Tag Archives: Food

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

1920’s Signage

I recently went with my cousin to the Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Chinatown for a late lunch.  Nom Wah has been in business since 1920 and was Chinatown’s first dim sum parlor.  I wanted to try Nom Wah since I saw the restaurant featured on a show about small business owners in NYC (gotta love the NYC channel!).  Nom Wah was recently taken over and renovated by the owner’s twenty-something year old nephew, but he kept all of the traditional accents, like the antique register and formica bar and stools.

The restaurant’s decor was cute and old fashion.  Upon arrival we were given laminated menus with photos and a paper checklist to select what we wanted.  The menu identified vegetarian dishes and even gluten free.  Almost all of the plates were $3.50, although the vegetable plates were $7.95.  Tea was $1 to $1.50 per person depending on the flavor.

Love the antique cash register!

Shula at Nom Wah

We didn’t know what to expect because the dishes were so inexpensive.  We selected five and ended up with A LOT of food:


Egg Rolls – I don’t usually like egg rolls that much, but they are a house specialty, so we ordered them and they were really good!

Scallion noodles

Vegetable Dumplings – These were actually my least favorite of the dishes.  There was a vegetable I didn’t love inside.

Very unusual dish – this tasted like a donut inside a noodle.  I probably wouldn’t get it again, but it was interesting to try.

I also ordered shrimp and scallion dumplings and they were actually my favorite dish, but I forgot to photograph them.  Next time I would be curious to try one of the vegetable dishes too.

Nom Wah’s famous almond cookie

We also ordered jasmin tea, which was delicious and very fragrant.  I got the famous almond cookie to go, but I ended up not liking it (I was hoping it would taste like marzipan, but it didn’t).  The cookie was fresh though, so I have a feeling I just don’t like almond cookies and it’s probably not reflective of Nom Wah.  Overall I really enjoyed the meal and the old world setting.

Nom Wah

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There’s more to Orlando than Mickeyland (Part II of II)

On our way to brunch in New Smyrna Beach we drove through Cassadaga, which is nicknamed the “Psychic Capitol of the World.”  Even though I am not a big believer in psychics, I was intrigued, so we stopped and I took some photos.  The town has lots of medium/psychic shops, a hotel, and a spiritualist camp.  The main street is even called “Spiritualist Street.”

Colorful psychic storefronts

Kind of curious about psychic therapy...

On Saint Patrick’s Day we ate at the Swamp, which is a fun alligator-themed restaurant.  There were lots of fake alligators at the entrance and they actually served gator meat.  The restaurant is known for fish, so I ordered catfish with vegetables and hushpuppies because I had never had them before.  My friends also ordered fried pickles to start because they wanted me to try a Southern specialty.

Fried pickles

Catfish, hush puppies, string beans and mushrooms

The back of the Swamp restaurant

On my last full day in Florida, we went out to brunch at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant in DeLeon Springs state park.  The restaurant features grills on every table where you can cook your own pancakes.  I’ve been to several Japanese restaurants where you cook your own food, but I had never seen this pancake style.  I LOVED it!  We ordered pancakes and some toppings for the table and were given two batters (one white, one multigrain).  I also ordered iced coffee and was brought an entire pitcher.  They are very big on drinks in Florida!  Haha.  After brunch we went on a hike in the state park, which was lovely.

Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant (as suggested by the name, the restaurant is in a former sugar mill)

Make your own pancakes!

DeLeon Springs State Park

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Happy Holidays and a “Progressive” Seder at Joe Doe

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!  I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!

All of my favorite holiday things (chocolate bunnies, egg matzo, pretty flowers).

The largest Easter bunny ever at Jacques Torres Chocolate Shop in Chelsea Market

This evening I attended a “progressive” Seder at Joe Doe, which is the first time I have ever celebrated Passover at a restaurant.  For my non-Jewish readers, Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the Exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.  The first two nights of the eight-day holiday we observe by holding Seders, which are meals where we retell the story of the Exodus.

The first night of Passover I attended a Seder at my relative’s house.  For the second night my friend Bunny and I decided to go to a restaurant together.  I did some research and picked Joe Doe after reading this NYTimes article.  The ironic thing is that neither of us likes traditional Jewish food much, but it felt wrong to go out for sushi tonight.

The dinner was $65 per person, which is more than I usually spend on a meal, but it was a good price for four-courses in NYC and the atmosphere was great.  I had never been to Joe Doe before and found it very cute.  The bar was decorated with household Judaica to add a homey feel.  They played a lot of traditional Jewish music, a Debbie Friedman camp song, and a couple prayer songs (two versions of the “Four Questions”).  There were Maxwell House Haggadahs  (Seder books) available, but it was optional if you wanted to use them.

The food itself was good.  It would have been nice to see more vegetables, but it veered closer to traditional Jewish fare, though presented better than I’ve seen at any home Seders.  I have retyped the menu below and posted some photos of our fun meal.

Joe Doe ‘Progressive’ Passover 2012

$11 Elijah’s Punch…Chateau de Montifaud Cognac, Manichewitz, lemon, soaked cherries

First Course

Joe Doe Seder Sampler….maror, charoset, chicken liver, fried matzo

Second Course

Jewish Wedding Soup….chicken meatballs, matzo balls, pickled vegetables

Third Course

Slow Roasted Brisket….horseradish potatoes, parsley, upland cress

Fourth Course

Komish Cookie Sandwich….dark chocolate, cherry filling

Festive decorations

Bunny and the first course (Seder sampler)

Second course (Jewish Wedding Soup) - note I have never heard of Jewish wedding soup before...I think it is a spin on Italian Wedding Soup

Third course (brisket) - sliced thinner and with more visible fat than I'm used to, the presentation was also better than I'm used to.

Fourth course (dessert!) - I'm attributing my flush cheeks to heat from the kitchen and/or a single glass of Manischevitz AKA grape juice

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There’s more to Orlando than Mickeyland! (Part I of II)

I recently went to Orlando to visit family friends.  On my first day, my friend Renee and I went on a scenic boat tour around Winter Park, which is a former resort town fifteen minutes north of Orlando.   I had no idea that there were such beautiful lakes and canals in Florida!  I loved seeing the historic mansions around the lakes and  I would definitely recommend the boat tour.

Pre-Winter Park boat tour

After the boat ride, we went to the Mennello Museum of American Art, which is a small museum that features the work of folk artist Earl Cunningham.  I liked Cunningham’s brightly colored paintings, but the museum’s sculptures and grounds especially impressed me (the museum overlooks another lovely lake).

Cute sculpture on the grounds of the Mennello Museum of American Art

We also attended the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, which is a huge outdoor arts festival that takes place one weekend a year in downtown Winter Park.  It was a lot of fun walking around and visiting all of the booths (there were over 260 artists!).  My favorite booth featured the work of Michael Gard, whose hanging wire sculptures reminded me of people dancing in the sky.  We were planning on visiting the Morse Museum of Art, which has the largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany glass in the world, but we were exhausted from the festival.

Michael Gard's dancing scupltures

I had many memorable meals in Florida.  My friends wanted to me to see a typical Central Floridian restaurant so they took me to the Southern chain restaurant, Sonny’s Bar-B-Q.  I ordered sweet tea and was brought the largest glass I have ever seen in my life!  The waitress came around with refills, but the first glass had more than enough sugar for the day.  They gave us to go cups to take home the excess sweet tea.  I have only been to one other BBQ restaurant in my life, but I thought the BBQ was good and I liked the variety of sauces (sizzlin’ sweet, smokin’, sweet, and mild).

The biggest glasses EVER

Pulled chicken, garlic bread and steamed broccoli (I swear this tasted better than it looks!)

Another day we had a lovely brunch at the Grille at Riverview, which is a restaurant in New Smyrna Beach that overlooks the water.  The views were stunning!  The food was also very good.  I ordered plaintain crusted crab cakes and found the portions to be very generous.  I also tried my first bloody mary.

Grille at Riverview

Plaintain crusted crab cakes

Please stay tuned for part 2!

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The Anthony Bourdain Fan Club Post

Dinner at Les Halles

I recently read Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain’s memoir about working as a chef in the restaurant industry.  This was my first book by Anthony Bourdain and I really enjoyed it.  His writing voice sounds just like his speaking voice!  There were some funny parts and he’s very likeable, despite his disdain for vegetarians and people who order sauce on the side (I’m afraid he wouldn’t like me much because I have a tendency to do the latter).

The book received a lot of press for exposing the dark side of the restaurant business.  He does make the typical restaurant kitchen sound like a more savage place than I would have imagined, but somehow I already knew that breadbaskets are recycled and you shouldn’t eat fish on a Monday, so those parts weren’t shocking revelations.

My only gripe about Kitchen Confidential is that I would have liked to know more about Bourdain’s personal life and the gaps between his cooking jobs.  He mentions multiple times that he is a recovered heroin addict, but he doesn’t discuss this in depth.  I realize Kitchen Confidential is a food memoir and Bourdain has free rein to write about whatever he likes, but it would have been interesting to know more about how he recovered, since so few people survive heroin addictions.  I was also curious to know more about his wife (now ex-wife) who he occasionally mentions and to whom the book is dedicated.

Steak tartare

On a recent evening I was reading the book when my dinner plans fell through.  I was on the Les Halles chapter and had wanted to try the restaurant for a while, so I decided to go there solo.  Les Halles is a traditional French brasserie in Murray Hill where Bourdain worked as executive chef until the publication of Kitchen Confidential, which launched his career as celebrity chef/author/foodie extraordinaire.  He is still considered the “chef-at-large,” but I doubt he spends much time there.

I arrived around 9PM and was surprised that the restaurant and bar were very crowded, although I took the one available seat at the bar.  I’m hesitant to order my favorite French entrée, steak tartare, unless I’m in a very reliable establishment, but Les Halles fit the criteria.  I read online that they are known for making the steak tartare tableside and to order.  Since I sat at the bar I missed the show, but the bartender did ask if I wanted it hot, medium, or mild.  I picked medium and I think it was the largest portion of steak tartare that I’ve ever seen and also the best that I’ve had in NYC.  The steak tartare came with a side of French friends and a small salad.  Les Halles is known for their French fries and while I thought they were good, the steak tartare was more impressive.  After the meal the gentleman sitting next to me bought me a baby Guinness shot (Kahlúa and Baileys).  I had never had one before and while I found it a bit overly sweet, it made for a nice ending to a lovely meal.

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Chocolate Madness Saturday

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Today I attended the 14th annual NYC Chocolate Show, which is open until Sunday (tomorrow) at the Metropolitan Pavilion.  The Chocolate Show consists mostly of vendors selling and sampling chocolate, but there are also cooking demonstrations, book signings, and children’s activities.  There are some seemingly unrelated booths promoting alcohol, spices, NYTimes subscriptions, etc…but for the most part the show will appeal to chocoholics.  The first day of the show there was a chocolate fashion show and the wears can be seen on mannequins scattered throughout the room.

Some standout booths were American Heritage Chocolate (historically inspired colonial hot chocolate), Chocolate for the Spirit (costumed salespeople selling adorable chocolate buddhas), Gnosis Chocolate (raw/vegan chocolate), and Maison Boissier (colored chocolate petals).

I hadn’t been to the show in several years and my only complaint is that the event is now condensed to one room, which was packed with people.  I also think the admission fee of $30. is high, but you can bring two children for free per ticket.  For more information about the Chocolate Show, check out the site here.

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12 Days in Paris: Day 7

Similar to my first day in Paris, day seven was an epically long day.  The day heralded a changing of the guard, as Charles left and my friend Monica arrived within 20 minutes of each other.  It was Monica’s very first time in Paris, so I wanted to show her around, but I didn’t want to overwhelm her, as she hadn’t slept on the plane.  I decided to take her to the Marais, since it is my favorite neighborhood and not as crowded as the major sites (except on Sundays, but this wasn’t a Sunday).  We started at some of the oldest buildings in Paris.

Medieval architecture

We visited the oldest mansion in the Marais, which has a bullet hole on its façade.

Oldest mansion in the Marais

We also stopped at the (unpictured) Holocaust Memorial, which was appropriately somber.  It was additionally sad that the memorial had very intense security.  For lunch we got take out from L’As du Falafel, which is the most famous falafel place in Paris and Lenny Kravitz’ restaurant of choice.  The falafel was good, but not significantly better than Chez Marianne, where I ate the week before with Charles.

L'As du Falafel

Casher = Kosher

We walked to Place des Vosges, which as previously described is where I would want to live in Paris.  We toured Victor Hugo’s apartment, which overlooks the square and is now a free museum.  I definitely recommend stopping by as a quick and cultural visit, although the apartment is a bit dark.

Place des Vosges

Chinoiserie room at Victor Hugo's apartment = my favorite room!

The rest of Victor Hugo's apartment

We walked to the Institut du Monde Arab (Institute of the Arab World), which is housed in a very innovative building designed by Jean Nouvel.  The windows of the building have metal geometrical designs, which open and close based on the light exposure and in turn control the lighting in the building.  The Institute has changing exhibits, a large bookstore, a cafe, a restaurant, and a free rooftop deck with great views of the city.  We stopped at the cafe for a pick-me-up and I ordered mint tea.  It was super strong!

Institut du Monde Arab

Cool window

Mint tea service

We then walked to the nearby Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation, which memorializes the 160,000 people who were deported from France to concentration camps.  The design is supposed to evoke aspects of a concentration camp, with narrow passages and restricted views of the outside world.

Memorial to the Deportation

Memorial lights

The memorial is close to Notre Dame Cathedral, so that was our next stop.

Notre Dame from the back

I thought this gargoyle was so cute! Not exactly the desired reaction...hehe.

Our last stop was Shakespeare & Company, which is frequently mentioned in one of my favorite books, Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.”  Hemingway and other famous deceased writers used to hang out there and borrow money from the owner Sylvia Beech.  The shop was cute and I especially liked that there were a couple auditorium style seats where we could rest and flip through books.

Shakespeare and Co. (and Monica's backside)

After a very exhausting day, we went to my friend Véronique’s apartment for a welcome dinner party.  Véronique is of French tunisian descent and she is an expert couscous maker.  She cooked couscous merguez, which was the best I had in Paris.  This was also the last time I ate couscous merguez because by this time I had officially ODed on it.

Couscous merguez with peppers and melon

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Japan on the Hudson

The Japanese Mall

After my family trip to the Hudson River Valley, we stopped at the Japanese Mall in Edgewater, NJ on the way home.  We used to go to the Japanese Mall a lot when I was younger and would always have dinner at the beautiful Japanese steakhouse overlooking the Hudson.  Unfortunately, the steakhouse is out of business, but the mall is still worth a visit.

Stores at the Japanese Mall

Food court at the mall

When we arrived at the mall, our first stop was the supermarket, where we were overwhelmed by the large variety of Japanese products.

Rice milling machine

Who knew there are so many varieties of miso?

Tofu?

Half an aisle devoted to panko (breadcrumbs)

There were also some products with funny packaging and terms that didn’t translate so well.

"Good Good Eat" ramen noodles

Cute Kewpie mayo in a bag

Curry that is perfect for the Jewish New Year

"Fruity salad" juice made me smile

Pretty Sake bottles

We bought some sashimi to have for dinner later and then visited the food court for a snack.  There were lots of Japanese restaurants and one misplaced Italian restaurant.  I was excited to see that the Japanese restaurants had plastic food displays, which I first learned is popular in Japan from the Sesame Street special, “Big Bird Goes to Japan” (now, THAT was quality children’s programming!).

Plastic food display

Another plastic food display

Plastic food close-up

I bought an iced green tea latte, which I had never had before.  I wouldn’t get it again, but it was interesting to try.

Tea and ice cream menu. My green tea latte is on the right.

Before leaving we stopped to admire the beautifully packaged jellied treats at the bakery.  Some of the packaging was more appealing than the pastries, but I would be curious to try one on our next trip.

Japanese bakery

Pastries in packaging that reminded me of soap

Cute bunnies on the left

Cake and mochi

I had a really fun time at the Japanese mall and I would love to go back to the food court for a meal.  It looked like a few of the store fronts were empty, but I did see a Shiseido make up store and a bookstore.  There was also a sign for a free shuttle from NYC, although it says on the website that the shuttle is $3 dollars.  Either way, it’s a good deal and a great mini-trip from NYC for Japanese culture immersion.

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12 Days in Paris: Day 5

Sundays in Paris are very different from NYC.  Everything is closed!  Well, not exactly everything (some shops in the Marais are open), but elsewhere the supermarkets, department stores, and small shops are all shut.  In light of the rest day, Charles and I slept very late and then headed to the Catacombs.  I read about the Catacombs online and thought it would be cool to visit.

The tunnels reminded me of the border crossing scene in the movie "El Norte," but at least there were no rats.

The Catacombs are a series of underground tunnels, which house the bones of six million dead people, who were transferred in the late 1700’s, when the city’s public burial grounds became overcrowded.  My cousin tried to visit a few weeks earlier and said the line was over two hours.  Luckily, the line was only about an hour and fifteen minutes.  Before entering, a sign warned that the Catacombs are not for people with claustrophobia or nervous conditions.  We descended down the long twisting staircase and began the self-guided tour.

Monument in the Catacombs

Another monument

For the first 20 minutes of the tour, we walked through generic tunnels and saw a couple monuments to workers who died during the construction of the tunnel system.  Then we reached the ossuary.

Bones and skulls arranged in decorative patterns. Some of the skulls still had teeth!

Bones, bones, and more bones!

The ossuary was the creepiest thing I have ever seen.  You can’t tell from my photos, but the rows of bones go back hundreds, if not thousands of feet and there are rooms, after rooms of bones.  I have never visited a concentration camp, but the vast number of bones and the seemingly never ending rows reminded me of the Holocaust.  I found it particularly strange that the bones were arranged in patterns.  Although the tour was supposed to take forty-five minutes, we rushed through the oussary and finished ten minutes early.  A security guard at the exit checked our bags and I saw that he was sitting with three confiscated skulls.  I was completely disgusted that people would steal bones and skulls!  Across the street was a gift store with related memorabilia.

Skull and bones themed gift shop

The original plan was to make a picnic for lunch, but due to our late start and the fact that the supermarkets were all closed, we ended up buying cheese sandwiches from a truck and eating in a small park near the Catacombs.  After lunch we visited Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is a lovely neighborhood with lots of upscale shops and famous cafes, formerly frequented by existentialist philosophers.  I was surprised to read in my guide book that the revered bakery, Pierre Herme was open on Sundays.  I tried to visit on my last stay, but the line was ridiculous.  Fortunately, this time it wasn’t too bad.  Charles and I bought rose, lemon, chocolate, and carmel macaroons.  We liked them all, but we both agreed that they weren’t better than Ladurée (and I prefer the interiors of the Ladurée salons).

Macaroons!

We walked around Saint-Germain-des-Prés, but almost all of the shops were closed.  We did visit an impressive historic church and saw the cafe La Palette, where Ernest Hemingway, Jim Morrison, and Picasso used to drink (Charles made the very astute observation that it seemed like Ernest Hemingway drank in every bar in Paris).  I forgot to take a photo of the cafe, but I photographed the gorgeous mosaic facade of the fish restaurant, La Boissonnerie, which we passed along the way.

This photo would be prettier minus the cars.

We finished the day at the Luxembourg Gardens, which is one of the largest and most beautiful parks in Paris.  Marie de’ Medici built a palace there in the style of the Pitti Palace and it is now an art museum.  I just realized that we forgot to visit the Medici fountain, but I highly recommend it.  Definitely one of the most romantic places in Paris!

In front of the Luxembourg Palace

Luxembourg Gardens

Please stay tuned for day six!

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12 Days in Paris: Day 4

Charles and I started our fourth day at the Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen, which is Paris’ largest flea market.  The walk from the subway to the flea market reminded me of Chinatown, with street vendors aggressively pushing designer copies at pedestrians.  When we arrived at what we thought was the market, we saw stands selling fake American college t-shirts, Converse sneakers, and other products that you wouldn’t go to France to buy.  Unfortunately, we didn’t know that the main antique market lay beyond the junk market.

Junk market at Clignancort

We left quickly and headed to the Marais, which is my favorite neighborhood.  The Marais is Paris’ historically Jewish quarter and has lots of mansions, many of which are now museums.  While there is still a strong Jewish presence, the area has become very trendy, with hip boutiques and bars replacing the traditional Jewish stores.  It is also considered the epicenter of the city’s gay community.

Remaining signs of Jewish life in the Marais. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

Jewish stores in the Marais

the new Marais. Photo by Barbara J. Rosen

The Rue de Rosiers is home to the neighborhood’s remaining Jewish stores and many falafel restaurants, the most famous of which is L’As du Falafel.  I thought the falafel restaurants were more cultural than religious, but apparently I was wrong because all but two were closed for Shabbat.  After a forty-five minute wait, we got take out at Chez Marianne.  Despite not being one of the recommended restaurants, the falafel was delicious!

Tourists eating falafel in front of Chez Marianne. I forgot to take a photo of mine, so this will have to do, but it didn't look much different than falafel in NYC anyway.

We bought dessert at Sacha Finkelsztajn across the street, which is a third generation run Jewish bakery.  In general, the pastries at the traditional Jewish bakeries in Paris fascinated me because the specialties were so different from traditional Jewish bakeries in the U.S.  The Jewish bakeries in Marais all had square cake slices in their windows, which came in the following flavors: cheesecake, apple cake, poppy seed cake, and date cake.

Famous Jewish Bakery

Chocolate banana cake and traditional date cake

After lunch we walked to Place des Vosges, which is the oldest planned square in Paris and stood as the model for planned squares all over the world (it inspired Covent Gardens and Bloomsbury Square in London, which in turn inspired Gramercy Square, Stuyvesant Square, Union Square, and Madison Square in NYC).  Victor Hugo had an apartment on the square and DSK currently resides there (more about that in later posts!).  If I could live anywhere in Paris, this would be it:

Place de Vosges

We walked through the park in the center of the square and then visited Musée Carnavelet, which is a free museum dedicated to the history of the Paris.  The museum is definitely one of the best free cultural sites in Paris.  The museum is housed in two neighboring mansions and has a lovely courtyard.  The main attractions at the museum are the painting collection and the fabulous period rooms, which include an art nouveau bar and Marcel Proust’s bedroom.

Musée Carnavalet

We covered the museum and then walked two blocks to the Musée Cognac-Jay, another interesting free museum.  The Cognac-Jay is also housed in a former mansion and features the eighteenth century art collection of the owners of the now closed Samaritaine department store.  The paintings are nice and the price is right, but I would more strongly recommend the Musée Nissim de Camondo if you are an affectionado of the eighteenth century (the Camondo home is better furnished).  The Cognac-Jay has a cute garden, but it was raining, so we skipped it.  I wanted to show Charles the free Atelier Brancusi at the Pompidou Center (the modern art museum AKA Beaubourg), but unfortunately it started pouring and was closed by the time we arrived.  We got tea in a café while waiting for the rain to subside and then headed home to change for dinner.

The exterior of the Pompidou Center is cool, but kind of ugly (the building's functional elements are on the outside). This is an old photo, taken on a day with less inclement weather.

Charles wanted to have a fancy night out, so we decided upon Brasserie Bofinger, which is one of my favorite restaurants in Paris.  Brasserie Bofinger specializes in seafood and has a historic art nouveau interior.  I ordered two appetizers instead of an entrée, escargot and salmon tartare.  I also got a kir (crème de cassis + white wine), which became the official drink of the trip, because “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  Everything was excellent and I felt very lucky that we were able to sit under the famous glass doomed ceiling in the central dining room, without even having a reservation.

Brasserie Bofinger

Escargot

Salmon tartare

Please check back Friday for the next installment in my Paris series, which includes a tour of the super creepy catacombs and a visit to the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens.

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