBSESSED with road trips. It’s weird, I know. But my favourite part of the trips to Raleigh was driving down, through Richmond, VA, with my husband. I really would like to do more road trips in 2015. You know, with my imaginary car 😉

Welcome to North Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had been to Charlotte, of course, in 2014 for the Democratic National Convention, but Raleigh is quite different. I loved touring Duke University, especially the Sarah P. Duke gardens and fell in love with the North Carolina Art Museum. Also with LaFarm’s white chocolate chip baguette. SO good!

Rodin Gardens

Duke University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t love Boca Raton as much, but it was still nice to spend a whole week in Florida. Even if I spent most of it indoor for our annual conference (helped that it was at the gorgeous Boca Raton Resort), I did spend a few hours on a beach before my flight, and checked out Whale’s Ribs of Drives-and-Dives-In fame. The oysters were cheap… but also tasteless. The bloody marys on the other end…

BRAZIL 2014 

Raleigh, Austin, Boca… those were nice trips. But of course, the one trip I was really (really really really) looking forward to was heading to Brazil for the World Cup. That trip was expensive, it required a lot of advance planning, entering of lotteries etc. Was it worth it? YES! Absolutely. For me. My husband probably thinks differently (maybe I should have tried to squeeze in one US game in there…) It certainly wasn’t an easy trip for us as a couple and we learned a lot about traveling together. We both disliked our stay in Belo Horizonte, though we adored the smaller town of Ouro Preto. We loved Rio, though I wish we’d stayed closer to Ipanema or Copacabana, instead of downtown.

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One of the highlights of the trip, for me, (I mean, not that watching France NOT score a single goal for 180 minutes wasn’t thrilling) was Iguazu Falls and crossing the border into Argentina for a quick day trip to see the falls on the other side. There’s a triple-border spot formed naturally by the convergence of the Parana River and the Iguazu River. Right there, you can literally stand between Brazil and Argentina, with Paraguay in the backdrop. I absolutely loved that spot!

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And while the whole idea behind going to Brazil was that we wouldn’t be making it to Russia or Qatar, I learned so much in my first World Cup experience that I think the next one can only be better. Privyet Russia 2018?

HOME SWEET HOME 

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I feel very lucky that I got to go to Paris not once but twice last year. I caught up with family, and my ever changing hometown. I went to the ballet at the stunning Opera Garnier with my dad and showed my husband some of my old haunts. I fell in love with Paris’ newest monument, la Fondation Louis Vuitton, and discovered the new offspring of its most famous museum (that would be the Louvre Lens, you can read more about it here). I had some great coffee at adorable new spots in the Marais and the Canal Saint Martin area and ate WAY too many pastries 😉

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I even got to show my husband a little bit of the country outside of France when we traveled to the South of France to spend Christmas at my uncle’s house in Goult and visited many cute small villages along the way (as well as the not-so-small “villages” of Avignon, Marseille and Nice.)

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THE BEST PART OF A TRIP TO PARIS IS ICELAND?

Finally, I took my husband on a bit of his dream trip, which meant meeting up in Reyjkavik for Thanksgiving. I have a feeling we’ll be back and explore more of Iceland in the future (I mean, I’m going to keep visiting Paris… so as long as Icelandair keeps offering that awesome stop-over deal… Iceland trips are going to be in our future.).

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Unlike Brazil, that trip was just easy. We booked some guided excursions, which I never do and despite some of my friends advising me to just rent a car and do it ourself. If there’s anything I learned in Brazil, it’s that it’s ok, occasionally, and it did prove to be the right travel choice for us at that particular time. I’m not saying we’ll always go with organized tours, but that it can be worth it to save yourself the hassle of doing it all yourself sometimes…

When I first started writing this post, I didn’t have a lot to look forward to travel-wise for 2015. I had such an amazing travel year in 2014 that it seems greedy to expect even half of that for 2015. And yet, I want more! So far, outside of a quick work trip to New York in early February (I already have reservations for Meow Parlor!) and another to Vegas for our national conference, I don’t really have anything concrete.  But here are some of my travel thoughts. I used to live in Montreal and I haven’t been back in ages. And Canada happens to be hosting the Women Football World Cup next summer so I’d love to make that happen (bonus: NO lottery to get tickets to games!!) I also have friends getting married in France and Finland in August and September, and while the 2 weddings are too close together to make both happen, I’d like to make at least one happen (if it’s Finland, I’m making it to Saint Petersburg this time!) Also, last week I won a 4 nights stay at a brand new hotel in Cancun through Expedia’s #TravelChat, so it looks like as soon as we can figure out flights, we’ll be headed to the dream relaxing beach vacation my husband has always wanted… and maybe we’ll rent a car and take a road trip to a new US destination as well…

What were your 2014 travel highlights? Any exciting plans already for 2015?

Meet Mimo, the Cheesy Jack O’Lantern

Last year, mimolette gave me quite a scare when it looked like its sale was going to be banned in the US because of some microscopic mite on its rind. Well, mimolette is back without mite this time and it wants to be part of your HalloweenMimolette celebrations.

Afterall, mimolette is round and orange, so it’s definitely a great alternative to a pumpkin for a Jack o’lantern and the French Cheese Board, the home of all things French cheese in New York city, is showcasing mimolette from October 23 to November 7 at their HQ at 26 West 39th Street. Conveniently enough, I will be in New York to cheer for a French friend running the New York marathon… looks like I’ll be meeting you soon mimo!

 

Give Your DC Summer a French Twist

Stuck in the city for the summer? Luckily, there are a ton of events across town to help you pretend you’re in France.

Allez les bleusCHEER FOR LES BLEUS DURING THE WORLD CUP

Head to Redline on game day to join the French Expat Meet-Up and L’Union des Français de l’étranger de Washington in supporting l’Equipe de France as they fight to get out of Group H. And if you want to learn more about Les Bleus, head to l’Alliance Francaise after the game on Friday, June 20. Sports historian Lindsay Krasnoff will moderate a panel of sports journalists on the history and importance of the 1998 World Cup champions in French society.


LA FETE DE LA MUSIQUE

It’s one of my favourite events every year. New York goes all out with an awesome French concert at Summer Stage on June 21 (this year, M and Emilie Simon  are headlining – I really wish I could make it!) We’re not as lucky in Washington but there are still a number of fun musically filled events taking place:

The following week, Malmaison is hosting Dimitri from Paris for a special concert as well, and that should be pretty awesome!

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CATCH A FRENCH MOVIE (OR AT LEAST ONE SET IN FRANCE) 

Lots of good options this summer:

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CELEBRATE LE QUATORZE JUILLET 

Head to your favourite French restaurant on July 14 or check out one of these events:

Have a very French été!

Stromae Announces US Tour Dates

Stromae, Who the Hell is Stromae, Stromae time out, stromae US tourNow that’s a US tour!! French artists rarely come to the US and when they do, it’s usually only for  extra date or two (typically New York and Los Angeles) before or after a show in Montreal. So I’m really excited to see that, fresh off his cover of Time Out New York and just ahead of his sold out show at the Best Buy Theater, Stromae  announced a REAL US tour. The tour includes Washington, DC, which I’m stoked about, obviously, but also places that probably rarely see a French artist perform like Colorado and Utah. Here are the full dates and concert venues:

20-June           New York, NY             Best Buy Theatre (sold out)
17-Sep            Philadelphia, PA          Trocadero
18-Sep            Washington, DC           9:30 Club
19-Sep            New York, NY              Terminal 5 *On sale now
21-Sep            Boston, MA                  Paradise Rock Club
23-Sep            Toronto, ON                 The Sound Academy
24-Sep            Chicago, IL                  Metro – Smart Bar
25-Sep            Minneapolis, MN           Mill City Nights
27-Sep            Englewood, CO            Gothic Theatre *On sale May 3
28-Sep            Salt Lake City, UT        The Depot
30-Sep            Vancouver, ON             Vogue Theater
1-Oct               Seattle, WA                 The Showbox at the Market
3-Oct               San Francisco, CA       Mezzanine
4-Oct               Los Angeles, CA          The Fonda Theatre

I think it’s FORMIDABLE and can’t wait for September 18!

(if you don’t know who Stromae is, you should! You might remember the Belgian singer from this song) and you should really check out his new album! It’s good and available on iTunes (all his albums are actually… which is also rare for music in French) and spotify.

Save the Date: Ah, que Johnny a DC (et NYC…!)

He may still be called France’s “biggest rock star” but Johnny Hallyday lives in the United States these days, where he is a permanent US resident just like me… He’s past his prime, yes, but he’s had a long and illustrious musical career. And he’s touring the country this spring….

johnny hallyday USA, Johnny hallyday us tour

Like most French artist on a US tour, he’ll be performing in New York (May 6, Beacon Theater) and Los Angeles, because, well, these are clearly the only two American cities French artists know. But lucky us, he’ll also be stopping by the District (and San Francisco, and Miami Beach). And actually, it’ll probably be quite a treat… Johnny Hallyday typically performs in very large concert venues in France and seeing him play a more intimate and acoustic set must be a great experience. Though after Jane Birkin and Partick Bruel, I really wish “younger” artists would pay us a visit too. Oh well, I’ll take the 80 years old “’idole des Jeunes” I guess. 😉 

For more info on Johnny’s May 8th DC concert at the Lincoln Theater, and to buy tickets ($55), click here.

High Holiday macaroons Macarons

It’s the High Holy Days and patissier François Payard introduced a Rosh Hashanah macarons collection for the occasion. Macaroons are typically associated with another Jewish holidays, Passover, but these are proper French macarons that play on traditional Rosh Hashanah foods: apple, honey and raisins.

Francois Payard, macaron, high holidays

An assortment of green apple and honey macarons, and raisin pecan macarons.
Picture from Francois Payard

A common greeting on Rosh Hashanah is Shana tovah u’metukah. That’s Hebrew for “a good and SWEET new year.” I think it’s important to take it seriously. And start the new year with many many sweet macarons!

François Payard’s Rosh Hashanah macarons collection (with an assortment of green apple and honey macarons and raisin pecan macarons) is available at his Manhattan patisseries for $29 for a 12-piece box. While you’re there, pick up an apple honey cake too 😉

Paris’ Metro Diplomacy

There’s so much to see in Paris. There’s literally a landmark or museum every other street. So it’s not surprising that even our metro entrances would be historical monuments… Paris’ metropolitain is one of the oldest in the world, opening at the beginning of the 20th century for the 1900 Exposition Universelle. The metro was, at the time, a very novel mode of transportation. Only London had one…  Since Parisiens are all about style, they thought having attractive entrances would be a great way to encourage them to get on board (literally). So they hired Hector Guimard, a young architect, and between 1900 and 1913, some 141 Guimard metropolitain entrances were installed throughout the city. Today, only 86 are still standing, two of them only a few blocks from where I grew up, at Bastille and Breguet Sabin. A few more can be spotted around the world from Moscow to Mexico City, and where I currently live, in Washington, D.C.

The ornate green cast iron entryways Guimard designed became so iconic over the years that they turned into one of the best ambassadors of Paris around the world. Like China’s pandas, except, well, less furry and cuddly, the Guimard metros have been used as diplomatic gifts by the RATP*


Number 1 and number 2 are located in Washington, D.C.’s sculpture garden and New York City’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at the MoMa museum respectively. Unlike the other 3, they are not used to mark the entrance of an actual metro, but are pieces of art in a museum. Both are originals (the one at MoMa used to stand at the Raspail metro station) that have been restored. That’s more than the next two can say… actually, out of all of the Guimard entrances that have been given to other cities, the only functioning original one outside of Paris is number 5 at the Square-Victoria station in Montreal. Meanwhile, replicas from original molds have been given to the Lisbon metro (picoas station), the Mexico City metro (Bellas Artes station – number 3 above), the Moscow Metro (the Kievskaya station, which is actually one of the prettiest metro station in the world with chandeliers and artwork is inspired from Ukrainian life and folk motifs) and Chicago’s Metra (number 4 above is located on Van Buren Street.) 

 

These bouches de metro** are an important part of Paris’ architectural heritage. I know, they’re not quite as cute as panda bears, but I think they still make great ambassadors for Paris abroad!

 
*RATP is the Parisian transit authority… because it’s on strike so often the joke is that RATP stands for Rentre Avec Tes Pieds or “go home with your feet.” But in reality it stands for Regie Autonome des Transports Parisien or Autonomous Operator of Parisian Transports

** bouche = mouth, we call our metro entrances mouths of the metro… poetic I guess.

2012: the year of the ramen

Since I take a lot of pictures of the food I eat, it’s quite easy for me to look down my stomach memory lane. And by the look of things, I ate a lot of ramen in 2012…

My first meal out of 2012: Toki Underground (DC)
My favourite ramen of all: Totto Ramen (NY)
Occasionally, Mandu serves late night ramen (DC)
Royu ramen at Hokkaido in Paris’ Japanese quarter (Paris)
Les Parisiens have caught ramen fever too 😉
Chosun Ramen at Sakuramen (DC)
Where it all started: Momofuku noodle bar
Minca (New York)

Now I just need to get myself to Japan so I can actually try the real thing… travel goal for 2013? 😉