Welcome to Brunette à Bicyclettea collection of thoughts, photos, and videos; my digital scrapbook of the people and places I’ve come to love, wherever I happen to be (currently, that’s Washington, DC).
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Category Archives: Restaurants
In the States, we generally think of balkava as a homogenous thing – at least I did. Actually, it’s a whole category of pastries of different shapes, colors and textures made with some combination of sugar, nuts, honey, cream, butter, and phyllo dough. The nuts used are generally walnuts or pistachios, but pine nuts and hazelnuts are not entirely uncommon. In all its many variations, baklava is a beloved dessert from Greece to Iran and from Syria to the Balkans. Continue reading
Don’t let it’s less-than-photogenic appearance dissuade you. This stuff is seriously good. Tomatoes aren’t something I generally associate with Vietnamese food, but now I’ve officially given up on trying to pin down this cuisine. What do I know? Continue reading
My mother and I are kindred spirits. When I come back to California for a visit, she always has a new restaurant or cafe she wants to try. In addition to the running list I know she has in her head, she usually has some newspaper and magazine clippings and reviews set aside, waiting for the first excuse to try them out. I understand the urge sine I too have these lists, and I am always happy to oblige. Cut from the same cloth, she and I.
This week, she suggested a “new fish place” she’d heard about. We’ve been disappointed by new openings in this area in the past, including a deafeningly loud wine bar whose ingredients needed a serious quality boost. But Slapfish (19696 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, CA 92648. Open daily.) is nothing of the sort, and an example of what I hope is a growing trend toward fresh, considered, sustainable eating in Orange County. Continue reading
Back in Southern California to visit family, I was reminded of how spoiled we are in this part of the country. The climate is ideal, with an abundance of herbs and fresh produce all year long. As we walked through the farmers’ market, Z remarked that Washington DC just doesn’t come close in terms of price or variety. Despite the incredible stone fruit in summer and the incomparably crisp and juicy apples we get in the fall, I have to agree with him. It’s hard not to get a little homesick for amazing avocadoes, meaty artichokes and the fresh cusine that California is so famous for. Continue reading
I am a maker of lists. I’m not talking your every-day to-do list, which I actually make very few of. I’m not really inclined to write down everything I need from the grocery store, preferring to wander the isles with an idea of dinner in mind (which I have to admit doesn’t always ensure I leave the grocery store with everything I need). These are running lists, not all in written form, normally with a larger picture in mind, but they’re lists all the same. And I have many of them. Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_1161" align="aligncenter" width="512"] Banh mi at Chez Yu[/caption]
I am a great admirer of the french sandwich. There are few things as simply satisfying as a well made jambon beurre (especially if it’s jambon de pays) on a perfectly baked tradition. But sometimes I need to mix things up, and the only thing that will do is a freshly-made banh mi. I wrote about some of my favorite, and least favorite, spots for banh mi in Paris a while back, but I’ve since discovered a couple more that I’d like to share with you. Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_902" align="aligncenter" width="512"] Mural by Jérôme Mesnager, rue Ménilmontant[/caption]
Originally belonging to the commune of Belleville outside Paris, the Ménilmontant neighborhood was first called Mesnilmautemps (“bad weather house”). The end of the name evolved into “montant” (“rising”) because of the hill that it sits on overlooking the city. Until the mid 17th century, it exhisted outside the mur des fermiers généraux (the green line in the map below), which separated Paris from its surrounding communes to regulate products coming into the city, largely for tax purposes. Because of its location outside the wall, the wine produced and consumed there wasn’t subject to the taxes associated with crossing into Paris, attracting Parisians for afternoons of drinking and creating a rather vibrant guinguette culture. Continue reading
I’ve had many a conversation with friends who’ve fallen for a city — San Francisco, Los Angeles, Berlin, New York, Beijing, London, you name it. They all have their own love stories: some found themselves there by chance, others never left or fell back in love with their childhood home, some followed a crush or significant other halfway around the world, and many, regardless of their reasons, worked hard to get there. One such friend, a proud New Yorker, told me NYC is like a drug. Once you get a taste of the pulse and energy that are so palpable there, you’re hooked. I don’t think she’s leaving anytime soon.
There’s no doubt Paris hooks people too. It’s the most visited city in the world. It’s inspired books, poems, blogs, films, and countless works of art. And, it hosts huge numbers of people who flock here from elsewhere in France or d’ailleurs to live, study, and work. But, I think Paris works differently. Instead of that shock-to-the-system jolt, Paris is a more subtle séductrice that romances you and leaves you pining.
I’ve fallen head-over-heels for her charms, but I have to be honest. It’s a tempestuous love that oscillates from adoring to distraught and right back again. Beautiful, exciting, and coquine, Paris sucks you in but can be downright ruthless. Frankly it comes down to the fact that Paris is something I’ve had to work for (and never lets me forget it!) She’s my fickle mistress, and she’s got me snared. Continue reading
It’s by no means an understatement to call le sandwiche an institution in France. If people aren’t sitting down to a long lunch at a resto or café, they’re almost invariably nibbling on (or wolfing down) some sort of sandwich, the sale of which constituted a 6.62 billion euro industry last year. Le Figaro recently called le jambon beurre (ham and butter sandwich) “le sandwiche de la crise.” (Read it in English here). This cheap, grab-and-go staple, as well as sandwiches in general are rising in price due to increased food costs. On verra ce que ça va donner. Grève nationale?
So, I thought I’d add another sandwiche bon marché contender into the mix — the banh mi. Now, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m an avid fan of these sandwiches. Banh mi just never seem to get old. They’ve been the object of many a bike/subway trek in just about every city I’ve lived in, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Growing up right next to Little Saigon will do that to you, I suppose. They’ve become all the rage in the US, a trend that has my full support. The result of the melding of French and Vietnamese tastes during the colonial period — a wonderful byproduct of a rather dark era — Paris and banh mi seemed a natural fit. (If you’re interested, this WSJ article gives a short history). Continue reading
Few short-term visitors make it past a select few DC institutions, like Ben’s Chili Bowl (1213 U St NW Washington, DC and inside Nationals Stadium), which are beloved by both locals and tourists, Obama, Bill Cosby, and yes even Sarko & Ms. Bruni. I wouldn’t commit such a cardinal sin as to bad mouth the half-smoke, but one can’t live on chili dogs alone. Other popular ones are the Old Ebbit Grill (675 15th St., NW) the various locations of the Jose Andres empire, and Marvin (2007 14th St), which I found to be overhyped after a few visits (the mere presence of bechamel, ham, and bread on a plate does not a croque make). So, as a follow-up to my DC Like a Local Part I, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite places to eat off the tourist track. Continue reading