I’m often asked by people coming to Paris what neighborhood they should stay in. The usual “off-the-beaten-path…but not too far from the center” doesn’t help me figure out what fits those seemingly opposing bills. Everything in Paris is pretty close and most places are a 20 minute métro ride away. Like most cities, the good places aren’t clustered in the center of the city. They’re everywhere.

People tend to opt for the lovely St. Germain area, or the Marais, which are nice areas and people feel comfortable there. I know when I travel, I don’t want to stay in the outskirts of town and face a long commute to go anywhere. I don’t necessarily want to live like a local. When I’m on vacation, I don’t want to have to check my mail, do paperwork, and pay bills. I’m happy to go out to lunch every day and drink wine, or head to the beach.

I get that people don’t want to eat in a tourist trap, but if you walk around the popular-with-visitors neighborhood around St. Michel (in the 5th), for example, there are plenty of those kinds of places over there. (Lest you think I’m turning my nose up at that area, there are good places around there such as Shakespeare & Co. Café, Maoz, Café de la Nouvelle Mairie, the Beaufort cooperative, Treize, and Les Papilles, that I frequent.)

But Paris has changed, and continues to evolve. The majority of interesting places are now in the double-digit arrondissements, like Café du Coin. Lower rents and a neighborhood vibe are much of their appeal to the chefs and owners. As a visitor one needn’t feel hesitant about going to places in those parts of town. You’ll get a friendly welcome at Café du Coin, as I did with a friend when we took a break from work for a weekday lunch.

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I sometimes joke that if I ever wrote a book devoted entirely to cocktails, it’d be called “Brown Drinks, Up” because I tend to order whiskey-based cocktails when I go out, and prefer those on the bitter end of the spectrum, to boot. My favorite trend in the cocktail world is to put a little picture of the type of glass next to the cocktail…

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I was realizing lately, while packing up to head to another airport, stressing to make sure I had all my chargers, adaptors, noise-canceling earbuds, credit cards, SIM cards, and travel documents, and getting my luggage ready, fastidiously weighing it, and to make sure I wouldn’t have to pay $150 in excess fees, then checking in and getting my seat assignment, then braving the traffic on…

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Once upon a time, if you arrived via an airplane, or left your hotel room, wearing puffy white sneakers, you were immediately branded un américain, scorned for your fashion faux pas. So Americans (myself included) purposely wore regular shoes so as not to be pegged as, well – Américains. A few of us brave souls occasionally bared our American patrimoine (heritage), bucking fashion in favor…

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Pad Thai

Even though some think it’s a cop-out ordering Pad Thai in a Thai restaurant, marking you as a newbie, I like it quite a bit. I do tend to go for Pad See Ew, wide pan-fried rice noodles, although I’m a little picky about them because I like the dish when the chewy ribbons of noodles have stuck to the wok and start sticking together,…

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I first wrote this post back in 2007. Yes, I know some of you may not have even been born yet, but I was well into my life as cook and baker, and shared what was one of my favorite knives at the time. Due to search engines, however, your past is always going to be hovering close to the present. One of the nice…

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When I arrived in Paris, I was surprised to see pink grapefruits as objects of such adulation. Métro billboard ads extolled the virtues of pink grapefruits, with ones from Texas being the most prized. Of course, it was a marketing campaign, but those grapefruits are rather good. When I lived in California, we didn’t just have grapefruits, we had everything, from Oroblancos, to tangelos and…

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Hitting the road again, or the skies I should say (although we did one bus ride during our trip – more about that later…), we touched down in Da Nang, specifically to visit The Museum of Cham Sculpture, a museum that is not to be missed if you’re in Vietnam.

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Vietnam

I wrote a story in my next book about all the places that I’m supposed to go to, or want to go to, or should go to. For a long time, Vietnam was near the very top of that list. We have friends that live in Vietnam, settling there after a few years of living in Japan, Laos, and Thailand. An assortment of commitments had prevented…

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