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April in Paris and Beyond

Thanks to everyone who helped me make my all important restaurant choices for our recent trip to France. As promised, here is my take on the trip. Of course, it is one person's opinion and one person's experience.

April 4, 2012

Lunch:
Chez Savy 23 rue Bayard, Paris

Jet lagged after an overnight flight, we stumbled into this restaurant, waiting for our hotel room to be readied and starving for lunch. We were led to the back room, I believe not because we were Americans as other posters on the web have suggested, but because we had no reservation which was fine. In my exhausted haze, able to speak and read almost no French even when well rested, we were lost, and our waiter not only refused to help a fellow human being in need, he went ballistic in perfect English when we mistakenly ordered only starters without the main. While he stormed out of the room in a tizzy, the very nice young maitre d' came to our table and kindly said, "So what do you want? Steak, chicken, fish?” In this way were able to order two lovely meals, salmon sliced thinly and coated with a delicious white sauce with scattered bits of sea salt, and roast "poultry" for my husband who thought it was the best "chicken" he had ever had. The gallant maitre d' and the wonderful food saved a disheartening start to our trip to France, transforming it into a nice memory and funny story that is sure to improve with age.

Dinner:
Caius, 6 rue d’Armaille, Paris
Met a family friend living in Paris at her choice of Caius and had an outstanding experience. None of us speak French (no, not even our friend) and the waiter was more than accommodating, helping us with the menu not only graciously but also with humor. We were extremely grateful. My husband and I shared the rabbit terrine with foie gras which was different and wonderful. The duck breast was perfectly cooked and the flourless chocolate cake among the best I have ever eaten. In addition the atmosphere was just perfect for a relaxed yet elegant dinner. Would highly recommend this establishment. It was among the best meals in a two week trip.

APRIL 5

Spring, 6 rue Bailleul, Paris

Although we contacted our concierge a month before our trip, we still felt lucky to have managed reservations at Spring. Unfortunately my pleasure began to turn to disappointment when, instead of being ushered to a table in the lovely dining area, we were led downstairs into the "basement" and seated at a tiny square wooden table that looked like it belonged in a fast food joint. So much for watching our food prepared in the "open kitchen." Next to us were two young couples who managed to spill a bottle of red wine so vigorously it managed to splash on me. Of course, not the fault of the restaurant, but just another nail in the coffin for the evening. The courses of the tasting menu were haphazardly described, some not at all and some just barely. The wines that came with the paring were, on the other hand, fully explained. The food was good, some even very good, but the wine was better and nothing was really memorable. This was a splurge for my husband's birthday and, unfortunately, not a splurge well spent.

APRIL 6

Saturne, 17 rue Notre-Dame des Victoires, Paris

Semi-reluctantly went to Saturne after reading the mixed reviews on several sites, and unlike by Spring the night before, I was blown away by the inventiveness of the food, the charm and efficiency of the service and, unlike many Parisian restaurants, the elbow room between tables. The set menu included two oysters with onion and apple, mushrooms with sea urchin and onion and pigeon. There were also two wonderful desserts. We ordered the wine pairing and although the flavors were a bit unusual, they complimented each dish and it was interesting to try new varietals. The wait staff was charming, knowledgeable and efficient. All in all a lovely evening.

APRIL 7

Les Papilles, 30 rue Gay Lussac, Paris

Les Papilles was a bit out of the way for us but considering the great reviews, we made the trip in the rain. The host welcomed us into the tiny but atmospheric space, explained the set menu in detail and helped us find an appropriate bottle of wine. The potato and watercress soup was the best soup I have ever eaten and the tureen was empty when it left our table. Duck is one of my favorite restaurant choices since we never cook it at home, and it was served rare which is my preference. However, the half of breast served over new potatoes, carrots, garlic and a little onion was tough to the point that the knife provided barely did the job. It was a shame. The blue cheese and prune was lovely and the dessert was a nice ending to the meal. If I lived in Paris I would certainly return, but the duck let them down that night. One important note: reservations are essential, as I must have seen thirty diners turned away over the course of the evening.

April 8 – 15

Uniworld River Cruise in Burgandy and Provence: We have done many ocean cruises on many different lines, mostly the smaller boats, but this was our first river cruise. Without a doubt, it was the best food we have ever enjoyed on a cruise and it rivaled some of the meals we had in Paris, believe it or not.

April 15, 2012
L’Estagnol 16 Boulevard Victor Hugo, St. Remy-de-Provence

Had a wonderful lunch at Restaurant L’Estagnol in St. Remy-de-Provence. We chose one of two set menus. Each of the three courses allowed several choices although my husband and I opted for the same. The first course was a more than generous selection of seafood: four oysters, five shrimp and four or five sea snails or whelks, all were delicious and the shrimp were especially sweet. We live near a major fishing port on the east coast and we know good seafood. This was good seafood. The second course was a wonderfully seasoned lamb steak accompanied by tender, grease free fries and beautifully seasoned ratatouille. All was complimented by a red from nearby Les Baux that was very reasonably priced and delicious. We finished with French toast covered with strawberries and accompanied by a luscious cassis ice cream. The hospitality was sublime and the setting sunny and mercifully away from a cold wind and there was no need for dinner that night.

Apr 22, 2012
joannecam in France

Lighter lunches in Paris

Thanks to all on this board who have already helped me form my culinary plan for Paris. Now one more question. I have read much about fantastic two and three hour lunches, but is there fabulous food to be had in Paris for lunch that will still add to the experience but not ruin an 8:00 dinner? I would be interested in general strategy as well as particular restaurant recommendations. A girl can only eat so much, even in France!

Thanks in advance. Joanne

Mar 22, 2012
joannecam in France

Appropriate Dress in Paris

Thanks to advice from this board and a few friends, we are booked to dine at Caius, Saturne, Spring and Les Papilles in two weeks. I would be grateful if anyone who has been to these restaurants could comment on appropriate dress. My husband would prefer not to wear a jacket and tie although he would rather not be the only male diner without. Are slacks suitable for women? Thanks, and will post on our return.

Mar 21, 2012
joannecam in France

8 arr. Dinner Suggestions

Thank you for your thoughts. You reminded me that 15 years ago I had our anniversary dinner booked at les Ambassadeurs and had to cancel because I was ill that day. That was the only sad moment in an otherwise wonderful visit to Paris. Glad to hear it is still a good choice.

Feb 28, 2012
joannecam in France

8 arr. Dinner Suggestions

Thanks for the lunch recommendation. Honestly, most of our trips these past several years have been cruises, and I doubt you are interested in the food on a cruise ship. We really weren't. It's been 15 years since I have been to Paris so my reviews of the restaurants I mentioned are a little out of date. With your help I hope to visit some great spots in April and promise to review them all, but, right now, I got nuthin' for you. Sorry.

Feb 28, 2012
joannecam in France

8 arr. Dinner Suggestions

My husband and I will be in Paris for four days mid week in early April staying at the Hotel California near the Champs Elysee at 16 Rue de Berri. We love to walk to and from dinner and are looking for suggestions. Our priorities would be good value for the money whatever the price, romance, and hospitality. When we last visited (15 years ago!) our most memorable meal was at Carre des Feuillants, although we also enjoyed Violon de I'ngres and L'Astor. Tan Dinh ws also great, but since we are in Paris for so short a visit this time, we want to focus on French cuisine. Lunch suggestions would also be appreciated, although I doubt we can manage two large meals in one day.

Thank you very much in advance. My husband will be celebrating his birthday while we are there and I would love to treat him to a wonderful experience.

Feb 27, 2012
joannecam in France

Chinese in Miami Beach

Did a quick Google search on Mr. Chu's and I think you are correct. Thanks. Will have to look elsewhere for dinner.

Dec 31, 2010
joannecam in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Chinese in Miami Beach

About 5 or 6 years ago we had a wonderful dinner of Peiking Duck at a large, Chinese restaurant a block or two away from the water in Miami Beach. It was very busy and seemed to be well known. I cannot for the life of me remember or find the name of this place. Can anyone help? Thanks.

Dec 30, 2010
joannecam in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Cambridge Lunch

Hi,
I am having lunch in Cambridge with an old college friend this week. I have researched this board and come up with Mulan and Dante. Should parking be sufficient at either of these two, and are we at risk of being rushed out of Mulan as I have been at many Chinese restaurants? We have a lot to talk about. Thanks.

Apr 20, 2009
joannecam in Greater Boston Area

Regional Japanese Cuisine

Looking for some expert advice from the board. I am still trying to sort out the regional specialties we need to try during our 3 weeks in Japan next month. We will be in Tokyo, Kyoto, Miyajima, Okayama, Osaka for a sumo tournament and Sapporo.

Which type of food would you not want to miss in each location, and which are the best places to sample it, expensive and inexpensive? For example, I was reading today that tempura is better in Kyoto than Tokyo.

We also want to try some Kobe beef but will not be in Kobe itself. Any recommendations regarding Kobe beef in the cities we will be visiting? We are all too aware that we cannot try it all, but we would hate to miss the standards. Joanne

Feb 22, 2008
joannecam in Japan

Food Budget in Japan

Thanks to everyone for their replies. Yes, indeed, food will be a major part of this trip (as are all our vacations!), but since we have to fund four meals at each sitting instead of the usual two, I wanted some sense of how to budget. I hope to have at least one upscale dinner in each location, hopefully balanced with more cost conscious meals on other days. The Okayama map is great since we plan to spend 3 days there with a side trip to Kurashiki. After I better review the board archives I may be asking for info on Tokyo and Kyoto as well. Thanks again. Joanne

Feb 07, 2008
joannecam in Japan

Food Budget in Japan

My husband and I are planning a 3 week trip to Japan with our adult daughter and her friend that will include 5 days in Tokyo, 6 in Kyoto, 3 in Okayama and the rest in Sapporo. I plan 2 or 3 really nice dinners, but hope to do the rest on a budget since I have yet to meet Japanese food I do not enjoy. Can anyone advise me what to budget per person for meals for this trip? I'm just looking for a ballpark figure. Thanks. Joanne

Feb 05, 2008
joannecam in Japan

North End Lunch

One more question to finalize my Boston trip plans. Many of the restaurants in the North End seem to be closed for lunch. Where would you recommend for a nice Italian lunch in January, with or without pizza? Thanks.

Dec 29, 2007
joannecam in Greater Boston Area

New Jumbo Seafood

I have been looking for a spot in Chinatown for great Chinese food and a little more than a "hole in the wall" atmosphere, and New Jumbo Seafood seems to fit the bill. Does anyone know if they take reservations for a party of 4? If not, what time would you suggest we arrive to prevent a long wait? We are going in late January and ideally would eat around 7pm. Thanks. Joanne

Dec 28, 2007
joannecam in Greater Boston Area

L'Espalier

I am planning a special birthday dinner and thought it was a no brainer to choose L'Espalier, always mentioned as the best in Boston and shortly to be moving from its traditional location. I have just read a few reviews on this board and am shocked at the negative comments. Does anyone have anything positive to say, or should I change my reservation? Thanks. Joanne

Dec 20, 2007
joannecam in Greater Boston Area

Trip Report, Venice and Bologna

The White Barn Inn is always booked solid and do not take reservations more than 30 days in advance (or at least that was the rule several years ago). I called exactly 30 days before we were travelling to Maine in September, and reserved one of the last few tables. It was certainly worth a little bit of planning. Joanne

Nov 11, 2007
joannecam in Italy

Trip Report, Venice and Bologna

When we arrived, we asked the concierge at our hotel to call for us. Since we had 9 days in Bologna and no set plan we told her any day they could seat us, we would be there. We arrived on a Thursday and went the following Tuesday. However, late October is not prime time. I have heard people say "As far in advance as possible"

Nov 08, 2007
joannecam in Italy

Trip Report, Venice and Bologna

My husband and I spent 5 days in Venice and 9 in Bologna last month, and because of the wonderful information we found on this site, we would like to share our impressions as well. I cannot wax poetic about food the way many can on Chowhound, I just don’t have the talent, but here are our opinions:

Since there is no city on earth more identified with the sea than Venice, we focused on seafood for meals the first 5 days. We are a bit of a hard sell since we live close to one of the biggest fishing ports in the USA and are very accustomed to fresh fish. The very best meal we had in Venice was at Alle Testiere, a small, 9 or 10 table restaurant on Calle del Mondo Novo in Castello. The fish was very fresh, prepared in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways and the service was patient (even my travel Italian is pretty bad) and expert. We had a nice, cozy lunch at Osteria da Carla, a very small place near Piazza San Marco, and great pizza outdoors at Il Refolo on our first day. We would also recommend Antiche Carampane and Al Fontego dei Pescatori. Our second best meal was at Vini di Gigio (highly recommended) and the only flop of the entire two weeks was Trattoria Sempione – bad food, bad service and way, way too expensive for the product. The best gelato? Il Doge in Dosoduro.

We went to a number of fine restaurants in Bologna, the best of which was Franco Rossi – elegant, old world style service (I can’t for the life of me remember the last time I was handed a “ladies menu” without the prices), truly excellent food (despite at least one post to the contrary on the web) and a wonderfully romantic atmosphere. We would return in a half of a heart beat. Second best was a totally opposite experience. Antica Osteria Romagnola was much more a trattoria than a fine restaurant, but again, the food was outstanding and the service warm and welcoming. We had the best pasta with clam sauce there of the entire trip, Venice included. Perhaps the best of my life. Also recommended: Al Pappagallo, Battibecco, Drogheria della Rosa, and Cesarina.

A short word on gelato, an obsession of mine. I have always believed the best ice cream in the world was in Florence. I was wrong. It’s Bologna. Il Gelataurio and GROM were truly outstanding, but the hands down winner, for creaminess and intensity of flavor was La Sorbetteria Castiglione on Calle Castiglione, as fate would have it, right around the corner from our hotel! It is so difficult to experience such a great pleasure knowing the odds are not with you that you will ever experience it again. Oh well…

Modena, one of our day trips by train form Bologna, was a bit of a bust because, although it rained about 30% of this trip, this was the one day we really got soaked. Also the cathedral, one I was really looking forward to seeing, was covered in scaffolding and none of the façade was visible. This being said, this dreary day included arguably the most memorable experience of the trip – lunch at Hosteria Giusti, often described by celebrity chefs as the best restaurant in Italy. We are not about to argue with them. Up there with the White Barn Inn in Maine and Carre’ des Feuillants in Paris, this was one of the 3 best meals of our lives. We were cold, wet and hungry when we arrived at Salumeria Giusti about 45 minutes before our reservation (it is essential to make reservations as much in advance as possible), just to get out of the weather and buy some balsamic vinegar. After making our purchases we informed them that we were also there for lunch, and despite the fact that is was well before 1:00, we were cheerfully ushered back through the store into a room with 4 tables that looked every bit like the family’s private dining room. Our host was very friendly, talkative and informative, showing us the restaurant’s write up in Mario Batali’s cook book when we mentioned his name. As in all the places we visited in Italy, they were very gracious regarding splitting orders for Americans just not accustomed to eating 3 courses at lunch (uno for due), but they also offered half portions so each of us could have something different for each course if we chose to. Wonderful sausage and proscuitto appetizer, tortellini in brodo straight from heaven, pasta with duck ragu. For the secundi, I had cotechino, fried sausage with a sweetish custardy sauce. I am not a huge sausage fan, but I ordered it because it was the house specialty, and I’ll try almost anything once, and it was literally phenomenal. My husband had veal cheeks. I know it sounds “unusual” but this generous portion of slowly cooked beef in a wonderful gravy was beyond belief. What a wonderful experience. We made it a point to meet the ladies of the family who run the kitchen – we just couldn’t leave without giving our compliments. If you are in Modena, run, don’t walk, to Hosteria and Salumeria Giusti.

My Bologna shopping tip: for wonderful cheeses, vacuum packed for home, La Baita Formaggi, Via Pescherie Vecchie 3A

Nov 08, 2007
joannecam in Italy