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So my neighborhood is an absolute jewel for hip delicious new restaurants and bars, which continue to pop up in the area like mushrooms! Bragging about the amazingness of the 11th arrondissement is brazen of me, I know, given the classic wonders of Paris located in more prim and proper arrondissements… but I just can’t help myself.

Recently I taste tested one such place called Bodega Bay on rue Amelot, a hop away from the Cirque d’Hiver. I had passed by it several times, and there was always heathly Bobo crowd out front smoking and sipping drinks, but it didn’t strike me as a place that was a good eat. That all changed when m boyrfriend and I had our tastebuds so tantalized by the mere tapas that we forgot to order a main dish! Our tapas consisted of a large plate of real nachos (with real cheese, not that liquid goo a.k.a. ‘Velveeta’), fried jalapenos stuffed with cheese, a goatcheese quesadilla, and the crowning glory, large gambas with a divine “churro” sauce as we called it. The churro sauce was amazing! With its cinammon yet sweet and salty touch, it just about had us fighting over the number of gambas each of us could have to dip into it.

On the drinks side, my boyfriend went for a classic Margarita, and was a bit disappointed with the almost straight-up Tequila preparation. It was clearly lacking the true Mexican touch, but in France, well, one has to admit that is hard to find! Our suggestion would be to steer more towards the Chilean, Argentinian, and Californian wine than to hit up the cocktails, as we were pleasantly surprised by an affordable Chilean red.

For the main dishes, while we didn’t get around to ordering them, they did look delicious from a distance. Bodega Bay offers three kinds of fajitas – chicken, steak, and shrimp, all on the sizzling metal platter, which is a good sign. I’ll definitely be back to try them, and their Sopapilla dessert! To be continued…

Bodega Bay

116 rue Amelot

75011, Paris

01 43 55 83 77

http://www.bodega-bay.fr/

Metro: Filles du Calvaire, line 8 

If you have been anything like me lately and practically running around like a chicken with its head cut off, you’ll know that there is nothing more desirable than a peaceful place to escape to in order to leave the bustle and stress of Paris behind. While this place could have a variety  of names (Cote d’Azur, Biarritz…to name a few), there is one that you might not have thought of and that won’t break your bank.

It’s called Giverny. Yes, like in Claude Monet‘s Giverny. A glorious place where a serene calm reigns and a natural beauty is in abundance. Only an hour from Paris by car, and an hour and a half by train (trains leave out of Gare St. Lazare and get into Vernon – from Vernon it’s a 15 miunute bus ride), Giverny is close enough to do a day trip, and well worth a weekend stay. A small ivy covered town, its a step back into the past to a time when artists such as Claude Monet flocked to the countryside to capture pictoresque landscapes on their canvases and sip tea in a blossoming garden. Giverny, with its quaint cafes and darling bread and breakfasts allows one to slow down and take in what was the great inspiration behind some of the most stunning chef d’oeuvres of the 19th century. Lily ponds, flower gardens, orchards, row boats… Giverny has preseved it all and is a must see at any time of the year.

For museum information visit the Claude Monet Foundation’s website. The museum holds original pieces and often has great exhibitions, the current one is impressionism featuring. I highly recommend visiting Claude Monet’s house and garden, which allows you to see how he lived at the time, and to visit his unique gardens and lily pond. The walls of his house are adorned by an exquisite collection of Japanese art that Monet cherished – so also very much worth the visit. For those who love impressionism, viewing the actual lily pond is truly a spectacular sight that could keep you gazing dreamily for hours! My photos don’t do it justice!

A couple weekends ago, my friend Maggie and I road tested a rockin’ brunch place in the 7th arrondissement called Coutume. We couldn’t have been more pleased! Surprised by their reasonable prices (considering the area), the great food, and almost scientific coffee, the whole brunch experience ended up lasting a good three hours!

Coutume’s specialty is by far their coffee. Roasting the beans themselves, they have a large selection of pain-stakingly chosen coffee beans that once roasted, are used to produce their coffee beverages which are prepared in four different ways: expresso machine, siphon (very strong), conical drip, and the very rare cold drip apparatus. For coffee conoisseurs, there isn’t anything else like this in Paris, so a definite must!

However after a coffee or two, if you have the tendacy to get the jitters like Maggie and I, you might want to sit down and enjoy the 3 course 20 euro brunch. A to die for home-made muesli with apple compote and fromage blanc starts it off in addition to freezed squeezed orange or grapefruit juice. The next course can be a standard eggs and bacon with potatoes, or variations with salmon, or a breakfast burrito. Everything was just delicious and the service was unprententious and helpful, always a plus!

The ambiance, with its beaker water carafes and clipboard menus, was halfway between laboratory and trendy resto. With plants creatively growing out of sinks, bags of green coffee beans lining the back, unfinished paint on the walls, and a large roaster, one gets the taste of the craft and science involved in making good coffee while enjoying a warm luminous yet slightly industrial atmosphere.

Coutume welcomes the coffee drinker with his or her newspaper (or should we say iPad these days?), so don’t feel obligated to brunch if you just want to hang out at the coffee bar or study. We saw several people in there who were simply enjoying a great coffee while websurfing or reading! So give it a try, experiments in this “lab” are always a success!

Coutume

47 rue de Babylone

75007, Paris

http://www.coutumecafe.com/ (site in progress)

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