Friday, August 27, 2010

Au Revoir, New York City

Surprise! I’m moving. If you’ve been following along you’ll know this is my fifth move in little more than a year (DC to Brussels, Brussels to DC, DC to Brooklyn, Brooklyn to Manhattan, Manhattan to DC), and no, it doesn’t get any easier. I have a pretty good system in place - I know how to pack light and to avoid sentimentality when purging my possessions – but the process still inspires both physical and mental stress.

I’ll miss New York. We’ve had our ups and our downs, but overall I’m leaving with a positive feeling about this city, my experiences here, and any future opportunities I might have to return. What can you say about the Big Apple? There really is nothing else like it. New Yorkers like to boast that they live in the greatest city in the world, and I’m now inclined to believe them.

The journey to DC begins today, detours in Minnesota, and ends with a flight to Reagan National Airport on September 1st. As I try to reorganize my life in the apartment I’ve rented for four years but lived in for less than two, I’m indulging in a short, end-of-summer break from blogging. After all, what self-respecting French blog doesn’t take its congés payés in August?

See you after Labor Day!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Belgian Food Truck: Wafels & Dinges

It's been tempting me for weeks: That bright, canary yellow food truck promising "Good Things Belgian" and appearing in places around the city where I'm sure to get a whiff of its wares. I had to try it before leaving New York, so when a quick Thursday call to their Waffle Hotline told me the truck was in the environs of my office building (Midtown) and that if I gave the truck operators the stink eye I could get a discount on my order, I made a beeline for Wafels & Dinges. Or, in English, Waffles & Thingamajigs.

Torn between the "brussels wafel" (light and crispy) and the "liège wafel" (soft and chewy) I opted instead for the special "throwdown wafel." A winner from the Food Network's "Throwdown with Bobby Flay," the throwdown wafel is a liège topped with speculoos spread and whipped cream.  Merci beaucoup.  With my $1 stink eye discount, that tray of sweet Belgian deliciousness was mine for only $5. And, sorry Belgium, it was better than any waffle I ever ate in Brussels.

If you go:

Wafel & Dinges
Everywhere, New York City
Truck Location Hotline: 1-866-429-7329
Twitter: @waffletruck

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Top of the Rock

One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to get a bird's eye view of my surroundings.  I've climbed monuments, cathedrals, and endless flights of escalators in Paris' now-shuttered Samaritaine shopping center, all in the name of gaining a new perspective.  There's just something about taking in a city from above that always gives me a thrill.  I got that thrill today at the Top of the Rock observation deck, which is located on Rockefeller Center's soaring GE Building

Top of the Rock is sort of like the Arc de Triomphe in that both are overshadowed by other nearby climbable landmarks.  But what good is it to climb the Eiffel Tower only to take panoramic pictures of Paris that don't include it's most famous structure?  The same could be said for climbing the Empire State Building. It's iconic, but wouldn't you rather have it behind you in a photo than under your feet?  I would.  Here are a few shots from today's climb...including a fleur de lis!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

NYC French Resto Review: A.O.C

According to this restaurant's menu, A.O.C stands for "l'Aile ou la cuisse" (The wing or the thigh).  French wine drinkers, Roquefort eaters, and Dijon mustard spreaders, however, will recognize the three initials as meaning "appellation d’origine contrôlée" (controlled designation of origin), which is a certification handed out by the French government that ensures, among other things, a product's terroir.  Details.  All you really need to know is that if you ever find yourself hungry in the West Village you should eat at A.O.C.

Hungry and in the West Village is exactly where a DC-based friend and I found ourselves yesterday afternoon.  The menu looked good and the prices looked reasonable, so we decided to give this corner bistro a try.  We opted to sit in their garden patio out back, which was a excellent decision considering NYC weather has finally gone from miserably hot to pleasantly summer.  I ordered the merguez frites for $13.50 and she had the soupe du jour and 1/2 sandwich for $11.50.  Both meals were delicious, not to mention excellent values considering the amount of food we received for what we paid in an expensive part of town.

A.O.C's interior looks like it was flown in from Paris, while the garden patio lets you soak in this beautiful New York City neighborhood.  Other menu items that I wanted to try were the demi poulet, the salade de chèvre chaud, and the croque monsieur.  And while A.O.C offers many of the French classics - coq au vin, and entrecôte, par exemple - not to mention American favorites like les burgers, they unfortunately don't prepare my favorite French dish: boeuf bourgiugnon.  Nevertheless, a stellar find in one of my favorite areas of the city.  I'll be back. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Greensburg, Kansas

I was just in Kansas on a two-day work trip, specifically to visit the town of Greensburg, population 900.  While I was at a loss to find a French connection there, I thoroughly enjoyed the charm, warmth, and friendliness that one finds in rural America.  But maybe that's the connection: Some would argue that in both the United States and France it's the small towns and villages that have the most welcoming citizens.  In any case, this was one small town (with a compelling story) that I won't soon forget.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Seeing Paris in New York City

The sight of this building stopped me dead in my tracks.  How did such a typically Parisian entrance find its way to 82nd and Park? And when can I move in?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

If You Must Go to France in August...

Would most Francophones, Francophiles, and other French partisans out there agree with me that August is the worst month for a trip to France?  You know the drill:  Paris empties of Parisians, the Côte d'Azur overflows with tourists, hotels raise their prices, and stores take their full month of "fermeture annuelle."  I once came across an ice cream shop in the St.-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood that announced it would be closing for the month of August.  An ice cream shop.  Closed in August.  If that's not a sign to turn back now, I don't know what is.

But if you must go to France in August, it's possible you can avoid much of the month's nonsense by steering clear of some of the more traditional end-of-summer locales (i.e. Paris and beaches).  In August 2008 I spent a weekend in the Champagne region touring caves and drinking lots of bubbly.  Absent were the hordes of tourists that plague cities like Nice and Cannes this time of year.  Instead of fighting for a little scrap of sand, we played tennis on wide open courts, signed up for a private tasting at Moët and Chandon, and dined alongside locals. 

If you must go to France in August, try breaking away from the pack.  Nearly all of France is a tourist destination, but some areas are more crowded at certain times of the year (example: Strasbourg and its famous Christmas market in December). Why not look at August as the time to explore outside of Paris?   And why not save your beach vacation for a more tranquil time?  August could be the perfect time to eat and drink your way through Burgundy, hike the Pyrennes, or sample French beers in Lille.

Or maybe it's the perfect time to plan your September trip to France.