Le Beaujolais Nouveau is Arriving at These 6 French Spots

Beaujolais Nouveau 2016

Ten days after the U.S. elections and one week before Thanksgiving, it’s time to celebrate a French holiday for a change: the arrival of the first wine of the season, le Beaujolais Nouveau. As always, it happens on the third Thursday of November, so unless you were up until 2 a.m. celebrating at Bistrot du Coin today’s the day! Here are 10 French restaurants and wine bars marking the occasion around town.

Cafe du Parc at the Willard InterContinental will be offering free George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau along with passed hors d’oeuvres at the bar on Thursday from 5-6pm. Beaujolais will also be available by the glass and as a pairing with a 4-course, prix-fixe dinner at the restaurant upstairs ($65 per person without the pairing, $85 with.)

Le Grenier on H Street will also be pouring complimentary Beaujolais at its bar from 6 to 9 pm on Thursday. 


Beaujolais Nouveau at La JambeBeaujolais is pretty cheap wine, and Chef Cedric Maupillier totally gets that.
 He’ll be offering glasses of the vin primeur for $10 a glass ($7 at the bar during happy hour) and $25 a bottle throughout his Shaw restaurant ConvivialAround the corner from Convivial, my new favourite wine bar, La Jambe is celebrating the 2016 harvest with $9 glasses of Beaujolais Nouveau ($16 for two until supplies last so make it a wine date!) which will pair perfectly with owner Anastasia Mori’s homemade charcuterie. Petworth Citizen will also be pouring some Jean Paul Brun, but they don’t have Anastasia’s rillettes though…. 

Le Beaujolais Nouveau will also arrive at Central Michel Richard, where Domaine Dupeuble – Beaujolais Nouveau will be poured (and paired with Coq au Vin!) from Thursday to Saturday. 

Coq au vin and Beaujolais at Central Michel Richard

Across the pond in Old Town, Virginia, Michelle and Christophe Poteaux have crafted a fabulous three or four course menu ($39 and $49 respectively) at Bastille, designed to pair with a Domaine Manoir du Carra Beaujolais, which will be offered for $9 a glass or $32 a bottle. (ps: Domaine Manoir du Carra has a Beaujolais rosé which you should absolutely try if you can get your hands on it!!) 

Last year’s Beaujolais Nouveau release happened just on the heels of the Paris attacks when gunmen and suicide bombers hit the bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. It was a little difficult mustering the usual enthusiasm that accompanies the celebration. So I’m really looking forward to it this year and you’ll find me, as usual, celebrating with dear friends at home parties rather than out and about. Will you be celebrating the release of the new 2016 harvest this year?

 

Crossing Off Bad Saint From My DC-To-Do-List

When I added Bad Saint to my 2016 DC-To-Do list in early January the tiny Filipino eatery in Columbia Heights was already quite the popular destination for local foodies. Grabbing a seat at the tiny 25-seats restaurant required a some advance planning (or luck!) since it has a strict no reservations policy. Then came national recognition. In September, Bon Appétit magazine gave Bad Saint the # 2 spot on its Hot 10 list of best new restaurants in America. Michelin inspectors took notice as well and a few weeks ago included Bad Saint in its Bib Gourmand list of worthy yet affordable restaurants in DC’s very first edition of the guide (you can see a full list here). Not the greatest timing to decide to cross it off my list 😉

By 5:30PM the line for dinner at Bad Saint went down the block

By 5:30PM the line for dinner at Bad Saint went down the block

But you know what, I’ve made some questionable choices about my time lately, including waiting 3 hours in line for Hello Kitty themed macarons, so I figured, what’s one more line, especially if there’s fabulous Filipino food at the end of it right? And so I headed to Columbia Heights yesterday, armed with a good book and some mosquito spray. I got there around 3:50PM, which was a bit later than I had meant, and almost didn’t get a table for the first seating at 5:30PM. Luckily, around 5:45PM, my dining companion and I were shown to two uncomfortable stools at a narrow counter facing a mirror and near the exit. Not the greatest seats in the house though the dim space filled with photographs and knick-knacks is otherwise fairly cosy. A bit crammed, but cosy. Co-owner Genevieve Villamora waited on us for part of the evening, providing attentive service and many welcomed explanations about the menu. 

The menu is separated in three sections: gulay (vegetables and salads), isda at iba pa (fish and more) and carne (meat.) Within each of these sections, dishes are organized by size and Genevieve recommended we order one to two dishes per person, depending on their size and how hungry we were. So we did. Here’s what we ordered, mostly from the vegetarian section. 

Kinilaw na pugita (octopus, fingerling potatoes, queen olives)

Kinilaw na pugita (octopus, fingerling potatoes, queen olives)

Ginisang ampalaya (bitter melon, farm egg, preserved black beans)

Ginisang ampalaya (bitter melon, farm egg, preserved black beans)

Like many of the diners that head to Bad Saint, I don’t have much experience with Filipino cooking. It’s not a cuisine I’m that familiar with, but I am familiar with good food, and good food I ate!! The ampalaya (the bitter melon salad with a farm egg and fermented black beans) was probably the only dish that didn’t wow me, though I found its unconventional flavours interesting. I loved the octopus and fingerling potato ceviche, though I would have loved a bit more olives in there. My grandmother is from Morocco, the land of olives, and I pretty much always want more olives. The Adobong Dilaw was like autumn in a clay pot and I can’t wait to have some of the leftovers tonight!
Ginisang tokwat (fried tofu, yu choi, sate oil)

Ginisang tokwat (fried tofu, yu choi, sate oil)

Adobong Dilaw (cauliflower, kabocha squash, tumeric)

Adobong Dilaw (cauliflower, kabocha squash, tumeric)

Since the menu changes frequently, you may not see these items when you visit, though I think the bitter melon salad and a version of the Adobong Dilaw are typically found (there was also a chicken version of the dish on the menu too.) I know Bad Saint doesn’t accept parties larger than 4 but I found myself wishing that I had come with more people. It’s not that my friend J.C. was bad company, it’s that there’s only so much we could eat and I would have loved to be able to order more dishes and explore even more of chef Tom Cunanan’s creative Filipino menu! 

 

Have you been to Bad Saint yet? Does its presence in the Michelin Guide make you more likely to go? I wanted to check it out well before Michelin and Bon Appétit took notice, but the release of the red guide definitely gave me that extra push to go and do the waiting in line thing. There’s a lot of other Michelin-starred or Bib Gourmand restaurants I want to try. Sadly, Minibar, Pineapple and Pearls and Kinship are not quite dining options for my budget right now, so I’m tackling the list from the bottom up, at least price wise, and starting with the Bib Gourmand I haven’t been to yet. So, Bad Saint: check. Bonus for crossing it off my 2016 DC-To-Do-List too. And Ottoman Taverna… you’re next! 

Celebrating DC’s First Michelin Guide at the French Ambassador’s Residence

Bibendum at the release party for DC's first Michelin Guide

Being invited to the French Ambassador’s Residence is always a treat… I’ve only been there a few times in my 13 years in Washington and I’m always elated when I have the chance to attend an event there. Last night was no exception, if anything it was more special than ever as Washington’s top toques gathered to celebrate the release of the District’s very first Michelin Guide. So. Many. Chefs. 

In addition to the 11 chefs who were awarded coveted stars in the red guide, representatives from the restaurants who were awarded Bib Gourmand last week as well as from those who were listed in the book were present. Who was left in DC’s kitchens last night? A lot of sous-chefs in charge 😉

DC's Michelin Starred Chefs

There are 107 restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide, including 19 Bib Gourmand, 9 one-star restaurants and 3 two-stars restaurants. The big winners from this first edition are Jose Andres and Aaron Silverman. At 34, the chef who made D.C. fall in love with a litchi and pork sausage dish is one of very people in the world to have both a one star (Rose’s Luxury) and a two stars (Pineapple & Pearl) restaurant. And he’s just getting started! Jose Andres also had a very good week, receiving two stars for his Minibar and a Bib Gourmand for pretty much all of his other establishments (Oyamel, China Chilcano, Zaytinya and Jaleo).

My favourite moment from last night’s event, other than sipping champagne among the who’s who of the Washington culinary scene — and getting my picture taken with Bibendum — was when Patrick O’Connor, the chef and proprietor of the two-star Inn at Little Washington said a few words as he accepted his recognition. At 71, he is twice Aaron Silverman’s age and had long lobbied Michelin’s to cover the city. “I am living proof” he said “that if you wait long enough your prayers will be answered.” Despite their insistence that they would only include restaurants from DC proper in the guide, I am so glad that the Michelin inspecteurs ventured out to Washington, VA. I’m hoping to make a trip out there soon, but until then, I’ll be combing through the guide (which shouldn’t take long, the D.C. edition is a mere 96 pages long, of which maybe 15 are ads for Michelin and maps) and picking out some new spots to try!

DC Michelin Guide

The first on my lists are all around where I live, and I can’t believe I eaten there yet: Ottoman Taverna (Bib Gourmand), Kinship (one star) and Chercher, a Bib Gourmand Ethiopian restaurant I hadn’t even heard of until the guide came out. Do you think the release of the guide will influence where you’re going to eat in the near future?

Michelin Awards Bib Gourmand Honours to 19 DC Restaurants

 

Bib Gourmand

The lines at Bad Saint are about to get even longer 😉 As is customary, Michelin announced today the list of “affordable” restaurants that have earned the designation of Bib Gourmand. These restaurants will not be receiving stars next week (the DC edition of the Michelin Guide will be released on October 13th) but do offer “exceptional good food at moderate price.” Bib, in this case, doesn’t refer to the piece of cloth you place around your neck to keep your clothes from spills while eating. It’s short for Bibendum (aka, the Michelin Man!) and I’d encourage you to read this article for a little background on one of France’s most beloved brand mascot.

Without further ado though, here are the 19 restaurants that have earned this recognition: 

  • Bad Saint 
  • Bidwell
  • Boqueria
  • Chercher
  • China Chicano
  • Das
  • Doi moi
  • Jaleo
  • Kyirisan
  • Lapis
  • Maketto
  • Ottoman Empire
  • Oyamel
  • Pearl Dive
  • Red Hen
  • Royal
  • Thip Khao
  • 2Amys
  • Zaytinya 

I personally love that the Michelin inspectors, like myself, are DC-suburbs adverse. I hate reading these lists of Washington cheap-eats only to see that none of them are in the city 😉 The Michelin Guide will only include restaurants in D.C., which rules out the Inn at Little Washington for a three stars. Could Jose Andres’ MiniBar get that honour? It’s very possible… 4 of his restaurants are already on the Bib Gourmand list…. but I guess we’ll have to wait until next week to find out. Stay tuned! 

5 Things I Ate While I Was in Chicago

Another week, another express work-cation, this time to Chicago in the mid-west. I’d been to Chicago a few times before, including for a hot 16 hours last July 4 and back in 1994 during one of my very first trip to the United States. Despite having a lot of meetings, I tried to squeeze in as much sight-seeing as I could in 36 hours, including catching the Van Gogh’s Bedrooms exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. And eating of course… Here are some of my favourites from my express “work-cation” in Chicago: 

LIQUID ENERGY AT INTELLIGENTSIA COFFEE

First things first after a 6AM flight from Reagan to O’Hare, I needed caffeine! But not just any coffee would do. I wanted some Intelligentsia Coffee since the roasting company started and is still based in Chicago. Bonus, their location at 53 East Randolph Street is around the corner from Millennial Park so I got the chance to squeeze in a little sight-seeing too! 

Intelligentsia Coffee at the Bean

Intelligentsia Coffee has many locations across town, including 53 E Randolph Street, 1609 W Division Street, 3123 North Broadway and 2642 N Milwaukee Avenue.

 

POTATO DUMPLINGS AT PIEROGI HEAVEN

As many as 1.5 million Chicagoan claim Polish ancestry and Chicago bills itself as the largest Polish city outside of Poland. Pierogis, delightfully doughy Eastern European dumplings, are pretty easy to find around town. For a quick lunch, I headed to Pierogi Heaven in the loop, a hole in the wall kinda spot that’s popular with nearby office workers. You can choose from 11 different pierogi fillings, all of which come with fried onions, bacon and sour cream. I polished off a plate of potato cheddar dumplings, with extra sour cream and a cup of hot red borsch. 

Potato and cheddar dumplings at Pierogi Heaven

Pierogi Heaven is located at 169 North Wells Street

GARRETT MIX AT GARRETT POPCORN

On paper, cheddar cheese and caramel popcorn don’t sound like they’d mix well together. But in a bucket of Garrett Popcorn, the salty-sweet combo known as Garrett Mix® is one of the most addictive thing you’ll ever eat. This staple Chicago food counts a lot of fan… Oprah listed it as one of her “favourite things” on a couple of occasions, President Obama gave a tin to Vice President Biden for his birthday and Beyonce herself declared it Deeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrricious” on instagram. I never leave Chicago without a bag 😉 

Garrett Mix at Garrett Popcorn Garrett PopcornThere are many locations of Garrett Popcorn, including one at151 North Michigan Avenue by Millennium Park, 625 North Michigan Avenue and 2 at O’Hare airport (there’s one at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City too…)

CONFIT GOAT BELLY AT GIRL AND THE GOAT

Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat inevitably comes up every time I ask anyone for restaurant recommendations in Chicago. So this trip, I actually made my way there! Forty five minutes and one “my little kumquat” cocktail later, I finally snagged a seat at one corner of the bar. I definitely blew my per-diem on that meal, but it was SO worth it. Everything I had from the kohlrabi salad with fennel, evalon, toasted almonds, autumn crisp apple and shiitake mushrooms to the goat carpaccio and the goat cheesecake with pretzel cream and beer caramel was amazing. But the real standout of the evening can be summarized in 4 words: Bourbon. Butter. Poached. Lobster. As if that didn’t sound amazing enough, that was just the side for a confit goat belly, which also came with a fennel puree and fennel salad (I’ve been really into fennel lately.) No wonder everyone and their mothers has been raving about Girl and the Goat 😉 

Bourbon butter poached lobster and goat belly confit at Girl and the Goat

Girl and the Goat is located at 809 W Randolph street. There’s now a Little Goat Diner right across the street too that offers more casual food, as well as breakfast all day.

ROASTED BONE MARROW AT THE PURPLE PIG

I talked my colleagues into squeezing in a late lunch/early happy hour at the Magnificent Mile gastropub The Purple Pig, I couldn’t convince them to try the roasted bone marrow with sicilian sea salt and herb salad (with Italian parsley, thin-sliced white onions and capers) smear. More for me right? Right!! It was a beautiful, warm day in Chicago so we ate outside, sorta overlooking the river. And of course, warm sunny days call for rosé, and the bone marrow paired perfectly with a glass of Scea Andre Roux Clos Cibonne côtes de provence. Sadly, my colleagues are not as adventurous eaters as I am and I really couldn’t justify ordering the pig’s ears on top of the bone marrow… I guess I’ll have to go back and eat my way through more of the decadent meat-centered menu at The Purple Pig

Roasted Bone Marrow Smear at The Purple Goat

The Purple Pig is located at 500 N. Michigan Avenue.

I also found a little time to swing by the stunning Palmer House. Now owned by Hilton, it’s the oldest hotel in the city and claims to be where brownies were invented. The Palmer House Brownie with walnuts and an apricot glaze (check out the recipe in Epicurious) is still served at the hotel’s restaurant and bar. 

Palmer House ceciling

Since I can’t eat chocolate, I settled for another local favourite, a quick Goose Island Honkers Ale, which I enjoyed under the magnificent ceiling fresco by French muralist Louis Pierre Rigal. Not a bad spot to wrap up the trip!

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I think I did pretty good in less than 36 hours Where would be your five foodie stops or top foodie bites if you were to spend a few days in Chicago?

Life Goes On~Celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau in Washington, DC

I’m not exactly in a celebratory mood these days, but life goes on. Paris is about life, about being at a terrasse right now etc. Life has to go on and this week life includes the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau, which always takes place on the third Thursday of November (or midnight that Wednesday!) Here are a few, selected spots where you can partake in some Gamay-drinking in Washington, D.C.

Beaujolais Nouveau 2015

BITRO DU COIN    Still THE place to be at midnight when Beaujolais Nouveau is released. It’s probably too late to get reservations for dinner, but show up around 10PM when they start  clearing out the tables. The Beaujolais typically starts pouring 11PM, which technically is well past midnight in France anyways 😉 More details here.

CAFE DU PARC Get a complimentary glass of George Duboeuf Beaujolais at the bar between 6-9PM, with additional ones and small bites available for purchase too. If you like it, stay for the prix-fixe Beaujolais dinner ($55 diner only, $80 with George Duboeuf wine pairing).

CENTRAL   Michel Richard’s Pennsylvania Avenue restaurant will keep the party going from Thursday November 19 through Saturday, November 23. Rather than serve the Duboeuf Beaujolais you’ll find pretty much everywhere else, they’ll be pouring a Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 for $11 a glass, or $42 bottle. Executive Chef David Deshaies has also created a classically French 3-course prix fixe menu ($55) to pair with the grapes, featuring gougeres, escargot Fricasse, Filet mignon with syrah-shallot sauce, and winter vegetables; and a seasonal Apple-cranberry cobbler for dessert.  

SLATE   For those who want to try some of the finer vintages of Beaujolais, Slate’s owner/Sommelier Danny Lledo will be leading private at-the-table tastings of the 2014 Nouveau and three choice Beaujolais for guests on Thursday, November 19th from 5-8 pm.  The cost of the tasting is $15 and choices include: George Duboeuf Beaujolais “Nouveau” 2015, George Duboeuf Flower Label Beaujolais 2014, Jean Paul Champagnon Fleurie, Beaujolais 2013 andDomaine Laurent Martray Brouilly, Beaujolais 2013.

TABLE Who wants to cook the day before Thanksgiving? Nobody, that’s who. For $150, Table invites you to give thanks for Gamay wine with  masterfully prepared local cuisine paired beautifully with Cru Beaujolais on Wednesday November 25. Check out the full menu and book your spot here

 

Beaujolais Nouveau

 

BEAUJOLAIS FOR A CAUSE    The DC Center is hosting a Beaujolais-themed fundraiser at the Human Rights Campaign on November 19th to benefit its Women Center. Tickets are $20. L’Alliance Française and the French-American Chamber of Commerce are also hosting a “Beaujolais and Beyond” “fun”raiser celebration at La Maison Française. Beaujolais Nouveau and other red wines will be free-flowing and proceeds benefit causes dear to both francophone organizations. 

ENO Wine Bar in Georgetown is dedicating its Beaujolais celebrations to the 129 victims who lost their lives during the Paris attacks on November 13. On Thursday, November 19, the bar will be illuminated with France’s national colours blue, white and red. ENO will be pouring a Dupeuble 2015 Beaujolais Nouveau (same wine as Le Diplomate though it’ll be $9/a glass and $35/bottle at the 14th street bistro) for $10 a glass and $40 a bottle. Guests are encouraged to share prayers and messages over social media using hash tag #ENOPrayersforParis. These messages will be displayed on a loop on Thursday evening at the wine bar. I’m not a huge fan of the #prayforParis hashtag, though I really appreciate the sentiment. Consider adding a #Parisisaboutlife or . Paris may get tossed by the waves but she will not sink, even in a pool of Beaujolais.

Beaujolais Nouveau

 

Finally if you’re like me and your favourite way of “enjoying” a glass (or five) of Beaujolais Nouveau is at home with some friends, here are a couple of wine shop I recommend:

WEYGANDT WINES is carrying 3 unique cuvées of Pierre-Marie Chermette’s Beaujolais Primeur 2015: Cuvée Pierre Chermette ($12/bottle), Beaujolais Primeur Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2015 and Chermette’s Beaujolais Primeur Rosé 2015 (OMD Beaujolais Rosé!! Game changer!! That one is exteremely limited so go snag a bottle right now!!) ($12/bottle).

DCANTER carries a Domaine Descroix Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 priced at $13. This is a pretty decent Beaujolais option that would pair really well with your Thanksgiving meal, so you might want to reserve a few bottle since the Capitol Hill shop will most likely sell out pretty quickly. 

CORK & FORK is where I usually pick up my Beaujolais Nouveau every year. Dominque Landragin typically selects a couple of interesting bottles that you won’t find in most stores. Like DCanter, he’s offering the Domaine Descroix Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 as well as a Domaine Anoir du Carra Beaujolais Village Nouveau. My recommendation when it comes to Beaujolais is always go for the village if you can… 

Last Friday, terrorists sought to attack France’s way of life… what better way to show them that our spirit will never be defeated than with some headache inducing Beaujolais Nouveau. Or something like that 😉 Cheers!

 

 

 

A Recap of Art & Soul’s Second Biscuit Bash

Biscuit Bash, a biscuit-themed friendly cook-off benefiting D.C. Central Kitchen and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, returned to Art and Soul‘s patio last night. For its second year, the fundraiser sold out quickly (obviously, word got out that this is a can’t-miss delicious event for an awesome cause!) prompting the organizers to close off the restaurant for the evening to allow more people to attend. Chef Hamilton Johnson of Vidalia, whose biscuit took the top prize last year, returned to defend its title. Otherwise all the restaurants and chefs biscuit bashing yesterday were new to the friendly competition. This year, Vidalia’s biscuit was slightly less messy, though is was still drenched in tasty sauce. I loved its local Chesapeake-theme. Jumbo lump crab, old bay gravy, Virginia ham, wild ramps and scrambled eggs are just a great combination with buttermilk biscuits!

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Vidalia’s Chesapeake Biscuit came in second at Art & Soul’s second Biscuit Bash

So who won last night, other than my stomach? That would be Chef Andrew Evans of BBQ Joint DC (check out their new stall at Union Market!) who wowed everyone with his buttermilk biscuit with smoked pork belly “pretending to be ribs.” Pork belly, BBQ and biscuits are also a great combination! 

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The winning biscuit! You can’t go wrong pairing biscuits with bbq pork belly if you ask me.

Other notable biscuits included Jason Gehring’s scalion biscuit with Korean fried chicken (I love me some Korean fried chicken so thanks Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.!), Art & Soul’s Fried Chicken biscuit (fried chicken and biscuits … also a winning combo in my books belly) and Doron Petersan of Fare Well (coming soon to H street NE) and Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats‘ sweet vegan biscuit. I actually ended up giving my vote chip to Doron’s biscuit! It’s not easy being the only sweet entry in a crowded field of bacon, ham, bbq and fried chicken! And it’s not easy being a vegan biscuit either on top of that! I loved her polenta biscuit with macerated organic strawberries, fresh basil, vanilla bean & whipped coconut cream and gave her extra point for providing a cocktail pairing too, the Cattywampus made with rum, brandy, banana lemon, nutmeg & coconut. I can’t wait for her new cafe to open on H Street! And I can’t wait for biscuit bash to come back next year! 

IMG_7516 IMG_7530_2 IMG_7504

Parts of the proceeds from Biscuit Bash benefited DC Central Kitchen and some of the non-profit's students were there to help (and serve lamb!!)

Parts of the proceeds from Biscuit Bash benefited DC Central Kitchen and some of the non-profit’s students were there to help

 

Five (French) Reasons to Visit City Center DC

I’ve lived in downtown-DC long enough to have seen multiple incarnations of the area now known as City Center DC. First, it was the former convention center, which I saw being demolished back in 2004. Then it was a municipal parking lot, where Megabuses and Bolt Buses would load and unload passengers. It was the site of Cirque du Soleil, Kastles tennis matches and a Trapeze school. And then it was a construction site for a while… 

Today, it’s a luxurious mixed use space, with more than 185,000 square feet of retail space situated on the ground floor of six buildings that include both rental apartment units and condominiums, as well as office space. Seattle-based Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, who previously worked on the atrium at the National Portrait Gallery, designed the outdoor spaces, with contemporary fountains and marble benches. Every Tuesday in the summer there’s a Freshfarms farmers’ market.  And of course, there’s the super-cool kinetic installation conceived by New York media designer David Niles that screens various videos throughout the day and night on the three sides of a 25-foot-high archway between DBGB and Mango Tree. Eventually, a Conrad Hotel will be built on some of the remaining space… but let’s get back to the retailers and restaurants that filled that ground floor. A slate of high-end retailers have signed leases and opened already, with more on the way, turning City Center DC into a downtown shopping destination that hopes to rival Chevy Chase and Georgetown. And of course, a handful of those retailers are French…

LONGCHAMP

IMG_7339_2I own a ridiculous number of pliage bags, in various sizes and colours so obviously I was very excited when Longchamp announced it would open its first standalone store in the region at City Center. In addition to the famous pliage bags, which line a colourful wall at the back of the store,  the petite boutique also sells shoes, luggage, and other leather leather goods for men and women. 

DBGB KITCHEN + BAR

IMG_6386Chef Daniel Boulud returned to Washington, D.C. last year by opening DBGB, a casual French-American restaurant that serves a Lyonnais-inspired menu including coq-au-vin, seven varieties of home-made sausages (try the boudin blanc or the tunisienne!) and a baked Alaska for two flambéed with chartreuse right at your table. The bar is also very inviting.

ZADIG & VOLTAIRE

IMG_7333_2I’m pretty much not cool enough to shop at Zadig & Voltaire, a French-based fashion label known for its use of cashmere in its chic, and edgy clothing & accessories for men & women. This is the first boutique in the Washington metropolitan area for the clothing retailer, which is expending its US presence and also opened new shops in Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles around the same time. 

HERMES

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If I’m not trendy enough to shop at Zadig & Voltaire, I’m not rich enough to shop at Hermes 😉 Known today for its iconic colorful carrés and Kelly handbag, Hermès initially focused on leather goods like saddles, which it still sells. The City Center location just opened and sells a little bit of everything from dinnerware (head in to check out the exquisite table setting!) to tie, scarves and baby accessories. 

CAUDALIE

I’ve beenIMG_5562 using Caudalie’s Vinotherapie skincare line of products for years, so I was stoked to hear that the Thomas-es were opening a boutique and spa at City Center. I’ve already sipped wine from the founders’ vineyard (Caudalie’s first Vinothérapie spa is on the grounds of Château Smith Haut Lafitte near Bordeaux) at their opening event and dropped in for a facial, so yeah, I’m a fan! 

Bonus: these five Frenchies at City Center will soon be joined by Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, upping the ante on the already luxurious shopping district . Oh la la! 

Postcard from France: Marseille

Last Christmas, my uncle invited us to spend the holidays at his house in Goult, a lovely village in the Luberon, located halfway between Aix-en-Provence and Avignon. My uncle is my mother’s brother and they both grew up in Marseille, France’s second largest city. Rather than take the train to Avignon and get picked up by my uncle there, we decided to spend a day and a half in Marseille and rent a car to drive to Goult. I have very little childhood memories of Marseille, and my husband had never been so I was excited to discover the city, especially with my favourite Marseillaise – my mom – as our guide!

FIRST THINGS FIRST: LUNCH AT CHEZ ETIENNE 

IMG_1482The trip from Paris Gare-de-Lyon to Marseille-Saint-Charles is just over 3 hours. After dropping our bags at our hotel near the vieux port, we quickly headed off to lunch at Chez Etienne, a no-thrills pizzaria in Le Panier. My mom used to go there when she visited friends and family back in the city, so it’s been around for a while, and other than adding a second room across the street from the original location to accommodate demand, very little has changed over the years. Service and ambiance are not the reason to go to Chez Etienne. You go there for the best pizza in Marseille, which here is served as a starter, not a main course, and only comes with two options, cheese or no cheese. The anchovies and olives come automatically as toppings 😉 You also go there for the pavé de boeuf, which is excellent, and the supions, small squids lightly pan-fried with garlic and parsley. Warning: there’s no phone to make reservations and it gets very crowded so if go, you might have to wait (in the street) for a table to become available. They also only accept cash and as I mentioned, service is, well, let’s say it’s very French.

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STROLLING THROUGH THE PANIER

IMG_1504The core of Marseille, the old port, is surrounded by hills and starting our tour through the city at Chez Etienne was a smart move because we then weaved our way down to the Vieux Port through the neighbourhood known as Le Panier. If La Canebière, Marseille’s main boulevard in the old quarters, is the city’s answer to the Champs Elysées, Le Panier is its Montmartre. The neighbourhood, once rather dodgy and filled with sailors from across the globe looking for a good time, has become quite trendy recently.  With its hilly narrow cobbled streets and pastel coloured houses covered in street art, it’s in the midst of a bit of gentrification and there’s been quite the influx of hipsters and artists lately (as well as public funds from the city.) From Le Panier, we made our way to the Maison Diamantée, one of the oldest house in town, and the 17th century City Hall, where my parents got married, before landing on the Quai du Port. 

OH MARIUS! THE OLD PORT OF MARSEILLE

IMG_1737Life in Marseille has revolved around the vieux port ever since the trading post of Massalia was founded by Phocaean greeks in 600 BC. In the 1840s (after Algeria became a French department) the commercial docks were transferred to La Joliette but the colourful Old Port remained the emotional heart of the city, crammed with fishing boats, pleasure yachts and visitors. You can get from the quai du port to the Quai de Rive Neuve on the other side by foot (or even those public bikes, known as Le Velo in Marseille)… or you can take the free ferry boat like we did! It’ll probably take you just as long, but if you only have one opportunity to get on the water in Marseille, you should seize it! For me, it was extra fun because I’ve read and re-read Marcel Pagnol’s Triologie Marseillaise, and I couldn’t help but think of Felix Escartefigue, capitaine of the ferry boite, as we made a quick pastis stop on the other side of the port at Le Bar de la Marine, where the author/director filmed the famous “tu me fends le coeur” scene from Marius. If you have NO idea what I’m referring to, may I recommend watching Daniel Auteuil’s version of Marius and Fanny, which are currently streaming on Netflix

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There’s lots of great stuff on that side of the port… a block away from the Bar de Marine, you’ll notice La Criée, a former fish market and now one of France’s edgiest theaters. We continued on quai de rive neuve until rue Robert on our way to the Musée du Santon (also known as Les Ateliers Carbonel) before making our way to Le Four des Navettes, THE place in Marseille to get the city’s iconic boat-shaped, orange-flower flavoured navette biscuits. I’ll warn you if you’re going to try them (which you should!): their nickname is casse-dent (teethbreaker) so don’t bite too hard into them 😉 We actually grabbed about 4 kilos worth for everyone to enjoy at the Christmas table… A few streets away from the bakery is the stunning Abbaye Saint Victor. We didn’t linger too much there because our ultimate goal for the end of the day was catching the sunset at another famous Marseille church, Notre Dame de la Garde, which was a quick but steep 20 minutes walk climb away. 

STUNNING VIEWS FROM NOTRE DAME DE LA GARDE

IMG_1608The Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, or La Bonne Mère (the good mother) as it is familiarly known towers over Marseille and offers amazing 360 views of the city below, which are particularly striking at sunset. Topped by a massive golden statue of the Virgin Mary and Child, the Byzantine-style interior features anchor and sailing ship motifs. Since around the Mediterranean there’s a religious tradition of ex-votos to express gratitude for a wish granted, you’ll also see boat models hanging from the ceiling or displayed in glass cases to express thanks for a loved one having returned from the sea.  There’s also an Olympique de Marseille flag which was brought by the team after a victory so it’s not all sailing related (though l’OM is quite the religion in Marseille too…)

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DINNER TIME !

IMG_1750Since it was before right before Christmas, a marché de Noel and the Foire Aux Santons were in full swing at the old port and nearby Place Saint Charles respectively and we spent a little bit of time shopping at both before heading to diner at La Kahena, one of Marseille’s best Tunisian restaurant. I don’t get to eat a lot of North African food here in DC and Marseille happens to have very large Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisien communities, both muslims and jewish like my mother’s maternal side of the family. The fish couscous was excellent, as well as my brik au thon, and since we didn’t get a chance to swing by Les Delices Patisserie d’Aix, a famed oriental pastry shop, during the day we took full advantage of the dessert buffet to indulge our sweet tooth with some cornes de gazelles and makroud

 DAY TWO: MIXING THE OLD WITH THE NEW

IMG_2014Marseille is known as the gateway to the Mediterranean, so it was time for us to set sail! Well, or at least take a small boat trip 😉 First, we got up early to enjoy the small fish market that still takes place on the Quai des Belges around 8AM every morning. From there, we grabbed the Frioul If Express to the island fortress of If, where Alexandre Dumas imprisoned his fictional count of Monte Christo. Had it been summer or even spring, we may have extended the journey to the Frioul Island but instead we headed back to shore to explore the NEW Marseille. We didn’t realize how far the new Docks at La Joliette were so we only made it as far as la Cathédrale La Major before heading back to the brand new MuCEM where we had plans to meet my DC-based friend Laure, who was in town for the holidays visiting her family in Marseille. Inaugurated in 2013, the MuCEM offers perspective on mediterranean civilizations and mixes the old with the new by adding a modern building designed by Rudy Ricciotti to the 12th century Fort St. Jean. The two buildings are linked by a footbridge known as J4 (for Joliette 4.)

Lunch at the MuCEM

We didn’t actually visit the museum, focusing instead on exploring its architecture and enjoyed a sun soaked lunch with stunning views of the turquoise sea at Le Môlé Passédat, a restaurant on the top floor of the museum from Michelin-starred chef Gerard Passédat. The meal was amazing, but not cheap, so if you’re looking for a more affordable option, La Cuisine (Le Mole’s sister restaurant) offers a great lunch as well, minus the view.  Following lunch, we headed back to the vieux port to pick up a bottle of pastis at La Maison du Pastis, a shop that allows you to try any pastis from a selection of 75 different ones before you purchase the one of your choice. We also stopped at the brand new Galerie Lafayette Gourmet to do some last minute Christmas food shopping and then set out. On our way out of the city, we drove through an old industrial neighbourhood called la Belle de Mai. The area grew from the arrival of the railway and a former tobacco factory there has now become a thriving cultural center called La Friche la Belle de Mai, with lots of awesome street art nearby. We didn’t get to stop in this time but it was the perfect send-off to a quick stay at the once gritty, now thriving Marseille. Besides, I have a feeling I’ll be back soon enough! 

 

 

 

Wine Wednesday: Introducing Truvée by the McBride Sisters

It’s not unusual to refer to wine making as a family affair, but Andrea and Robin McBride are far from your typical winemakers. Their newly launched wine label, Truvée, is a nod to how the sisters, in fact half-sisters, found (get it, trouvée… truvée…) each other despite growing up continents apart. “We found each other, now we want people to find a wine that matters to them,” Andréa shared at a luncheon I recently attended to introduce Truvée to Washington, D.C. In addition to sampling great food (the luncheon was hosted at BToo afterall) and tasting good wine, I also got to hear firsthand the amazing story of how these long-lost sisters met and got to where they are today.

Robin and Andrea McBride Introducing their wines Truvee at a luncheon at BToo

Robin and Andrea McBride Introducing their wines Truvee at a luncheon at BToo

See, Andréa grew up in the Marlborough area of New Zealand. Robin in Monterey California. They shared a father, but didn’t know of each other’s existence until after he passed away. Today I’m sure they sure social media would have made it a lot easier for them to find other. But this was 1999, and it was all snail mail and phone calls that eventually helped reunite them. Over the years, they developed a deep and lasting friendship and discovered that, in addition to striking good looks and curly hair, they also shared a mutual interest in the wine business and a desire to explore opportunities in that area. Together, they launched Eco.love Wines, a  wine company focused on exporting and distributing New Zealand wines that use sustainable practices throughout the production process. Eco.love Wines was Andrea’s baby and their newly launched venture, Truvée, takes them closer to Robin’s turf in California’s Central Coast. Currently, Truvée produces two wines: a Chardonnay and a Red Blend, with grapes for both sourced from vineyards in the Central Coast of California.

Truvee wine

Not only is their personal story amazing, but Andrea and Robin McBride are also the first African American sisters to run their own wine company. AND their wine is almost as good as the personal story behind it! Yes, their story is compelling, but it wouldn’t mean that much is they couldn’t back it up with some solid grape juice. While their white is still not going to convert me into a Chardonnay drinker (I did enjoy it in a spritzer though), I thought their red blend, a combination of grenache and syrah, had a silky texture, some surprising notes and a perfect price point at a $15.99 suggested retail price. Backed by Diageo Chateau & Estates, I can only hope that Truvée lovely bottles (full disclosure, my living room is the same blue as the label on their Chardonnay so I’m a little bit biased….) are going to pop up in wine shops all over the D.C. area* pretty soon… and when they do, pick up a bottle (or two) and give the McBride sisters’ wine a try!

* you can currently find Truvée wines at Harris Teeter, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle Wines & Liquors and Chinatown Liquor among others, as well as bars and restaurants like B Too, The Graham Georgetown, Cities and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.