Shaya-welcome-drink

Though it had been quite a long time since I’d visited New Orleans, I certainly hadn’t forgotten how great the food is in that city and over the years, I’ve continued to pay attention to new restaurants that have come on the scene there.

That’s how I knew that Shaya was the first reservation I needed to secure when planning my trip. Named the Best New Restaurant in the U.S. at the James Beard Awards in May, and then more recently, one of the South’s Best New Restaurants by Southern Living magazine, there was no way I was missing out on eating a meal there.

 

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ikra at Shaya, New Orleans – paddlefish caviar spread with shallots

And let me tell you, I’m tempted to hop on a Southwest flight back to the Crescent City just to eat there again!

That bread. The ikra. We are all still talking about this spread. How can a simple dip be so glorious??

 

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crispy halloumi at Shaya, New Orleans
plums and beets, tarragon, almonds

In addition to eating an ungodly amount of pita bread (and I almost don’t even want to call it that, because it’s so far above and beyond any pita bread I’ve ever eaten in my life), we consumed one of the best meals I’ve had this year.

Shipka peppers with goat cheese, Moroccan carrots with chermoula and mint, an amazing roasted cabbage….

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Shaya’s roasted cabbage
muhammara, tahini, hazelnuts

Oh my goodness, this cabbage. And then this rice….

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Persian rice at Shaya, New Orleans
golden crust, cherries and brown butter

The rice alone is delicious, but eat it with the slow cooked lamb and OMG.

Suffice it to say that I highly recommend you get yourself to Shaya. Just plan a whole trip to New Orleans to eat there. It’s worth it.

Shaya-lamb

Shaya’s slow cooked lamb
whipped feta, walnut and stone fruit tabouleh

Trinity

1117 Decatur
New Orleans, LA 70116
504-325-5789

 

While Shaya can be the main reason you go to New Orleans, you might as well take advantage of the rest of the dining scene and eat some more delicious meals while there, right?

Smoked Oyster Deviled Eggs at Trinity, New Orleans

Trinity is fairly new on the scene (I think it just opened in May?) so it was a riskier choice as there wasn’t as much written about it as some other tried and true places in New Orleans. But, it was on Eater’s Heat Map for one of the hottest restaurants currently, and it had lots of oyster options on the menu, so I booked it.

Good decision.

 

Trinity-grilled-octopus-chickpea

Trinity grilled octopus & chickpea dip

The Smoked Oyster deviled eggs were to die for. We would have gotten two orders, but they had just run out of eggs when we asked for a second order! Boo.

Ah well, the grilled octopus & chickpea dip with pickled red onion and toast points was awesome, as were the broiled oysters with cayenne aioli.

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Broiled Cayenne Aioli Oysters at Trinity, New Orleans

Seared scallops with corn puree, roasted mirliton, and pine nuts was our favorite entree, but I think the small plates was where the restaurant really shined. (Did I mention pork belly? Never a bad thing)

Tip: If you go to Trinity, be sure to make a night of it and check out Cane & Table right next door for great craft cocktails.

 

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just a portion of our spread at Peche, New Orleans

If you need another reason to buy a plane ticket to New Orleans, Peche is it.

I was actually afraid it wouldn’t live up to the hype (as I’d heard SO MANY good things about it). Fortunately that was not the case….it was even better than I could have imagined.

 

Peche-Ahi-Sashimi-corn

Peche’s tuna with pickled corn, pistachio puree, and crispy rice 

 

From the moment I took the first bite of the tuna sashimi, I knew I was in for a treat. Then the crab salad…. well, that crab salad. Words escape me. Who knew a simple crab salad with cucumber & sesame could be so brilliant?

Not me. Thus, I didn’t even bother taking a picture of it before digging in. See what you can’t really see in the above photo? Yep, that’s the crab salad in the background, upper right corner. If I had known that it was going to be mind-blowing, I certainly would have documented it better than this!

 

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Cobia with lentils, pepitas, fried onion, and curry aioli at Peche

Often I find that the dishes I am most impressed by are found in the appetizer/small plates section of the menu, but here at Peche, the entrees definitely held their own with the starters. The Cobia may have been my favorite, with lentils, fried onions and a curry aioli. I made sure there was not one single morsel left on that plate. Not one.

And then we were super surprised by the Baked Drum, which was described simply as “baked drum w/ tomato broth + croutons”. Uh, yeah, that description does not even come close to doing it justice. It was not at all what any of us expected, but that was not a bad thing. It was actually a very, very, very good thing.

So there you go… a few places to visit and things to eat on your next trip to New Orleans! Enjoy~

 

 

 

 

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Berries & Tofu at Virago Brunch
fresh berries, wasabi pea granola, whipped tofu

Have you heard? There’s a new brunch coming to town and you’re going to want to take advantage of it while it lasts.

Virago‘s fall brunch will officially kick off to the public this Saturday, September 10th and be offered every  Saturday and Sunday throughout the rest of September and all of October.

 

Virago-brunch-chirashi-don

Virago’s A.M. Chirashi Don – smoked salmon, bagel cured salmon, albacore, tamago, asparagus slaw, avocado, salmon roe

 

Recently I was invited to a preview of the rooftop brunch, so I thought I’d give you a little peak at everything we got to sample. First, I can tell you that this not your typical brunch menu, which makes it really exciting.

You’ll find twists on breakfast favorites and completely unique items that you may have never heard of, but you’re definitely going to want to try!

 

Virago-brunch-scotch-egg

Virago Soft Scotch Egg – soft egg, tsukune (chicken meatball that’s wrapped around the egg), black currant mustard, shungiku (chrysanthemum greens)

I’ve known Chef Andrew Whitney for a few years now — since he was the Executive Chef for one of my favorite food trucks (Riff’s Fine Street Food) turned brick and mortar, Riff’s Cafe. If you haven’t been to Virago since Drew took over the kitchen, this is your chance to go see what he is doing. I promise, you’re going to like it. A lot.

 

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Bacon and Eggs Mazemen at Virago – soft egg, pork belly, arugula, pickled tomato

My absolute favorite dish of the preview was the Bacon & Eggs Mazemen, which is like a ramen noodle dish. Those pickled tomatoes were the perfect little bite to cut the richness of the egg, noodles and pork belly.

Even though I was pretty stuffed (do you see all the food we ate???) I kept going back to this plate for another bite. And another. And another. So good.

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Virago’s Cereal Roll
sweet rice, inari tofu, mascarpone, crunch, rolled in fruity pebbles, sweet condensed milk

While I typically prefer savory breakfast and brunch dishes, I certainly was not opposed to finishing off the meal with a little something sweet. I’d definitely recommend this fruity sushi roll for sharing with a group – it’s plenty to feed 4 or even 6, depending on how much of a sweet tooth you have.

 

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Virago’s Cereal Roll
sweet rice, inari tofu, mascarpone, crunch, rolled in fruity pebbles, sweet condensed milk

That’s just a little preview of a few dishes you’ll have to choose from – you can check out the full menu here. There are so many great things being offered up that I might just have to be there every single weekend between now and the end of October to get through it all!

Roasted Hazelnut Burrata definitely needs to happen in my life. Burrata, arugula, toasted hazelnuts, citrus and blueberry balsamic vinaigrette with grilled bread…uh huh.

Oh, and the Bacon & Egg Hand Roll…and the Breakfast Bomb…and the Wagyu Kimcheese Burger and the Pork Belly Corn Dog. And did I mention the view? The best.

 

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Virago Brunch with a view (photo by Michael Sati)

 

Virago

1126 McGavock St
Nashville, TN 37203
615-254-1902

Brunch with a View (on the patio through October)
Sat-Sun 11 am-3 pm

 

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Casa Milá, Barcelona, Spain

With over 400 photos of Barcelona to dig through and whittle down to a more manageable number, I almost started to think this trip recap was never going to happen. But…I fell so in love with this city that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share, no matter how long it took me!

While I was attempting to write one single Barcelona post, I’ve decided that’s absolutely impossible. Honestly, I’m not even sure I can fit it all in 3, but that’s my goal! *Hopefully* over the course of the next couple of weeks, I’ll find the time to give you the full rundown of our Barcelona adventure.

 

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La Bodegueta, Barcelona, Spain

For today, I’m starting at the beginning – Day 1 of our stay in Barcelona. Within 2 hours of checking into our hotel we were already out the door and on the way to a tapas tour of our neighborhood, L’Eixample. I discovered Food Lover Tours through my friend Lindsay, who had, just a couple of months before, gone on their Sweets Lover Tour in Barcelona.

Since Ravi and I are definitely more savory than sweet people, I wanted to try out one of their other tours. Tapas style eating is my jam, so when I saw “Tapas Lover”, I was all in. Funny thing is, I didn’t even realize when booking it how near our hotel we would be.

Our meeting point to start the tour was at Gaudi’s La Pedrera (Casa Milá photo at top of page), located just two blocks away!

 

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La Bodegueta, Barcelona, Spain

Our tapas tour began at 7:30 pm and was to end at 11:30 pm. After several hours on a train traveling from Paris, I was definitely ready to stretch my legs and eat more than a croissant. Little did I know just how much food (and drink!) we would be consuming that night. At 94 €, we MORE than got our money’s worth.

 

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Our Food Lover Tour group (sans me) at our first stop, La Bodegueta

This is a group tour, and we were fortunate that we ended up with a really fun crew. Of the 12 of us, a few were from the U.S., but France, Germany, England and Australia were also represented (as well as Ireland, which is where our guide Brian hailed from).

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Boquerones en vinagre (small anchovies in vinegar with olives)

 

La Bodegueta was the first stop, and here we got “a taste of the sea”: Esqueixada (Cod fish with olives and tomato), Bunuelos de Bacalao (codfish croquettes), and Salpicon de Pulpo (octopus in vinegar). And it’s not seafood, but it’s perhaps the most traditional tapa-  Pan Con Tomate (Spanish style toast).

 

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Next we made our way to what would end up being our favorite neighborhood tavern during our stay in Barcelona – Colmado. At Colmado we were treated to “mountain food” and Vermut.

We learned that if you want to drink like a Spaniard, you participate in the ritual of tomar un vermut (“taking a vermouth”). It happens any time during the day, typically with a friend (or a few). There are different variations at every spot, and at Colmado we had Casero, a small production white wine made with 20 spices in Reus, the village where Gaudi was born.

 

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Gin Tonics almost as big as our heads at Colmado

The purpose of vermouth is not to get drunk, but to just relax and enjoy yourself. Sounds pretty good to me.

Of course, after some wine at our first stop, then this vermouth, and then a Gin Tonic that was far larger than any drink I’ve ever had in the U.S., let’s just say I’m really glad there was plenty of food to soak up all the alcohol…

 

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patatas bravas al caliu at Colmada 

Here at Colmado we noshed on Alcachofa (artichokes), manchego sprinkled with crushed almonds and drizzled with olive oil, and Patatas Bravas Al Caliu (roast potatoes with “allioli” – a Catalan variant of the garlic sauce aioli).

You guys. These potatoes. !!! I’m not even a huge fan of potatoes, but man, these were delicious.

 

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Butifarra (Catalan Sausage) at Colmado in Barcelona, Spain

But my very favorite dish of all was the Butifarra (Catalan sausage) in white sauce with mushrooms and crema de leche. Oh. My. Word.  It might not be the prettiest dish, but it was certainly one of the best bites I had on the entire trip.

 

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Restaurant 2254 in Barcelona, Spain

After all that, it was on to Restaurant 2254 for “Mediterranean modern tapas” and I honestly have no idea how my stomach found room for all of the food we consumed here, but it did.

And it was glorious.

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First up was a Gazpacho with strawberries from Maresme, a rucola salad with goat cheese, pistachios, and dried tomato, and then red shrimps capuchino with sea urchin. Sure, that’ll get us started.

 

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Oxtail (Boneless with prawns) at Restaurant 2254

There were several dishes to follow – oxtail, smoked sardines, rigatoni, and octopus. And I ate every single one. And drank more wine.

 

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The coolest presentation of a dish goes to the Smoked Sardines with Guacamole…. just watch this short video clip below to see for yourself.

 

I have to say, gastronomically speaking, Barcelona was smoking Paris. At least in my humble opinion.

 

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Smoked Sardines with guacamole at Restaurant 2254 in Barcelona

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Brandade stuffed rigattoni with crispy Catalan sausage

 

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Octopus with green curry and Catalan beans from Ganxet

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Hazelnut Coulant with vanilla ice cream

Words really cannot explain how much we enjoyed this Tapas Lover Tour, and I cannot recommend it enough. It was the PERFECT way to kick off our Barcelona experience and I’m so happy we did it on our very first night in the city. If you find yourself heading to Barcelona or Seville, definitely check out Food Lover Tours!

 

 

InterNASHional-Food-Crawl

 

InterNASHional Food Crawl

Saturday, September 3rd, 2015
12 – 4 pm

Plaza Mariachi
3955 Nolensville Road
Nashville, TN 37211

Cost: $15 General admission
~OR~
$55 for Curated Food Tour

The 4th annual InterNASHional food crawl is coming up soon, and I can personally attest that it’s a fun and delicious way to spend a Saturday afternoon! The crawl explores a 5‐mile stretch of Nolensville Road, where participants are able to try incredible foods from around the world– Mexico, India, Thailand, the Middle East and many more.

General event tickets include a map for you to drive your own car to at least five participating restaurants and markets where you can sample food at your own pace. Note: When you purchase your ticket, you’ll receive a confirmation email with a pdf ticket attached. On the day of the tour, you take that ticket to Plaza Mariachi between noon-4 pm. In exchange for that ticket, you’ll be provided with a wristband and a map of the restaurants you can visit for food and drink samples.

If you’d rather not drive yourself, but instead be transported around and imbibe a bit during your travel, then the Curated Food Tour is for you. Added last year, my BFFs and I went on this tour and had a blast! You ride a charter bus from site to site, are provided adult beverages, and have a group tour guide to tell you stories of the restaurants and owners while you travel. Note: the Curated Food Tours begin at noon and 2 pm.

For more information on the event and to purchase tickets, visit the event website.

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2nd Annual Empanada Tasting

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016
5:30 – 8:30 pm

Tennessee Performing Arts Center
Andrew Jackson Hall Lobby
505 Deaderick St.
Nashville, TN 37219

Cost: $20

This event somehow slipped right past my radar last year. I’m pretty certain I would have been all over the prospect of an empanada tasting!

Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce (TLACC) and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) will host their 2nd Annual Empanada Tasting Event in the main lobby space at TPAC on September 7th. Attendees will get to try five empanadas and be provided with a soft drink or water with the purchase of a ticket. Additional food and drinks will be available from the vendors and TPAC concessions if that’s not enough to fill you up.

This year, the event will also feature a special presentation from Studio Tenn Theatre Company, whose original production of “Evita” opens the 2016-17 Broadway at TPAC season on September 9th-18th. For more information, visit the event website.

 

music-city-food-wine

 

Music City Food + Wine

Grand Tasting and Chef Showcase
Saturday, September 17th and Sunday, September 18th, 2016
11 am – 4 pm
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park

Harvest Night
Saturday, September 17th
7 – 11 pm
Walk of Fame Park

Cost: 1-day Pass $150
All-in 2 day Pass $500
Harvest Night Only $275

Summer has flown by and I can’t believe Music City Food + Wine is less than a month away!!! This will be the fourth year for the event, and I’ve had the pleasure of attending every year. Check out my experiences from 2013 here , 2014 here and 2015 here. The change of venue last year to Bicentennial Park was awesome, so I was thrilled to see that it would be happening there again this year.

For this year’s full schedule, click here and to take a gander at the talent, click here. Celebrity chef demos and panel discussions run simultaneously with Grand Taste, so you can flit back and forth between food stations and tents, and never feel like you’re missing out on anything. I’ve been asked by many people if I think this event is worth the price tag. As far as the 1-day passes go, I absolutely, without a doubt, do. I’ve been to many food festivals over the years, and in comparison to the ticket cost on some of them, I truly think that the 5 hours of food, drink, education and entertainment this one offers blows others away.

To purchase tickets, or for more detailed information, visit the Music City Food + Wine website. Can’t wait to see some of you there!

 

FallCrush2

 

Fall Crush

Sunday, September 25th, 2016
4 – 8 pm

Green Door Gourmet
7011 River Road Pike
Nashville, TN 37209

Cost: $150

I love that Autumn is almost upon us. Sorry Summer, but you are definitely not my favorite season. What better way to kick off Fall than with a farm-to- table event at Green Door Gourmet’s Grand Barn?  Fall Crush will feature Nashville Chefs Trey Cioccia of The Farm House, Pastry Chef Rachel De Jong of 5th & Taylor, Hal Holden-Bache of Lockeland Table, Travis McShane of Adele’s and Eric Zizka of Oak Steakhouse

A celebration of wine and food benefiting the Mid South Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the event will consist of a locally sourced dinner, exclusive wines, silent and live auctions, and great music (because it’s Nashville!). Tickets can be purchased at www.fallcrushms.org.

 

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Sorry Sylvan Park, your loss is my gain. Well, really Green Hills’ gain. Not that I want to rub it in, but I’m pretty dang excited about it. Last year, Deb Paquette and partners walked away from their Truss restaurant concept in the Sylvan Park neighborhood after a development dispute. Months later, they announced they would be opening etc. in Green Hills. My neighborhood.

And it’s only a little over a mile from my house. Score!

Even better, etc. is tucked away in the Bedford Commons development back behind Green Hills mall, so I don’t even have to get on the nightmare that is Hillsboro Road- all back roads for me, baby! Oops, I’m sounding a bit selfish aren’t I? Seriously though, my happiness level with my neighborhood has increased tenfold with today’s opening of etc.

 

Etc-Scallop-Crudo

scallop crudo with roasted poblano pepper orange oil, black lava salt, orange segments, watermelon radish, red curry mustard seeds, watercress tempura

 

I’ve been a big fan of Deb Paquette’s for years….long before I even created this blog. But when I did start blogging, she was one of my first topics. I was devastated when she closed her restaurant Zola, and then ecstatic when she decided not to move away from Nashville and opened Etch. There’s just no one in town that creates dishes like she does. No one. Her style is fun and flavorful…and completely unique.

 

Etc-Duck-Gizzards

panko crusted fried duck gizzards with sambal peach jam, lavender beet smear, sesame onions, berries

 

I was super fortunate to be invited in to etc. over the weekend for an advance taste, and was happy to find that Deb is being as creative and quirky as ever with this menu. Gizzards and grasshoppers? Yes, please.

I’ve had a thing for gizzards since I was a young girl and ate them almost every Sunday afternoon at my grandmother’s house. Those were Southern fried chicken gizzards, but etc.‘s are confit and fried duck gizzards served with a peach jam and pickled onions. Different, but just as delicious as those I loved as a child.

 

Etc-Fowl-Trio

Etc’s fowl trio: cinnamon sesame duck breast, ancho cherry jam, confit chicken, chili aderezo, date foie gras brûlée, grasshopper crumble, pumpkin seed masa grits

My favorite part of our meal was my entree though – the ‘fowl trio’. I ate every single bite, and it was a lot of food: Cinnamon sesame duck breast on pumpkin seed masa grits, confit chicken with pepitas, and a foie gras brulee topped with grasshopper pecan crumble. I will admit that much of the reason I settled on this particular dish was because of the grasshoppers. How could I not try it? I mean, I’ve eaten chocolate covered bugs (including grasshoppers) before, so I wasn’t scared, just intrigued.

My husband swears they tasted like grasshoppers to him (what does that even mean??) but I tasted the pecans more than anything. The grasshoppers just gave the topping a nice crunch.

 

 

Etc-Grilled-Tuna

Etc’s grilled tuna with raisin pasilla sweet potato, peanut pepper butter, pork black bean sauce, Caribbean spiced greens, poblano verde, okra

While we dined at dinner time, etc. will also offer lunch Monday – Friday and plan to add Sunday brunch in the future. You can peruse the lunch and dinner menus on their website.

As for drinks, there are lots of great wines and beers to choose from, including some high gravity. Named simply for the spirit they contain, we had the Vodka, Rum and Aged Gin cocktails from their short list of signature drinks, and enjoyed all of them.

Of course, no dinner is complete (at least in my book) without a little bite (or five in this case) of something sweet. Pastry Chef extraordinaire Megan Williams will be splitting her time now between Etch and etc., and believe me, that is a very good thing.

 

Etc-Chocolate-Panna-Cotta

Chocolate Panna Cotta at Etc

etc. restaurant

3790 Bedford Avenue
Nashville, TN 37215

BON2016_Mag

 

It’s here. Voting for this year’s Nashville Scene “Best of Nashville” just kicked off a few days ago! Last year you guys were SO AWESOME and took the time to vote, pushing this little blog of mine to be named the #1 Best Food Blog in Nashville! Truly, a huge, huge thanks for that.

No pressure at all, but if you have a sec to type Eat. Drink. Smile. in that blank space next to “Best Food Blog” in the Media section again this year, it would be greatly appreciated :-)

Click here to start working on your ballot now…with over 200 categories, it might take a while to get through them all. Don’t fret- thankfully you can save your ballot and come back to it later. No need to choose all of your favorites in one sitting. And you also don’t have to vote on 200+! Just be sure to enter at least 20 categories for your vote to count.

Have a great week!

~Beth

 

Paris 2015 Beth Eiffel

Paris, France

A year ago Ravi and I were adventuring through Paris, France with a little side jaunt to Verdun before making our way down to Barcelona, Spain. And yes, it has taken me an entire 12 months to finally get around to this blog post!

While on vacation, I told myself that I’d have our trip recapped here on the blog by no later than end of August—2015.  Which turned into September. Then I promised a couple of people that were heading to Paris and Barcelona that I’d share everything before their trips rolled around….in October and November. Oops. A conversation would have to do.

By the end of the year, so much time had passed, that I started thinking a post on the one year anniversary of the trip would certainly take the pressure off, so here we are!

 

Paris-Streetscape

 

There aren’t really words to express how wonderful this vacation was. It was definitely the life refresh I needed at the time (and could really use again!).

We spent 5 days in France, hitting a few of the big attractions, but were careful to not over schedule ourselves so we had plenty of time to wonder the streets, relax, and – of course – eat lots of food. For the purposes of keeping this post to a manageable length, I’m just going to include some of our favorite discoveries and a few important tips/recommendations that might help one of you in planning your own trip one day.

 

Paris-Architecture

 

First things first. Before leaving the U.S. I created a map of all the possible places we might dine and visit in Paris so even if we didn’t have a set plan, we’d have something to reference no matter what part of town we ended up in for any given day. I also downloaded Patricia Wells’ app, The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris, and highly recommend it. It’s $4.99 well spent.

Our hotel was in the 7th Arrondissement near the Eiffel Tower, so I plotted based on that location as our starting point. Note: we loved that neighborhood as our home base, as there was so much to do nearby and the view of the Eiffel Tower from our balcony wasn’t too shabby either! Worth checking out if you’re in that area: Rue Cler was a lovely pedestrian street nearby that had lots of little shops, bistros, bakeries and open air produce markets.

 

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Pastries on Rue Cler

 

Since we were staying so nearby, the first thing we did upon arrival to Paris was go on a tour of the Eiffel Tower. If I was a better planner, I would have attempted to get advance tickets to save a little money. You see, you can book official tickets directly, but in order to do so, you have to stay up late exactly 3 months before your desired date in order to snag the precious few they release.

Alas, I didn’t think that far ahead, so a couple of weeks before we left, I booked a ‘skip the line’ tour instead through Fat Tire Tours and while we paid a bit more by doing this, it was totally worth it. I am not one for waiting in lines for 2 hours. Nope.

 

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Berthillon Ice Cream in Paris

Many say that a visit to Berthillon is an absolute must when in Paris. And that you should visit the original location. So I did. Was the wait in line worth it? Oh, it was delicious. Did I see stars? Hear angels? No, I wouldn’t go that far. But if you’re in the area, it’s definitely a delicious treat on a hot summer day.

 

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Berthillon Ice Cream, 29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, 75004 Paris, France

 

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Experiment Cocktail Club, Paris

When you envision yourself drinking in Paris, you probably have a glass of wine in hand. While I was able to drink some red wine for the first time in 4 years (yay for organic, all natural French red wine!) without having an allergy attack, we also searched out really great cocktails. Because, as you probably know, cocktails are my jam.

The Experimental Cocktail Club was perfection. Definitely a must for all cocktail lovers visiting Paris.

 

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Gregory Renard’s Cacao et Macarons at 35 rue Daubenton (no website)

 

By far, one of the best things we did during our time in the City of Lights was the Paris By Mouth walking food tour. The ‘Taste of the Latin Quarter‘ included tastings at six spots and took a little over three hours. These small group tours can accommodate a maximum of seven people (probably because some of the establishments you visit are pretty small), but there was only one other couple on our tour, so just a total of 5 counting our guide, Emma.

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 Gregory Renard’s Cacao et Macarons

Our first stop, Gregory Renard Macarons, was a life altering experience for me. Okay, so maybe that’s a little strong, but it certainly changed my opinion of macarons. In all honesty, I’ve never cared much for them and have been a bit baffled by their popularity. Sure, they’re cute and come in lots of fun colors, but in my opinion, there are dozens of sweets I’d rather eat.

But that day, as the salted butter caramel macaron melted in my mouth, I got it. Guess I just needed to eat real French Macarons for that to happen!
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Carl Marletti pastries

And it wasn’t just French Macarons that opened my eyes, but basically every Parisian pastry I sampled. Man, these people know their baked goods. At Carl Marletti it was a taste of their tarte au citron (lemon tart) and a chocolate éclair that did me in.

Then it was on to chocolate- specifically chocolates from Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF – the highest rank for French chocolatiers) at Mococha. These cases at this little shop were full of gorgeous truffles almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

 

paris-pastriesOur Paris By Mouth guide, Emma, and pastries galore at Carl Marletti

We may have started the morning with sweets, but pretty soon we were moving on to more savory territory, including my favorite stop of the tour, this incredible little cheese shop. The building, the street, the cheese… I loved everything about it!

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Androuet Cheese Shop, Paris

At Androuet  we picked up a plethora of cheeses to sample for later when we would be able to sit for a while with a bottle of wine.

Check out this spread. Yes, this is what heaven is made of…

  • Chavignol – ash-covered goat cheese from the Loire Valley
  • Brillat Savarin – a triple cream cow cheese made in Normandy
  • Camembert – 6 week old, blooming rind cow cheese from Normandy – this particular one aged with cider
  • Munster – washed-rind cow cheese, from Lorraine
  • Comté – cooked pressed cheese, 18 months old, from the Franche-Comté region
  • Ossau Iraty – a 17 month old, pressed cheese made from ewe milk from the Pyranees Mountains
  • Roquefort – blue (sheep) cheese, made by artisanal producer Mr Carles

 

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Cheeses at Androuet, Paris

Across the way, we popped into La Boucherie Saint Médard (at 119 rue Mouffetard) and picked up Saucisson de Montagne (air-dried, cured ham “from the mountains”), rillettes a l’oie (goose meat butter), and the mousse de canard (duck mousse), to eat alongside our cheese spread.

 

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By this point, it was around noon and time to rest our weary feet (I wasn’t actually tired, just dying to dig into all of that CHEESE!). At Maison Claudel Vin & Whisky , our final stop, we were able to kick back, enjoy our decadent spread and get a little loopy on a few bottles of wine. Exactly what you should be doing at lunch in Paris, right?

 

 

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Both a shop and tasting space, the business was started by a couple with dual obsessions, wine and whiskey. The walls are lined with hundreds of bottles of each, and they have dozens of wines and whiskeys by the glass that you can choose to sip on the spot.

 

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Proper Lunch in Paris: Triple Cream Cheese and Wine. 

You’ll probably notice that I haven’t mentioned any real “meals” that we had at specific restaurants. While most of the lunches and dinners we had were good, nothing was absolutely amazing, so I’d rather let you discover your own places if you travel to Paris.

But, there was one spot that we completely stumbled upon by accident that turned out to be our best meal of the trip, so you get to see and hear about it~

 

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Le Christine, 1 Rue Christine, 75006 Paris, France

It was the end of a very long day of sightseeing, and we were both tired, grumpy and starving. I didn’t have a plan, and my app wasn’t coming up with anything interesting for the area we were in. I’ll be honest – we fought. We stopped speaking. Hey, I was hangry. Here in the most romantic city in the world, I was feeling anything but romantic.

We zig zag’d in and out of side streets and alleys, making our way in the direction of our hotel, just hoping we’d spot something along the way.

And then Le Christine appeared – a lovely, bright orange beacon.

 

Paris-Le-Christine-Table

 

I’ll admit, the cute exterior is totally what got me. I barely glanced at the menu posted outside the door. All I knew was that this place looked happy and at the moment, I wasn’t, and I desperately wanted to be.

So in we went!

Hallelujah. This is just what we needed. We settled into a table next to a big wall of windows that looked out on the quaintest little courtyard I’d seen since our arrival in Paris. Pretty soon there was a bottle of wine chilling next to me, and all was well with the world again.

Funny how good food, good wine and a change of scenery can lift your mood in no time flat.

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Lamb at Le Christine, Paris

Happy again, I didn’t think the night could get any better. But it did. Dessert arrived and like, whoah. Absolute best dessert of our trip: Ginger & green tea ice cream on top of milk chocolate mousse on top of dark chocolate mousse on top of sponge cake with roasted plums. Angels were definitely singing.

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Best dessert of the trip at Le Christine

 

Perfectly content and once again feeling romantic, we left the restaurant and started to make our way to the Seine for the cruise we’d booked. We picked up a bottle of wine and some plastic cups along the way-  best decision ever.

I highly, highly recommend doing a Vedettes du Pont Neuf nighttime river cruise. We absolutely loved it– in fact, it might have been the highlight of our entire stay in Paris. Perhaps it’s because we saved it for our final night there and I’d had quite a bit of wine, but all I know was that it was lovely.

I researched several cruise companies before settling on Vedettes because it had really great reviews and seemed more the kind of vibe we were going for. Tickets are $14 if you purchase in person, but only $10 if you purchase online in advance (which is what we did). The boats leave every half hour, and the ride is 1 hour long. We opted for the 9:30 pm cruise because this was at sunset and when all the lights would start coming on…and it was magical.

The perfect last night in Paris.

 

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Verdun, France

I know that was a lot of words and a lot of photos of Paris (even though it didn’t even cover a fraction of our time there!), but don’t worry, I’m not going to write that much about Verdun.

First, most of you are probably like- what is Verdun? Yeah, that’s what I said when we started planning this trip and my husband told me he wanted to travel there while we were in France. Huh? I’ve never even heard of this place, and why would I want to waste a day of my time there?? I’ll admit I didn’t have the best attitude about it.

BUT – I knew I was going to get several days to focus on my love of food (which he sometimes doesn’t care a thing about), so I needed to give him at least a day to do something he really wanted to do.
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So that’s how we ended up traveling by train from Paris to Verdun, a small city in northeast France, on the banks of the Meuse River.

Whereas Paris has a population of over 2 million people, Verdun has only around 18,000 residents, which is larger than my own Kentucky hometown, but certainly small by most people’s standards.

 

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The entire reason Ravi wanted to come here is because it’s known as the site of the WWI Battle of Verdun. Yes, he’s a history buff. (Guess what? I’m not.)

We spent the day touring battlefields, museums and memorials. Not typically my scene, but it actually turned out to be a lot more interesting than I expected it to be.

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Verdun, France

But the best part for me was just wondering the streets of this little town. The change of scenery from the big city was quite refreshing. There were so many lovely architectural details around every corner that I found myself snapping pics constantly – doors, windows, bridges, gates, storefronts.
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Verdun, France

 

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Bunker in Verdun, France

While almost every building here seemed to be very, very old, there were definitely modern touches too….like the Pizza ATM.

Yes, Nashville may have a cupcake ATM, but Verdun has us beat with their Pizza ATM!

 

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Pizza ATM in Verdun, France

While I originally may not have been fully on board with taking this little side jaunt out of the city, it unexpectedly turned out to be a great day, so I’m really glad we did it. And between all the history and sightseeing, I still managed to search out the best mussels and frites in town. Because, you know, that’s what I do. The food is what vacation is all about, right?

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Mussels and frites in Verdun, France

 

EHarlow-MagnoliaBitters

 

“Found in print for the first time in 1867 and then again in 1872, the magnolia blossom was used as an aromatic and flavoring agent in bitters, with the intention of medicinal purposes. Eventually, the light and floral trademark of the south fell to the wayside in the 20th century…until now.” Earlier this month, Nashville residents Jon and Lindsay Yeager of PourTaste released the first commercial magnolia bitters seen since the 19th century under their brand E Harlow. (Which is named after their cutie pie daughter, Emerson Harlow)

It began in 2013 when Jon and Lindsay created The Anthym Spirit for Gray’s on Main in Franklin. The signature cocktail contained magnolia bitters, which started as just a DIY backyard experiment for them. Garden and Gun took notice  of the unique bitters and shared the recipe on their website in 2014.

Since then, Jon and Lindsay have been working hard to perfect their creation, and on July 1st, they released the final product, E Harlow Magnolia Bitters. The bad news (for us, not them), is that they have already completely sold out of the first run! However, there is good news too… they are now taking pre orders for the second run. You can order yours at PourTaste.com.

If you’d like to try it in a drink before purchasing your own, head on over to The Treehouse in East Nashville for the “She Went to Oxford” cocktail or the Vanderbilt Marriott in Midtown for The Chancellor made with Belle Meade bourbon, Cardenal Mendoza brandy, Clement Vieux rhum agricole, and E Harlow magnolia bitters.

 

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