Archive for October, 2014

Where to Eat in Paris: Frenchie (and How I Scored a Reservation)


Duck fois gras and tête de cochon at Frenchie Restaurant

Scoring a reservation at Chef Gregory Marchand’s neo-French Bistro, Frenchie, is notoriously difficult. So how did I wind up at this tiny 24 seat restaurant on a cobblestone street in the 2nd arrondissement?

Simple– I was dining with the right people, who had right concierge (also, I am a very lucky girl and my friends rock.)

I loved the open pass at Frenchie, which allowed me to see the food being plated

I was traveling with two other couples, all of them hardcore foodies. My friend, Paul, works in the deli business and he and his wife stayed at Relais Saint-Germain, a very charming hotel on the Left Bank that caters to foodies. One of the big yet relatively unknown perks of staying at Relais Saint-Germain is that they are seriously hooked into the Parisian food scene, and the concierge secured us a same day table for six when the restaurant had a last minute cancellation. NOTE: THIS IS THE PARISIAN EQUIVALENT TO KNOWING HOW TO ORDER OFF THE SECRET MENU AT IN-N-OUT BURGER

A beautiful plate of food at Frenchie

In September, Frenchie revamped it’s space, with a wine bar across the street and a charming and unpretentious dining room. It’s just the sort of hole in the wall I love– it’s not “too too.” The big draw here i the carte blanche menu which packs a lot of value for money at a reasonable €58 for 5 courses of the chef’s choosing. You can also order a la carte at Frenchie, with entrees starting at €16.

Shorthorn beef tartare by Tim Wilson, tonnato sauce and autumn sprouts.

Our meal began with an seasonal and delicious plate of roast cauliflower which set the tone for the entire dinner. It was a perfect portion size, and had a lovely texture and hinted at the flavorful seasonal goodness to come. It paired nicely with the 2009 Santenay Les Charmes Dessous that Paul selected.

Left: Figs, muscvado, purple shiso and Brilat-Savarin cheese cream Right: Line-caught brill with mushrooms and wine sabayon

Next up was the most memorable course of the evening– an exceptional Shorthorn beef tartare served with tonnato sauce and autumn sprouts (available a la carte for €17). This is never a dish I would have selected for myself if I was ordering a la carte. It was bright, fresh, clean and delicious with the perfect amount of acidity.

Roasted chicken from la cour d’Armoise, artichoke, goat milk and peppermint (available a la carte for (€35)

The rest of the meal was a delicious blur–  Roast chicken with a delicious artichoke; line-caught brill from l’ile d’Yeu, served with black trumpet mushrooms, spinach and a savaganin wine sabayon, and and a not overly sweet dessert served with purple shisho. There was more wine, which I failed to photograph because I was too busy having a good time.

Roast cauliflower was first up, and unforgettable

My meal at Frenchie was a delightful surprise– I didn’t know any of the hype about it until I ate there, but it would have exceeded it, had I been in the know. Mostly because it was charming, unpretentious, reasonably priced and memorably delicious.

The cozy chic interior of Frenchie

It wasn’t overly loud, and I got to enjoy good, not overly fussy food and wine with the company of good friends. If you’re planning a trip to Paris, I recommend attempting to to book a table several weeks in advance with the hotel’s reservation concierge, or use your hotel’s concierge. They also take reservations using an OpenTable like service called La Fourchette.

Frenchie’s wine bar across the street

If you can’t secure a reservation, try out the wine bar across the street.

Restaurant Frenchie

5-6, Rue Du Nil 75002 Paris

Open Monday-Friday Only

Reservations phone : +33 (0) (Monday-Friday, between 3-7pm)

Online Reservations



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Where to Eat in Paris: Brasserie Bofinger

The stunning stained glass window above the main dining room at Brasserie Bofinger

I recently returned from a trip to Paris where I broke my habit of gravitating to old favorites and dined at as many different restaurants recommended by friends as possible.

First up was Brasserie Bofinger, a 150 year old brasserie in the Marais. Entering Brasserie Bofinger felt like stepping back into the 19th century, and the Belle Epoque atmosphere alone is worth the cost of admission… fortunately the food is great, too.

Gorgeous iron details on the staircase at Brasserie Bofinger

There’s a spectacular stained glass window in the main dining room, and several smaller dining areas in the front and upstairs. I was seated in the main dining room, which filled up quickly with locals and delicious wafting smell of sauerkraut. I noticed that most tourists (with suitcases in tow) were seated in the front rooms.

The stunning stained glass window at Brasserie Bofinger

Bofinger’s menu focuses on Alsatian cuisine, and claims to be “the most Alsatian of the Parisian brasseries.” However the staff had considerably less attitude than my belovedly rude Brasserie Lipp. Brasserie Bofinger had a large selection of seasonal oysters from Normandy, Brittany, and Ireland, as well as gorgeous shellfish towers which seemed very popular the day I was dining there.

A cozy dining space upstairs at Brasserie Bofinger

I always order steak frites when trying out a new (to me) brasserie since it’s such a classic dish. Bofinger had an exceptional chateaubriand (filet). My waitress did not wince at me when I ordered it medium, and the meat was delicious and the sauce was served on the side (I did not use much). The frites were a bit soggy, but I didn’t care much, I only wanted a few. My meal was really all about the steak, and it was fantastic.

Since the tables are narrow, the courses get piled up on top of each other

The tables at Bofinger are close together, so courses are stacked rather than served side-by-side.

Utah Beach Oysters

Next time I’ll probably order one of the sauerkraut dishes (starting at €24), based on their alluring aromas and how much they seemed to favored by the locals. My husband went for the oysters, and particularly liked the briny freshness of the ones from Utah Beach.

Left: Oysters from Utah Beach Right: shrimp on a shellfish platter

Brasserie Bofinger also has an overflow space across the street, Petit Bofinger, should you not be able to get into the main restaurant.

The chateaubriand served with tomato, frites, and green beans

Brasserie Bofinger is a great choice for a classic brasserie experience and will appeal to those who like La Coupole and Brasserie Lipp. It’s only a few minutes walk to the green space of Place des Vosges, which is a great spot to people watch when the weather allows.

Brasserie Bofinger’s exterior on Rue de la Bastille

Meats courses start at €22

Oysters and seafood start at €17

Brasserie Bofinger

Address: 5-7 Rue de la Bastille, 75004 Paris, France

Phone:+33 1 42 72 87 82

Book online

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Glamping in the South Pacific: A Stay at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort

Sunset sail at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji

Editor’s Note:

Earlier this month I visited the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji on assignment for You can read my full daily trip reports on the Blog here. I don’t want to repeat myself, so this post is a more traditional hotel review for readers of this blog.

– Jen

Poolside at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort

The last time I visited Fiji I was on my honeymoon. Having just celebrated a milestone anniversary, my husband and I thought it was time to re-visit the South Pacific island country we had such fond memories from. I was thrilled to find a property in Fiji, so started pinned down dates at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in early October. The resort is one of the world’s first eco-resorts and has, as one would assume with the name “Cousteau” attached, an excellent reputation for it’s SCUBA diving program.

The Musical welcome at JMC Resort Fiji

There are not a lot of flights from the US to Fiji, so we booked business class on Fiji Airways direct flight from LAX to Nadi, Fiji. For the record, Fiji Airways rocks. The 11 1/2 hour flight was painless and the the airline has extremely friendly flight attendants and a gorgeous, minimalist livery with tribal accents. We spent a few nights in Nadi to recover from jet lag before hopping on the smaller plane to the island of Savusavu, where the resort is located.

We were greeted at the Nadi airport by Mini, a representative from the resort who helped manage to pull some strings to get us on an earlier flight to the island. It was our first interaction with the personalized service for which the resort is known. All the staff was helpful and very friendly. I also liked that they all wear very legible name tags, so you don’t feel pressured to memorize everyone’s name. There is high staff-to-guest ratio, so it’s a thoughtful touch.

Garden Bure #18 was our home away from home

We arrived to a musical greeting and a lovely message of “welcome home,” which sets the tone for the resorts laid-back-yet-attentive management philosophy.

Our room, a thatched room traditional Fijian”bure,”was not ready when we arrived so we just chilled out near the pool in the adults-only “serenity area.” Wifi worked on the day beds and staff checked on us frequently to make sure we had everything we needed… including several fresh, young coconuts to drink.

Note: EVERYTHING tastes better when served in a coconut

Left: the seated hammock for our Garden Bure Right: a seaside seating area

The rooms upscale yet simple thatched huts (called bures), cooled by fans. The bathroom was suitably luxurious with dual sinks and a good shower. The staff put out mosquito coils every night and will hang mosquito netting above your bed upon request (we requested it). There are no televisions or telephones in the rooms, but you don’t miss them. Our garden bure was not the quietest room, as it was situated close to the Bula club (the on-site club for young children) and family pool. Couples might prefer booking an ocean front bure should you want more solitude.

Simple island elegance is the vibe in Garden Bure #18

Overall the resort did a great job keeping both families and children happy. Each child is assigned a Nanny during their stay, and their are activities for both younger children as well as teens. Basically EVERY family member has a good time at the resort. I shocked to find myself enjoying the crab races that were intended for the kids. The kids programs have a eco-education theme to them that I thought was a nice touch, and the resort employs a lot of locals so it gives you a great sense for the warmth of the Fijian people.

Plenty of seating areas and a well staffed activities center are big draws at the resort

September and October are high tourist season in Fiji (due to Australian school holidays) and are known for having the best weather. My stay experienced unseasonable rains, but that didn’t hamper the fun as much as my tanning and photo opportunities. The thatched roofs above the poolside day beds kept me dry and there were plenty of umbrellas available if you wanted to dash to your bure.

Visiting the private island belonging to the resort was one of the highlights of the trip

One of the resort’s not-to-be missed features is a visit to it’s private island, which is about 10 minutes away by boat. The island can be booked for a picnic lunch or a romantic dinner for an extra charge at this all-inclusive resort.

Left: A kayak on the private island Right: Palm tree shadows on the private island’s private beach

The activities staff packed us a cooler full of beers and water (bottled Fiji, of course) and gave us a radio in case we wanted to be picked up earlier than our pre-arranged time. It was fun to explore the small island with it’s perfect sandy cove beach and covered dining area. A few beers in we were giggling and screaming “Wilson” a la Tom Hanks in Castaway. Our return ride arrived right on time and we were shuttled by boat back to the resort in time for happy hour.

Just in case you were wondering… no tresspassing allowed!

The resort has a different theme each day… be it Fijian Culture, Ecological Awareness, or Rainforest Exploration. This is a nice touch and keeps the routine from getting monotonous. There are various excursions both on the resort grounds as well as off the property so you can get a hit of culture even if you never leave the resort’s grounds. It’s a great program.

One of the views from JMC Fiji’s Private Island

There were daily snorkeling trips for both adults and teens, and the activity center had plenty of catamarans and upright paddle boards available for those who prefer to stay above the water.

The resort’s pool is the social hub

The center of the resort’s social activity is the resort’s pool and dining Vale ni Vakayakavi. The evening activities (such as dance performances and the aforementioned crab races) also take place in this space.

Left: perfectly ripe papaya for breakfast Right: a corn cake with bacon, tomato, and greens

The food at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji resort was local, fresh, and excellent. It was far better than any of the food I had in Nadi and the portion sizes are perfectly sized so that your well fed but still fit into your bikini.

Daily Specials listed on the board at breakfast

Trying the daily breakfast specials

All but alcoholic beverages are included in the room rate and the crazy delicious Mai Tais were well worth the splurge.

A cooking demonstration during “Fijian Culture” day

Soup and salad at lunch

A table set for a family at the dining vale

The coconut braised plantain we learned to make during the cooking lesson

Two of the resort’s standout dishes: the thinly sliced pork with island slaw and the tuna udon

Enjoying a Kava Ceremony with the Kava boys, who performed nightly

The most memorable night was on Fijian Culture day when the proteins for dinner were cooked in a traditional Fijian lovo pit, and served buffet style in palm frond serving baskets.

Left: the traditional Fijian Lovo cooking pit “before” Right: the “after” shot of the lovo cooking pit

The nightly torch lighting ceremony

Most of the guests at the resort are from Australia and New Zealand, with the US being the third strongest market. The guests were all friendly and I felt a tad guilty that I could not engage in their convivial cricket and rugby rivalry banter, as I do not speak either cricket or rugby. 

A table set for 2 for dinner at the resort’s vale

Left: chicken drumsticks  at dinner Right: braided palm serving bowls on the buffet at the lovo dinner

Poolside lantern glowing at night

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji

All inclusive rates start at $980.

Address: Lesiaceva Point, Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji
Reservations (toll free in USA & Canada): (800) 246-3454
Direct: +1(415) 788-5794

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort features 25 bures (Fijian bungalows).

Disclosure: Much thanks to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort and for partially sponsoring my stay.  All opinions expressed are my own, based on my experiences during my stay at the resort.

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We All Came Out To Montreux: A Swiss Photo Essay

Editor’s Note:

Today I’m pleased to feature this fabulous Swiss photo essay by Anastasia Chernykh, My Life’s a Trip’s Ukraine-based Social Media Manager. I’ve not seen much of Switzerland beyond it’s airports, but these gorgeous fall photos and interesting musical and literature factoids now make me want to visit Montreux in person.

– Jen

The sun, the lake and the mountains

I don’t remember exactly when I heard the Smoke On The Water for the first time, but even in my school years I knew there would be something special about this Swiss city. Indeed there is.

Beautifully located on the shores of Lake Geneva, Montreux is one of the most frequented resorts in Switzerland. Due to its mild climate and picturesque location Montreux is often called the capital of the “Swiss Riviera”. Once a small village, lying in the heart of the traditional wine-growing region, Montreux now is surrounded by posh coastal suburbs, which host a trail of famous (and not famous) guests all year-round.

The town stretches along the shores of a large bay and rises to heights covered with woods and vineyards

The flower-bordered lake promenade…

…with nearly 800 varieties of plants & flowers!

One of the main attractions of the city is the building of the hotel Montreux Palace, opened in the early XX century. The Montreux Convention was signed here in 1936, Vladimir Nabokov lived in this hotel with his wife, Vera.

Luxury hotel Montreux Palace, is still not only a landmark in the city, but also one of the most popular hotels on the shores of Lake Geneva

Lord Byron, Hemingway, Victor Hugo, Courbet, Scott Fitzgerald, Charlie Chaplin all are among the famous guests once stayed in this region.  Montreux Jazz Festival, held annually since 1967, brings even more celebrities to this list- B.B King, Miles Davis, James Brown, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Norah Jones, Pharell Wiliams, David Bowie have all stepped in Palace Montreux’ corridors. Along the quay, at the square Place du Marche, there is towering bronze statue of another famous resident of the town— Freddie Mercury.

Memorial to Freddie Mercury, long-time resident of Montreux

Among the city highlights there are special “speaking benches”(and a free app to explore them) located on the promenade and dedicated to famous guests of the city.

Stormy weather & majestic mountains

Even palm trees grow in here

Going back to where we started, Deep Purple wrote their famous song after they witnessed an unfortunate event in Montreux, in December  1971. During a concert by Frank Zappa, held in casino “Montreux”, one fan fired a flare gun into the ceiling and started a fire that destroyed the building. The image of smoke on the water haunted the band members, who saw it from the window of their hotel. I was happy enough to see a nice reminder of the smoke incarnated in the rainy clouds above the lake.

Not exactly the “smoke”, but still impressive

The infamous “gambling house”, 40 years later, fully refurbished

Adorable vintage car near Casino Montreux

It’s a 3 kilometer walk along the lake’s costs leads to the most visited Swiss historical sight, Château de Chillon. You walk through an endless promenade of Montreux to the castle, which appears to grow directly out of the water. But that’s an illusion – Chillon Castle stands on a rocky island, designed to appears unapproachable.

Château de Chillon, the Switzerland’s most visited historic monument

Chillon Castle is a complex consisting of several buildings, each built over various time periods. Lord Byron had a major role in popularizing the castle when in 1816 he described it in detail in his poem “The Prisoner of Chillon,” based on the true account of the capture of Francois Bonivard. The “speaking bench”  dedicated to Byron unfortunately didn’t work during my visit, so I only was able to enjoy the inspiring view of a castle that looks like a fairytale fantasy.

The first of three courtyards of Château

Inside the castle

The view of the courtyard from one of the castle’s towers

The fisherman near Chillon Castle

The sunset view of lake and mountains at the entrance of Chillon Castle

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Fijian Dancers at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji: A Photo Essay with GIFs

A group of school aged children performing at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort

One of the things I liked most about my recent glamping trip to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji was that it felt authentically Fijian. There was no chain hotel vibe and Fijian culture was front and center.

A group of dancers from Nukubalavu Village

Two nights a week the property has groups of Fijian dancers perform. One dance troupe is from Nukubalavu village, which is the village where most of the hotel’s staff reside. Many of the dancers are related to the hotel workers which made the performance extra special.

Fijian dancers twirling GIF

Busting a move, Fijian style

The dancers perform a meke– a traditional Fijian dance performance– that is usually done at celebrations and festivals.

Fiji’s answer to Twerking GIF

I liked that the dancers were various age groups and performed in a variety of styles.

I adored this dancer’s traditional outfit and sweet smile

Hips Don’t Lie: Fiji Edition

There are no televisions at the Jean-Michel Resort, but with entertainment like this you definitely do not miss them.

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

Lesiaceva Point, Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji

+679 885 0188

You can read more about my stay at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji on the blog.


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