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Gemma - one of my top ten restaurants in the past 10 years

I thought about that a bit actually, what if this was just one of those nights when everything comes together and nothing goes wrong? Then I slapped myself hard and said, "thank goodness I was there on a perfect night". Love it when it all goes right and grateful to have been there.

We will be back tomorrow night to try more dishes. We are from California, but because of the travel requirements and appearing in so many different regions, we let the restaurant guide dish and wine selection within some basic guidelines. Having never had their dishes I am not sure my wine picks would have been as perfectly matched to what we had. One other thing about my tastes, I don't eat a lot of salt anymore, so I think I am more sensitive to that seasoning. I also use a lot of Asian flavors in my dishes (Indian, Thai and Vietnamese) as well as mediterranean flavors. And my origin is NC, so I actually love NC barbeque. I don't know if that makes a difference in my approach to food. We live in SF Bay area now and love the local flavors!

Mar 24, 2015
marthak in Dallas - Fort Worth

Where can I take my Thai Friends in Dallas, TX?

My sister-in-law is Thai and she loves all kinds of amazing food. She is a total foodie as is her family. They love all love excellent service, a sublime evening and presentation. Take her to Gemma, too. Its AMAZING and suits the bill perfectly. Plus it has lots of seafood too, and fresh oysters and seafood are a big thing in Thailand.

She might like sushi. They have a ton of sushi in Bangkok, and italian, and all kinds of western food.

Mar 23, 2015
marthak in Dallas - Fort Worth

Great dinner, great wine, great cocktails

Gemma, one of the best restaurants I have ever been to. The front of house will call you with cancellations and try to get you in, staff is great, wine - beer - cocktails are wonderful and the food is literally "last supper" amazing. The restaurant has a wonderful intimate up and coming rustic/industrial chic vibe going that is a great backdrop for your experience. And that's special. They gave us an unforgettable evening.

So glad we went! We are headed back on Thursday, too.

Mar 23, 2015
marthak in Dallas - Fort Worth

Gemma - one of my top ten restaurants in the past 10 years

We had one of the best meals we have ever had at Gemma on Saturday night. Dishes were beautifully balanced, incredibly well prepared and sublime. We are in town for one week. Every four months we are on a new continent for the internet and engineering task force conference, and as foodies we look at "up and coming" creative farm to table restaurants with amazing buzz before we arrive, make reservations and a plan for the week. Gemma was night one. It will also be night six, it was just that good.

Front of house: Pros, warm, efficient and they follow through. We had 10:15 pm reservations and the restaurant called my cell on Saturday morning to move our dinner up to 9:30 pm (7:30 pacific - our home time) which was incredibly detailed and kind of them. Plus one to Gemma. Valet parking, beautifully balanced decor somewhere between hipster industrial rustic chic and comfortable, and professional warm service took Gemma's front of house into four stars territory. Mpre points for Gemma. Most guests dressed upscale which reflects the skill and cost of the experience, we had on jeans and decent shirts (California), yet we were treated with equal courtesy. Late night visits from chefs dressed in restaurant logo t shirts and jeans were greeted with hugs and claps on the back all around, a very good sign. Must be good when other chefs stop by for whatever the chef has to offer. Good vibes so far.

Drinks were well crafted, beers and wines offered by servers who not only eat the food they are schooled on the tastes, balance and benefits of a well matched wine-dish pairing. Not once did the suggested pairings fall short, and every single time I was offered a generous taste to make the final selection. Loved them all, including the robust Cali blend and the local Texas white. Wine is better when it goes with the food. My partner had equal joy with his initial small batch beer, wine and dessert offerings. Loved the staff who stopped by to offer suggestions, stories and make us feel even more welcome, lots of synergy here and a collaborative atmosphere.

Dishes: Because the food has to be incredible or nothing else works.

Bread, appetizer and salad is incredible. Butter is lightly seasoned and goes perfectly with the homemade breads.

Roasted baby artichokes with arugula, provencale vinaigrette and a poached egg - wow, a beautifully crafted tasty dish. Chef blends a limited number of ingredients so that the flavors enhance each other and give great depth to the dishes. Artichokes were perfect. Portions are small to reasonable, so tons of flavor, without becoming overwhelmed.

Bok Choy Salad was shockingly good. We almost had a knife fight over the last bites of this dish it was so amazing (I exaggerate as they split our salad before delivering it to the table) . I don't know why it was so good, baby bok choy, pomegranate seeds, Asian pear, cashews and shaved fennel should not be able to transform into a salad that transcends its individual ingredients and makes you so happy you can't stop saying over and over again, oh my god, this is so good. But it was one of the best dishes of the night because it was an incredibly creative balance of flavors, honestly, simply a perfect dish.

We had mains of Arctic Char and the Chefs dish of the night a farm chop of veal on polenta with smoked gouda and balsamic reduction. Both dishes were very good. The polenta preparation seemed more like a puree below the perfection of the veal chop, and while it was good, it was also a little salty for me and overwhelmed a bit by the smokiness of the gouda - but that is total nit picking, this is a very good dish and the veal was perfect, brimming with beautiful flavor. The seasoning and crust and cook on the veal was probably the best I have ever had on a cut of meat. My partner has eaten beef only a handful of times in thirty years. He loved this dish.

Desserts are superb and it is clear Gemma enjoys the talents of a creative incredibly talented pastry chef. We had two desert offerings that suited us perfectly and we loved them both. But mine was fantastic for me and I have to have it again before I die, so I am headed back Thursday night for more cream cheese crepes (light little perfection on a plate) paired with huckleberry compote, graham cracker and in house made Meyer lemon ice cream. My partner had the chocolate caramel pine nut tart with homemade marshmallow, and in house vanilla bean ice cream which he remained reluctant to share. I had some anyway, and came away with the feeling that two such wonderful desserts are so rare they should be celebrated with port or another glass of that glorious 2011 Leviathan. Not since MW in Maui have I had such a great dessert course. Wow.

Gemma is an amazing restaurant. In the years we have been eating with our conference we have dined in wonderful spots in Paris, Berlin, London, Milan, Barcelona, Toronto, Vancouver, Hawaii, Japan, China, California, and Texas. This is easily one of our top three nights out. It's worth trying.

Mar 23, 2015
marthak in Dallas - Fort Worth

Appropriate Dress in Paris

My mistake sir, so very sorry...I should have said sport jacket.

Apr 17, 2014
marthak in France

Milan dinner recommendations?

Update: We ate at BYS in Milan for dinner and it was really good. Its adventurous, but also well prepared. I tried a grapefruit risotto with shrimp --- yes, it sounds off putting but I was really looking forward to the citrus and it was lovely. My main was lamb with yogurt and a small pastry of roasted garlic. Also wonderfully prepared and tasty. I think this was our best meal in Milan so far.

Jan 29, 2014
marthak in Italy

tipping in Milan?

I really appreciate the clarifications :)

Jan 29, 2014
marthak in Italy

tipping in Milan?

Thank you! I do feel better.

Jan 29, 2014
marthak in Italy

Milan dinner recommendations?

@jnwall: I noticed you ate at One in Chapel Hill, anything like that kind of dinner in Milan? I really want some farm to table food and am not sure if I can find that in Milan. Any suggestions? Any help you can give me is very appreciated! Even if it is to say, respect the way Milan prepares dinner, get a nice bottle of wine and just "go with it" :)

Jan 29, 2014
marthak in Italy

tipping in Milan?

I am getting mixed signals/info on restaurant tipping in Milan. I have heard everything from no tip to 5-10 euros for excellent service to 10%. Anyone know the answer?

Jan 29, 2014
marthak in Italy

Milan dinner recommendations?

Thank you, David! We have been in Milan this week and its been an up and down food experience. All restaurants have been friendly, generous, with impeccable service. But rarely have we gotten great food except dessert which is consistently outstanding. La Locanda Gatto Rosso in the Galleria was pretty good - although like most restaurants the seafood is prepared to a degree of doneness past what we prefer in SF. We also tried a number of Trip Adviser restaurants with less success. Prime and El Barbapedana both have wonderful hosts, generous to a fault and while the food is good, it is not prepared in a way that I prefer. The prevailing view in Milan I believe is to cook it a bit too long and oversauce for my taste. I am having a wonderful time, but would like to experience one evening of perfectly cooked food in more of a farm to table SF style. Is that possible here?

Jan 29, 2014
marthak in Italy

Milan dinner recommendations?

I saw this restaurant reviewed and am very interested, too, especially since you loved it! Thank you so very much. Did you find anything near any of the canals?

Jan 18, 2014
marthak in Italy

Milan dinner recommendations?

We also got some great help here from blogs for a trip this past summer to Berlin - had some amazing food in that city!

Jan 16, 2014
marthak in Italy

Milan dinner recommendations?

I have looked on these boards, through books and on blogs and am having trouble choosing 4-5 dinners in Milan, any help we can get would be much appreciated. It seems as if every magazine, blog and post recommends different restaurants.

We are from SF and love lots of flavor that comes primarily from the freshness of seasonal ingredients cooked beautifully, and preparations that allow ingredients to shine. We enjoy finding restaurants with talented chefs while traveling, but do not want to pay more than $200-250 for dinner for the two of us and would be happy to pay less :).

We are not looking for Asian or burgers this time around. I love risotto and although I don't know if Milan has wine bars with amazing chef-y appetizers, if they do, please share! We loved Dans les Landes in Paris and read about that restaurant in Paris by Mouth and a few other great blogs. Does anyone know similar blogs in Milan or the region?

Any suggestions are much appreciated. Thank you in advance! My husband and I will be staying at the Enterprise Hotel near the Milan Convention Center, and while most of our dinners will be the two of us, one dinner will be in a larger group and another will be with us entertaining his boss who LOVES great wine and impressive food.

Jan 16, 2014
marthak in Italy

Recommendations for dinner in milan <100$ person, seasonal w/ exc risotto?

Dinner recommendations requested: Traveling to Milan staying near Milan Convention Center in the Enterprise Hotel (between 1-2 miles northwest of the city center). We are looking for one celebratory meal with 3-4 courses with seasonal local ingredients, and a chance for excellent risotto. We would like the per person cost for the food (not including alcohol) to remain under 100$ per person. We are not famous or thin or very young, but we are celebrating for the first time in Milan and love excellent food and good wine. We have seen recommendations for Cracco but would like a more reasonably priced experience. Any suggestions?

Jan 12, 2014
marthak in Italy

Has anyone been to Hugo's in Berlin? staying at Intercontinental, recs?

By the way - Hugo's a michelin star restaurant with a phenomenal view of the city is closed for a month so that chef and staff can be creatively recharged from late July to August 19 this year.

Jul 30, 2013
marthak in Europe

Has anyone been to Hugo's in Berlin? staying at Intercontinental, recs?

We had the Duroc pork, but went with the polenta, mushrooms, and heirloom tomatoes as side dishes. The app was a mixed green salad with goat cheese. Loved the restaurant, absolutely beautiful and the people were really good. Unfortunately, while the appetizer salad, side dishes and deconstructed black cherry chocolate cake was amazing (!) --- the pork itself was overcooked and a bit dry. I smoke a lot of meats, preparing slow cooked dishes for family and friends (I grew up in the south where slow cooking is a big deal), so my husband had trouble getting past that. I always have fun, so I was happy with the entire experience. He was only disappointed because the slow cooked pork with a side order of polenta (very similar to smooth grits) is something he has had in my own kitchen. Whoops! I didn't realize it would be so easily compared. This was a very new south way to prepare pork with side dishes, extremely similar to our home cooking.

But I loved the restaurant and wish I had taken pictures - if my house looked like this I would be absolutely thrilled! And the cocktails - for any who ask - are fabulous.

Jul 30, 2013
marthak in Europe

Has anyone been to Hugo's in Berlin? staying at Intercontinental, recs?

Yes, it is INCREDIBLY helpful - as are you. Thank you so much for your kindness! You are truly making this first trip to Berlin absolutely memorable. So far the people have been open, joyful and welcoming and the food has been terrific.

Lokal is an incredible restaurant with a minimalist but welcoming decor, its clearly a favorite in the neighborhood. The neighborhood has a lot of art...everywhere - a great neighborhood to experience. The apps were the best dishes of the evening, very well composed, layered in flavor, beautifully prepared and served. We had the pork belly, and the goat cheese plates. Desserts took a close second for a cheesecake with blueberries, and strawberry ice cream. These are followed by a very inventive set of vegetarian entrees. Not everything in the entree round made for a harmonious plate - but massive kudos to the chef for pulling together cheeses, fruits and vegetables. For mains we had a homemade noodle entree, and a goat cheese with beet puree. This is a fun place for food. Service was awesome. Our menu was read and described to us in English by a young man with wit and joy. He, along with the bartender and other servers were welcoming and engaging. So thank you!

Even on a 95 degree day the evening was amazing. Tonight it will be katz-orange and after reading your blog we hope to visit Osmanya tomorrow night. Again - thank you!

Jul 29, 2013
marthak in Europe

Has anyone been to Hugo's in Berlin? staying at Intercontinental, recs?

I liked the blog links a lot. Thanks for letting us know the Weinbar Rutz is non-smoking that helps a lot. As for flavors --- we are fairly modern, like fresh ingredients without a lot of heavy sauces, and we love flavor. We are not huge fans of Michelin restaurants with lots of heavy food. Gastropubs and awesome tapas bars give great flavors from some really awesome chefs - who just might end up drinking with you and telling you about how they were cooking in Hong Kong when it went back to Chinese control. That kind of night is really cool. Great food, sometimes killer music, and amazing people.

Yes, I like going to a place that offers a lot of small plates - they tend to have more flavor and innovation in small bites. No on things like foams, or food that looks like an undersea castle, or traditional food that slows me down so much I can't move. Yes on well cooked fish, or ahi poke, or pork belly. Basically we love food, but we want to enjoy the night, too. Does this help at all?

Jul 21, 2013
marthak in Europe

Has anyone been to Hugo's in Berlin? staying at Intercontinental, recs?

Turkish sounds wonderful! What Turkish restaurants would you suggest?

As for flavors --- we are fairly modern, like fresh ingredients without a lot of heavy sauces, and we love flavor. We are from California, and are fairly eclectic in taste - everything from Burmese to Mediterranean.

I will definitely look through the threads and I will also see if Hugo's is available for one night. It would be nice to be able to walk back after a meal at least once. The Berlin Bites blog is terrific! Thank you for the links!!!

Reingold is a welcome suggestion. Does Berlin have a music scene that also has great food? We just got back from New Orleans and enjoyed combining music and tapas-like modern NOLA cuisine. It was an experience that is unique to that city. If there is a suggestion on where we can go to experience Berlin, that would be great. I like going to a place that offers a lot of small plates - they tend to have more flavor and innovation in small bites.

Does this help at all?

Jul 21, 2013
marthak in Europe

Has anyone been to Hugo's in Berlin? staying at Intercontinental, recs?

I want to thank Chowhounders for any assistance they can give us while traveling to Berlin. We are staying at the Intercontinental for a week long conference. I have three questions for the group:

1) Has anyone been to Hugo's? It is nearby and has good reviews and a great view so we would like to check that out.

2) Do they allow smoking in wine bars? We are from California and have gotten used to a lack of smoking.

3) Any recommendations for other restaurants in Berlin? We have reservations for the winebar at Rutz and dinners at Lokal and Katz Orange. Any other recommendations?

Thank you for your help! It is our first time to Berlin and we are excited.

- Martha K

Jul 20, 2013
marthak in Europe

NOLA for NYC & Philly foodies

We just returned this morning after being stranded in LAX on the return flight to SFO late last night. Had an amazing trip and I have some lunch suggestions based on recent experience.

Best Sandwiches EVER: Cochon Butcher, hands down. They have the best BLT in the city, and the buckboard bacon melt with collards sandwich and the porkbelly with mint and cucumber transported us to heaven. No kidding, best ever. Cochon for dinner was terrific, the food was honestly great - from oysters to pork belly and that killed red velvet dessert. You pay for the inspiration and joy of the chef and his team and it is clear that Donald Link and his team have a joy, respect and love for their art. When you sign your check, you won't care about the cost.

EAT on Dumaine in the quarter had a terrific brunch, awesome sorbets, amazing eggs on mustard greens with a side of grits, fried green tomatos and homemade jelly. Loved the service, the decor and the food - their art installation this month is phenomenal. Just a lovely afternoon. We also had a good breakfast at Ruby Slippers in CBD, but EAT was better by far - more southern and inspired, and darn it, we require flavor which EAT has in every dish. RS was a little too bland.

Best music and gastropub eats: Three Muses on Frenchman Street. The music was great, drinks were darn good and the food was terrific - lots of small plates packed with flavor and easily shared. We waited almost two hours for a table in this small but magical place and it was wonderful - my voice was hoarse the next day from singing, my hands ached from clapping and my stomach was still content. When we left the club that night it felt good to get into the rain, having danced and enjoyed Frenchman Street.

Sobou had incredible drinks also - our best in NOLA, really amazing taste, they were smooth, refreshing and beautifully served. Love their mixologist...whoever she is... The food was less consistent. Some dishes were amazing, others were less so. Yes to the stone salad - tuna cones and alligator sausage, resounding yes to the drinks, ok to the squash beignets - mom's gumbo and the bisque. Inconsistent seems to be the word on CP restaurants.

Quarter Grocery for fast food, if you need a good catfish po'boy for take out at subway prices and you want to sit in Armstrong park or on a stoop somewhere in the quarter but you can't take another long line, or you have very little cash left - this is a great hole in the wall deli with a great sandwich, dressed with pickles and a little hot sauce. But I am from the south and sometimes I just like it cheap, down & dirty.

Although Commander's Palace and R'evolution (darn good little biscuits, gumbo and phenomenal sorbet) were outstanding for service AND drinks plus food was very good, (good lord let's not talk about that fantastic wine list at CP) - I believe our expectations for food were a teeny bit too high as were the prices for the dishes we received. The bread pudding at CP is not amazing although its darn good. The turtle soup is lovely but not revolutionary.

In short, we were a little underwhelmed with CP and R'evolution. While happy with the evening meals --- and my husband like R'evolution a lot more than CP, we experienced more "flavor" (both food and overall) elsewhere. New Orleans is a city of heat and music, but CP and R'e are like the girl in the really expensive designer lingerie - on those evenings she was not real enough and hot enough to match her city. Her delicious mystery lies in finding and experiencing what's hidden and giving back as good as you get, not in her fancy clothes. New Orleans is meant to be enjoyed fully.

Prices at R'evolution were a bit of a damper, plus the duck skin was not crispy and the fat not worked well - although their pastry chef is incredible and the sorbets some of the best I have ever experienced, the food was inconsistent and hardly worth the cost. But when it comes down to it, I love the sensual passion, outright humor and rich joy in our other dining experiences.

Jun 12, 2013
marthak in New Orleans

Birthday Party help w/ chefs menu at home

Thanks Jilly! I was looking to hear if anyone had done this. But upon further investigation I went with the private chef concept. I think local markets and season will determine the menu. I made it more complicated than it was.

Birthday Party help w/ chefs menu at home

Hi Bay Area Boards!

I am turning 50 and decided to bring in some chefs for a party at home. This is late May so I would love some feedback for menu planning, ideas and logistics on how to structure this. Have you done it? What advice do you have?

My thoughts are staying with local and fresh. I was thinking a few offerings for drinks and some tapas for starters while we are gathering. Then sit down for a first, main and dessert with coffee. There are some vegetarians including my daughter, so I will be building in some alternatives. I think family style builds an intimacy which is great for celebrations, but would love feedback.

I like the idea of hanging out with people I think are fun, fascinating and many of whom - I love. We can spend some time with each other, have great control over the food and quality of ingredients. We love inventive, fresh food. Has anyone else done this?

- Martha in Fremont

Dans Les Landes and LeFooding

So glad to hear that, because that is what happened to us when we chose to stay at the Matisse exhibit. It's such a tough choice because the experience of Paris is so precious, but Paris is more than food and the evenings out, it is also the art that can only be seen here in this one place, the happenstance of weather and the sounds of music drifting up from the young singing twenty somethings far below you in the square. We only had this one opportunity to visit the Pompidou Center and the sun was setting over Paris. It was warm and beautiful and from the terrace we could go in and out of the art exhibits and watch the city come to life at dusk. Dans Les Landes was a perfect alternative and probably far better for the two of us that evening with the kind of spontaneous magical circumstances coming to life around us.

I am 50 next month, but have liked edgy music for over 30 years. My husband does not hear as clearly as I do and with the restaurant "roar" couldn't really identify the music. Not hearing the music was a bit frustrating for him, but he loved the restaurant. We left the next morning for Amsterdam. What a great trip. I which I was still there!

I loved the interesting food combinations and the joy and playfulness in the plating. The dishes were a surprise with the possible exception of the deep fried polenta and smoked duck. It was tasty, but I had not expected the rectangle of deep fried steaming heat. I made a decision before heading to Paris this trip, to try whatever came up regardless of my likes and dislikes and to be adventurous. WOW! I had mussels, oysters and duck, eggs that were not cooked all the way through, fruits and foods I could not identify and threw myself with joyous abandon into the care of chefs and servers I had never met. What a great time we had! I did not get sick once, ate everything I was served, and learned some valuable lessons.

Learning tip 1: In the states I like a medium bodied red to full. In France that will be so dry as to be swallowing the Sahara, wait until it breathes or ask for a pairing to the chef's taste.
LT2: Natural wines take longer to breathe and change taste a lot over the course of the meal.
LT3: By the glass is more expensive and has fewer choices, but the variety can be a revelation and wine bars are wine bars for a reason, the bottles behind the bar are fun to drink.

Apr 04, 2012
marthak in France

Dans Les Landes and LeFooding

Very very very hot, and they smile and nod and serve drinks and beautiful food. Hopefully my husband will not read this (wink). And I did love the music, but they played many bands I enjoy.

Did you try their homemade armagnac drink? WOW...loved it!

The french couple next to us were regulars and having a birthday celebration, they told us about the first restaurant in the 15e and encouraged us to proceed there, apparently its "even better". We were at the bar, watched the food being arranged for service and were exceedingly well placed for sampling, bar service and lots of great explanations on what the food was, which items were excellent and stories on why the Basque house wine was perfect with what we ordered. I had a great time!

Apr 04, 2012
marthak in France

Dans Les Landes and LeFooding

Had reservations at Les Papilles but was voluntarily delayed at the Matisse show at the Pompidou Center. In trying to change to a later time, it was suggested we find another resto for dinner. *sigh* Called Dans Les Landes, recommended by the LeFooding site and went there. Dans Les Landes was amazing.

All daily specials are on a chalkboard. It's inventive tapas, so you need not order appetizers, plats and desserts. Mix it up, try what you wish and ask for wine recommendations. The service is terrific, the restaurant is hopping, the music is excellent. Highlights were duck and oysters served on the half shell on a bed of sea salt, grilled suckling pig slices, quail, and the house made armagnac digestif. We were made to feel phenomenally welcome and in the end, this evening was one of the highlights of our Paris journey.

The restaurant was begun by the same guys who founded Afaria in the 15e.

Check out LeFooding, a kind of hip and cool french recommendation site in Paris. It's a little anti-michelin, but as a tool this site is worthwhile and having gone to a couple of their recommended restaurants and with relatives in Paris who have also enjoyed some of the recommendations --- I think this is worth a look. They provide an additional approach to eating your way through Paris, stress the new french approach to food and many young french chefs.

Apr 03, 2012
marthak in France

Appropriate Dress in Paris

Sorry, didn't mean dinner jacket. He brought a jacket which we used to call a sports coat. And it is cold in Europe right now. When we left Amsterdam this morning it was really very cold. He wore his black cashmere sweater or black leather jacket over work/dress shirts probably every single dinner out in Paris and Amsterdam. For those of you from California, Amsterdam is darn cold, bring gloves, warm scarves and gloves.

Apr 03, 2012
marthak in France

Appropriate Dress in Paris

Is that your way of saying better to overdress than underdress? My husband brought his dinner jacket on the trip. Although he never had the inclination to wear it, he had the opportunity but he chose not to wear the jacket as it was not required. Knowing this, we still would have brought the jacket. It does not take up a lot of room in the suitcase. And if I were a different woman, I might have wanted to see him in that jacket. I just like his black sweater better. So sometimes, we dress for our date.

Apr 01, 2012
marthak in France

Trip report: Le Verre Voles (10e), Fish-La Boissonnerie (6e), Chez l'Ami Jean (7e), Reed (7e), Rollet Pradier (6e)

I have an update. We did not make it to Les Papilles. We went a couple hours before the reservation to the Centre Pompidou which has a fabulous modern art collection AND a Matisse show, and a Dance exhibition, and a very interesting thought provoking vintage tv exhibit. We got involved and wanted to delay our 7:30pm reservations to further absorb the magic that is the Pompidou Centre.

This did not go well for our original scheduled dinner time. In our defense, the architecture of the center is overwhelmingly cool, the sun was setting over Paris and we could hear laughter and singing from the young people in the square below. There was some Paris magic going on that in many ways felt remarkably seductive. The art at the Center is rare, so rare for Americans that you can't help but feel you have been beamed into a collection that alternates between the precociously absurd and the incredibly moving, but you aren't quite sure which is dominant but you want to see more so that you can decide.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that I owe those who value and preserve modern art a great debt --- for saving not only the rare artwork that reveals genius, but the contemporary examples of the art that moved genius to create and added to that moment in time (I am referring to art that may not be timeless genius but still...). That's the Pompidou Center, its a lot to take in and well worth your time. There is no place in the world like this.

At any rate, we called at 7:15pm to seek an extension on our 7:30pm reservations. Les Papilles felt all would be better served to simply cancel, which I didn't anticipate and although it makes sense I felt pretty worried about it at the time. My husband was not quite as worried.

It occurred to me that I was free to contact Dans Les Landes, one of the restaurant wine bars I had been unable to work into the schedule. SO so so glad we did. The food is incredible, the service and wine did that amazing dance between phenomenally tasty, hip, romantic and cool that made our evening. Because this is tapas you are not restricted to the standard 2 or 3 or 9 course meal. You get to order whatever strikes your fancy, in whatever quantities, and in whatever order. JOY!!! We had quail, grilled suckling pig, oysters and duck on the half shell, fried polenta and smoked duck, the equivalent of Caesar salad and sardines, and ended the evening with two amazing desserts of madeleines with chocolate sauce AND profiteroles with cream and a caramel dipping sauce. We requested wine that went with the meal from our hosts and enjoyed the Basque house wine, then ordered 2 expressos following dessert and the house created digestif before the espresso.

This restaurant has chefs that create their own amazing dessert digestif of armagnac and what seemed like an incredible raspberry puree. An amazing meal to end our Paris journey and the opportunity to recommend to other Chowhounders is you want a great evening out in the 5e, get thee to Dans Les Landes. It is well reviewed by Le Fooding, John Talbott, Paris by Mouth and others. These guys (easy on the eyes - trust me) started Afaria. It would be great to find out how good that is for the next trip to Paris. At this point I would definitely return to Dans Les Landes, possibly with more people just so I can try more food offerings. Tapas for all!

On your last ---or even first--- night in Paris there should be more than food, and there was. A convivial, hip atmosphere. Knowledgable and joyful wine/food guidance. Impeccable timing, great service and for those of us seated at the bar --- the joy of watching the chef plate and serve the phenomenal culinary offerings.

And again there was more. They all, patrons and chefs alike reached out to us strangers in their Parisien homes. There was a convivial atmosphere, joy and people telling us they love their homes in Paris, but they also want to visit us in our home of San Francisco. SO there was that moment when everyone goes home thrilled, not only having had an incredible evening, but someone asked us about our own lives and told is they wanted to return the favor. Now that is cool.

Mar 29, 2012
marthak in France