Friday, August 21, 2015

Travel Log: Paris, France

During our Paris trip last year, we stayed at our timeshare outside the city near Disneyland Paris. It was roughly a 40 min train ride into Paris. I didn't mind the extra time needed to get to the city since mass transit was available in the evening. We didn't need a taxi at all. 

I recommend arriving to Paris on Sunday or Monday to take advantage of the Paris Train metro pass, Navigo Decouverte. It's a smart card for a week/month that is valid on bus, metro, RER, Ile-de-France (Transilien) trains. The Navigo Decouverte pass price is available to visitors and valid only from Monday at 00:00 to Sunday 23:59:59. Additional details about this pass can be found here.

Before we left Paris, we stopped by the infamous love locks on the Pont des Arts bridge. We attached our padlock to the bridge but unfortunately, the locks were removed last June. I'm glad we didn't purchase a fancy padlock for it to be removed this year.

Compared to other cities in France, Paris seemed to be english-speaking friendly. I didn't have a problem getting around or ordering at restaurants. The one change I will make the next time we're here is planning a trip in May than in March since it was cold and rainy.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Paris: L'Arpege

creamed vegetable tart

carrot, spinach and beetroot puree tarts

beet sushi with fig leaf

black truffle, buckwheat waffle

vegetable ravioli, tomato consumee

salad, red onion, walnut sauce, parmesan

cevennes white onion gratin with black truffles

peas veloute with whipped creme chantilly


cous cous, semolina, vegetable sausage

dover sole with mushrooms and white wine sauce

roasted chicken in hay

comte cheese

Tarte aux Pommes “Bouquet de Roses”

vanilla macaron, chocolates with macadamia, and petits choux

This post is way overdue. We had our lunch tasting at L'Arpege over a year ago. Of all the meals during our European trip, L'Arpege put us in a food coma. I had to cancel our reservation at Pierre Gagnaire a few days later since we could no longer take on another tasting. I thought I paced our tasting menus per city but I think our stomachs couldn't handle the richness of French cuisine. 

So good, so full.

The best bang for your buck in Paris is having tastings during lunch rather than at dinner. You can expect dinner prices to be nearly twice as much. The Parisians are also very generous with their servings. Can't decide if you want the fish or chicken? Why not have both! The waiters are more than willing to accommodate your request. 

84 Rue de Varenne
75007 Paris, France
+33 1 47 05 09

Versailles, France: Palace of Versailles

Courtyard of Honour

Royal Courtyard

Royal Gate

The Latona Fountain and Parterre


Hall of Mirrors

Grand Trianon

Petit Trianon

A few years ago, a former boss advised me that if I ever take a trip to Paris, I have to go to Versailles. I had a general inkling of the place but I never thought about researching it. When Hubs and I arrived at the Palace of Versailles, it didn't occur to me this place would be massive. The property spans 17 acres! There is no way you can walk around the entire property without renting a golf cart. There is a mini train that takes you from the palace through the gardens to the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon.

The area I wish to return to is the Hameau de la Reine (also known as the Queen's Hamlet). During our visit, it has not been restored and was deteriorating quickly. The hamlet was a faux farming village where it allowed Marie-Antoinette to escape the responsibilities of court life. It was believed she enjoyed dressing as a young shepherdess and acting like a peasant while being surrounded by the comforts of the royal lifestyle. Marie-Antoinette was a spoiled brat so it wasn't a surprise that she was beheaded during the French Revolution. The palace was amazing but it was over-the-top for a period of upheaval of the country's political landscape.

Recommendations and tips:
  1. Buy tickets in advanced and arrive early. Expect to spend the whole day on site.
  2. During the high season, expect high attendance. I recommend visiting the Gardens and the Palaces of Trianon first before visiting the main Palace.
  3. Rent a golf cart to roam around the gardens.
  4. There is a Laduree on-site near the exit of the Palace.
  5. Large baggage is not permitted on the premise. Bags are searched/x-rayed and visitors must pass through metal detectors prior to entering the palace.
  6. Tickets are not required to visit the Gardens.

Palace of Versailles
Place d'Armes
78000 Versailles, France

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Chicago: Sixteen - Tasting

Winter Menu 2015
Food in Progress
Modern Fine Dining: Moving Forward with Respect to the Past

Started off with a glass of NV Cattier 'Brut Antique' Premier Cru, Champagne, France

Snacks: In Search of "New": Cuisines: The Emergence of the Nordic

Buckwheat and rutabaga blini with peppered mackerel and radish

Marinated cuttlefish with beet, sea weeds, and trout roe

Smoked oyster,  potato gel, and horseadish

King crab with carrot, sea buckthorn, and dill

Amuse Bouche: The Remains of a Spanish Movement: Flavors Left From a Technical

Langoustine in its shell, chorizo, pine nut and citrus

First Course
Variations of onion, cipollini petals and caramelized jus with bacon, sourdough, and cultured butter

Bread and butter paring: Ciabetta? with goat's milk butter

A Gift: The Humility of Broth: A Pursuit of the Purity of Flavor
Scallop in its shell with salt roasted kohlrabi and a scallop truffle dashi

Second Course: Mining Traditions: What is Old is New Again
Grilled lobster on rice with uni and coffee

Bread and butter paring: Washington beer bread with cow's milk from Normandy

A Gift: Whole Animal Conservation: Nose to Tail Fine Dining

Bone marrow custard with cornered veal and flavors and gribiche

Deviled kidneys with parsley root and foam

Veal tongue blanquette

Black Truffle Pilsner

Main Course: A New Fusion: Forward Thinking with Respect for Tradition

Fallow venison with funnel, red fruits, farro, and butter milk with a hibiscus and current jus

Bread and butter paring: Pretzel and goat milk

2nd service Venison cheek with fourchette sweet potato and green curry coco blanc

Quadrello di Butala, Pecorino Foglie DiNoce, Pecorino Ginepro, L'Amuse Brabander Goat Gouda


Pineapple, celery, and mint granite

Mango, quark, and chocolate gateau

Papaya and guava spritzer
White chocolate and ginger namelaka with blood orange

Final Course
Chocolate cake with pecan, coconut, and kaffir lime


I don't say this too often but Sixteen is operating on a totally different level and it's a serious contender for a third Michelin star. I didn't have high expectations when arriving but at the end of the meal, I was literally speechless. One of the highlights of the meal wasn't even a course. It was...


Since I live in "Craft Beer Capital of America", my server was kind enough to give me a sample of a $120 bottle of beer, Moody Tongue's Black Truffle Pilsner.
It was amazing. I'm actually considering ordering this the next time I'm here.

The second highlight was the bread and butter paring. Normally, bread is served at the beginning of the meal and the butter is often overlooked. At Sixteen, the various cow and goat milk butters that were served complimented the bread paring perfectly. 
Overall, I feel the courses were aligned for a two-Michelin star establishment. What makes Chef Lents stand out in Chicago is he's creating his own lane. For example, when I dine at Alinea, I see elBulli. At Grace, I see Alinea. While their dishes are different, the influence is obvious. At Sixteen, I assume I will get the French Laundry or Joel Robuchon but I was completely wrong. The influences are from all over the place. This is refreshing because I feel that I won't experience the same courses season after season. It sort of forces you to want to come here every season to experience a total different menu. 
Will Sixteen ever get a third star? I think so. It's going to come down to service and decor. Of all of the 3-starred Michelin restaurants that I've been to around the world, most had great spaces with high-end furnishings and amazing interiors. I joke about this but a 3-star Michelin restaurant feels like you need a 781 credit score to walk into the door.

Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago
401 N. Wabash Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611