While my parents were still visiting in London, my brother decided it would be pleasant to take them on a day trip, so we all hopped on a train and headed down to West Sussex to visit the town of Chichester. Like York on one of our previous visits, Chichester is pretty neat since it dates back to Roman times, still maintaining the basic Roman-era street layout and outer walls. And, like most any English city of its size, it’s now got a cathedral (Chichester Cathedral is pretty unusual in that while it has a bell tower, the bell tower is a separate building) and a Market Cross. But after a morning roaming about checking out the cathedral, gardens, and the wall of the city, we met up with everyone and had a pleasant lunch at Amelie and Friends.
For our last full meal in Paris, we met up with my brother and sister-in-law one last time for an outing to l’Européen, an impressively large an busy brasserie located directly across the street from Gare de Lyon, one of Paris’ most busy train stations. It also has a reputation for good service, classic French bistro fare, and good seafood. Going inside, Brasserie l’Européen definitely has the brasserie look down pat: the place is filled with shiny fixtures, neatly-made tables with crisp, white tableclothes, and waitstaff darting about in equally crisp, white aprons, delivering food and wine bottles to tables. Also out front is a rather large and impressive seafood counter, with a member of the staff preparing various fruits de mer. We were promptly welcomed, and escorted to a nice corner table by the front window where we could enjoy some people watching as people were entering and leaving the train station across the street.
After an 11 hour flight, we arrived back in Paris. We took this as an opportunity to explore more of Paris, this time with my brother and sister-in-law joining us from London (I still think the Channel Tunnel is a rather cool invention). Despite the somewhat drizzly weather, we decided to do a walk around Montmartre, enjoying this fairly hilly part of the city, included a tour of Sacre Coeur (my first since Junior High) and looking over the city from the terrace. But it was also time for lunch, and we settled on a fairly nice café near the metro station, Café Le Saint-Jean, where I had another chance to indulge in one of my simple pleasures: a basic steak frites. Like uncountably many cafés around Paris, this one has the basic Parisien Café look pretty much nailed: tiny round tables, wooden chairs, black-and-while tile, and robed waiters dashing about with trays of food, coffee, wine, and beer. We quickly found ourselves seated by the window, and after a short perusal of the menu, I decided that their bavette avec frites was the way to go.
Many cities and cultures have developed there own, specific style of restaurant: the American-style diner. The British pub. The Japanese ramen bar. And, of particular interest here, the French Bistro. That little restaurant with tiny tables, tall chairs, cozy environs, with a bunch of diners packed in enjoying their wine, baguettes, steak frites, cassoulets, and other simple French fare in close company with soft music playing in the background. It’s a cliché of sorts, but not without a solid foundation of truth: Paris, in particular, is replete with most of the arrondissements sporting a rather impressive assortment of bistros and brasseries, ranging from the simple and traditional, up to the more modern “gastro bistro”, the bistro equivalent of the “gastro pub” offering modernized versions of classic bistro cuisine. But I’ll have to admit, I’ve got strong fondness for basic French cooking like beef bourguignon and steak frites, so when we had a free night in Paris, I set off in search of a good, simple bistro in the 6e arrondissement, and ended up picking Le Bistrot d’Henri for our dinner.
As I mentioned in the previous review, we spent the last full weekend in February up in Quebec visiting Montreal and the surrounding countryside for the Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon dinner. But the fact that the Cabane a Sucre starts off in the morning made this more or less a required overnight stay in Montreal, so we decided to visit a few of our favorite Montreal watering holes (Le Cheval Blanc and Dieu du Ciel), and then ducked over to a place I had found online that focused on small plates (since we knew that the next day was going to be a feed-fest): Le Chien Fumant (“The Smoking Dog”), a small bistro in the “Eastern” part (have I mentioned, Montreal directional conventions seem okay, until you look at a map and realize that “North” is really more of a “West-Northwest” sort of direction) of the Plateau neighborhood.
In late June, a friend of mine, Jeff, had come to Boston for an extended weekend of, well, food and beverages. We decided it would be good to drive down and meet up with him for some light tourism (see my previous review on Modern Pastry), some cocktails (at Brick and Mortar, a rather nice speakeasy in Cambridge), and finally dinner. We ended up at Sandrine’s in Cambridge. Located about two blocks from the Harvard Square T station, Sandrine’s is pleasant bistro focusing primarily on French cuisine, but dabbling in a few other European cuisines as well; a good chunk of the menu is Alsatian, giving a nice blend between French and German cooking.
For those that have been following along with my travels in May/June, it was a rather hectic time, especially when I found myself having just gotten back from Austin and having to turn around again and leave for Washington, DC. Since the pace was so hectic, I decided it would be a good idea to take an evening off (albeit an evening on my way to the airport) and have a nice dinner with Carol. We ended up picking Mint Bistro in Manchester, which has been on my hit list for a while. Located on Elm street, just a little around the corner from Red Arrow Diner, Mint Bistro is basically a “contemporary fusion bistro”. It’s a rather nicely decorated space, centered around a prominent bar, with a reasonably good amount of seating. Menu-wise, Mint Bistro is one of those fusion places that seems to take a bit of the “shotgun” approach to fusion cuisine, in that they’ve got both “Tapas” and “Sushi” on the same menu with upscale pot roast. This approach always makes me a bit skeptical, but I’ve read several good reviews of the place, so we figured it was worth a try…
On our recent trip to New York City, Carol and I wanted to go someplace nice but not over the top to celebrate our tenth anniversary since we started dating. A quick search of OpenTable showed that the Saturday night slots at most places were really starting to fill up, but we noticed that the Financial District location of Brasserie Les Halles had decent availability, so we decided to give it a go. Les Halles has been on my hit list for a while, mostly since I love bistro food, French-style butchering, and good fries. And, admittedly, Bourdain’s plugging of the place made me curious…