Au Revoir, Paris! California Book Tour for Hungry for Paris & Hungry for France – October 16 – October 23, 2014

October 13, 2014

Paris View from my office window

Soon it will be time for me to forsake one of my favorite views of Paris, the one I have from my office window, above. At an ungodly early hour on Wednesday morning, I’ll be heading to the airport on my way to California to talk about my new books, Hungry for Paris and Hungry for France, and also share the latest food news from my hometown and elsewhere in France. I haven’t been to California several years, and I’m really looking forward to the trip and to meeting you!

Here’s the full tour schedule, and you’re cordially invited to all and any of these events.

October 16, 2014 – SAN DIEGO – The Wine Sellar & Brasserie

San Diego Wine Tasting with James Beard Award winner Alexander Lobrano

A fundraising event for the American Institute of Wine & Food scholarship program

Event Details

Thursday, October 16, 2014, 6:00pm
The Wine Sellar & Brasserie
9550 Waples St., Suite 115
San Diego, CA 92121
Cost: $45 per person (or $85 with signed book; includes discounted registration and donation to AIWF*)

www.adventuresbythebook.com/autherevent/hungry-for-france-wine-tasting-adventure-with-james-beard-winner-alexander-lobrano/

October 19, 2014 – LOS ANGELES (West Hollywood) – L’Assiette Steak Frites

Steak Frites dinner with author Alexander Lobrano

Together with L’Assiette Steak Frites

Event Details

Sunday, October 19, 2014, 5:00-7:00pm
L’Assiette Steak Frites
7166 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Cost: $52 per person all-inclusive* ($5 discount if an autographed book is prepurchased at registration)
About the Event

Please join us for a Steak Frites Dinner & Wine Adventure at West Hollywood’s charming French restaurant, L’Assiette, with famed French food writer, author of the bestselling Hungry for Paris, and James Beard award winner Alexander Lobrano.

Your evening includes a L’Assiette’s signature steak frites dinner, soup or salad, bread, a glass of wine, tax, gratuity and book discussion.

*Copies of Hungry for France will be available for purchase and signing at the event, or prepurchase an autographed copy to be delivered at the event and receive a $5 discount on registration.

http://www.adventuresbythebook.com/autherevent/hungry-for-france-west-hollywood-l-a-wine-cheese-adventure-with-james-beard-winner-and-author-alexander-lobrano/

October 20, 2014 – SAN FRANCISCO – OMNIVORE BOOKS

OMNIVORE BOOKS

Mon. Oct. 20 • Alexander Lobrano • Hungry for Paris (second edition): The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 109 Best Restaurants • 6:30-7:30. FREE
If you’re passionate about eating well, you couldn’t ask for a better travel companion than Alexander Lobrano’s charming, friendly, and authoritative books, Hungry for Paris and Hungry for France, are essential guides to a renowned culinary scene. Having written about France for almost every major food and travel magazine since moving there in 1986, Lobrano shares his personal selection of the country’s best restaurants.

http://www.omnivorebooks.com/

October 21, 2014 – NAPA, CALIFORNIA – Angèle Restaurant and Bar

HUNGRY FOR FRANCE NAPA DINNER ADVENTURE WITH JAMES BEARD WINNER ALEXANDER LOBRANO

Together with Angèle Restaurant and Bar

Event Details

Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:00pm
Angèle Restaurant and Bar
540 Main Street
Napa, CA 94559
Cost: $105 per person (or $185 for VIP package*)
About the Event

Please join us for a Hungry for France Dinner Adventure at Napa Valley’s renowned French Bistro, Angèle Restaurant and Bar, with Paris-based food writer, author, and James Beard award winner Alexander Lobrano. Your evening includes a French dinner featuring recipes from Alec’s book, wine, tax, gratuity, and book discussion.

*Why not make your evening really memorable with a VIP package that includes the dinner event, a pre-dinner reception with Alec, sparkling wine, canapes, and an autographed copy of Hungry for France. But hurry, only a limited number of VIP packages are available.

http://www.adventuresbythebook.com/autherevent/hungry-for-france-napa-dinner-adventure-with-james-beard-winner-alexander-lobrano/

October 22, 2014 – LARKSPUR, CALIFORNIA (Marin County) – Left Bank Brasserie

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Left Bank Brasserie
507 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, CA 94939
5:30pm Food & Wine Reception: $75* per person
7:00pm Dinner: $145** per person (includes autographed book) or $240** per couple (to share one book)

About the Event

Please join us for a Hungry for France Food & Wine Adventure at the renowned Left Bank Brasserie, featuring Paris-based French food writer, author of the bestselling Hungry for Paris, and James Beard award winner Alexander Lobrano.

The evening includes a food & wine reception featuring French wines and a selection of classic French regional appetizers inspired by Alexander Lobrano’s book and book discussion. Autographed books will be available for preorder at registration or at the event.

http://www.adventuresbythebook.com/autherevent/hungry-for-france-adventure-marin-county-with-james-beard-winner-alexander-lobrano/

PARIS Eiffel Tower and butter

Restaurant Pages – The Best New Restaurant of La Rentrée (Fall Season) 2014, A-

October 10, 2014

Pages - Veal tartare w:anchovy puree

On the eve of my California book tour, I’ve been thinking about all the good news from Paris I’ll have to share, since this year’s rentrée (Fall season) has seen so many superb openings, with the best new restaurant among them being Restaurant Pages, a handsome new bistro near the Arc de Triomphe by Japanese chef Ryuji Teshima. I had already been to Porte 12 and Neige d’Ete, the two other stand out newcomers, before I went to dinner at Pages. To be perfectly honest, I arrived for this meal feeling a little weary of the trope of new restaurants in Paris these days: a no-choice tasting menu, a ‘suggested’ glass of wine to accompany every course, acolyte-in-a-temple style service, and produce from the same handful of suppliers. Even if it’s excellent food, there is something wilting and a little unnerving about immediately being able to identify the wares of Terroirs d’Avenir, Annie Bertin, Joel Thiebault, Hugo Desnoyer and other hyped brand-name suppliers of the new generation of ‘artiste’ chefs who are doing what I would describe of as a sort of precious cuisine Angelique (Angelic cooking style), or one that’s very delicate and sort of aggressively innocent.

Pages - the Open Kitchen

Still, despite its odd location–the 16th Arrondissement, never a lively or particularly interesting part of the city, which has now gone rather slack due to the palpable exodus of affluent Parisians who’ve decided they just can’t bear to let the government skim them so deeply anymore–this restaurant seduced me the moment I walked through the door. It’s beautiful. Aside from the exposed stone at the back of the room, the walls are white, there’s an immaculate open kitchen up front, tables are comfortably spaced and the lighting from black matte re-editions of lamps that are a famous sixties French design is gentle and beautiful. This initial impression of an alluring serenity was immediately enhanced by the elegance and graciousness of the all Japanese serving staff.

“One of the things I love best about the Japanese is that they’re able to be proud and humble at the same time,” said Bruno, a spot-on observation, since the humility of the serving style here was deeply nourishing and revivifying–you felt like a welcome and respected guest–even before any food came to the table. That said, our waitress, an attractive young Japanese woman who’d grown up in Virginia before going to university in France, seemed to have drunk the whole old-school boilerplate of now very out-dated mannered French formality right down to the horrendous phrases, “Ca vous a plu?” and “Je vous souhaite une tres bonne continuation.” This latter phrase has always puzzled me, because it sounds more like something you’d say to a motorist rather than someone eating a meal. Despite the socio-psychological corset she’d laced herself into, she was charming, and winsomely excited about both the restaurant and chef Teshima’s cooking. It was from chatting with her that we learned that Teshima has previously cooked at Passage 53, Alain Senderens and In de Wulf in Belgium. As impressive as these credentials might be, what impressed me most, however, was that Teshima has also been an apprentice to butcher Hugo Desnoyer, the best meat master in Paris.

Even if I hadn’t known about the Desnoyer connection, I might have guessed it when the first course of our meal arrive, a pretty composition–almost none of the young chefs in Paris actually ‘cook’ anymore, rather they layer flavors and textures in artful compositions–of candy beets, fresh coarsely chopped veal tartare, and a gentle but bracing anchovy sauce. It was an exquisite and very sexy way to begin a meal, since the carefully dosed presence of the potent little fish playfully flattered the baseline minerality of the meat.

Pages - Langoustine w:celery root

Next, an exquisite little miniature: a plump perfectly flash-fried langoustine escorted by shavings of celery bulb that had been baked in a crust of bread and a silky yuzu spiked sabayon. This dish demonstrated a stunning mastery of technique and timing, but it was with the next one where Teshima’s signature started to become apparent.

Continue reading…

La Californie, J’arrive! October 2014 California Book Tour for Hungry for France and Hungry for Paris

October 8, 2014

HungryForFrance_cover

I am very much looking forward to my California book tour from October 16 to October 24, and I really hope I’ll have the pleasure of meeting my Californian readers soon.

I’ve been besotted with California ever since I was able to replace the desperate jealousy I felt towards cousins who’d moved out there from Connecticut when my uncle was transferred from New York City to Los Angeles with a real experience of the state. The excitement I felt the night before I flew out there for the first time was so turgid, it kept me up all night, and the itchiness brought on by an over-zealous haircut by the local barber didn’t help either. Me and my brother had both emerged from the cold steel barber chair with oily black vinyl insets with a haircut that was known as a ‘Princeton.’ It was basically a crewcut, except that a few short locks had been spared just above the forehead so that we still needed combs. We despised our haircuts, and we hated the new knit Rooster ties that Mom had bought for us to where with our Madras jackets–it was early June–khaki trousers and penny loafers, the outfit she had ordained for our flight. I also hated the special bag of East Coast foods that my aunt missed–Thomas’s English Muffins, William Underwood deviled ham, Cain’s pickle relish and various other things–that I had to carry aboard the plane.

We took the ties off the moment the seat-belt sign had been turned off in our glamorous new 747 and only put them back on just before we landed in Los Angeles feeling more than a little worse for wear from probably having both drunk a gallon of Coca-Cola and eaten a pound or two of salted cashews at the bar on the second level of the airplane. It took forever for our suitcases to be delivered, but finally the ugly old tobacco-colored leatherette  bags tumbled down on the carousel. Then my uncle, a vice-president at a nationally known food company, showed up, and to my amazement, he was wearing shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, flip-flops, and aviator sunglasses. We drove home in the Mercedes he was so inordinately proud of and found our cousins riding bikes with their friends. It was decided that everyone would go for a swim, so me and my brother went into the bedroom where we’d be sleeping to change our clothes. A window was open, so it was easy to overhear one of our cousins’s friends when he said, “Jeez! Your East Coast cousins are just so weird! They wear penny loafers, and they have the dorkiest haircuts I’ve ever seen!”  Gulp. And more gulping.

Seeing that we’d been sent west with clothing more suitable for an English garden party than a week in LA, my aunt bought us each a new pair of Levis and a Hang-Ten shirt the next day, and I’d rarely been so happy in my whole life. The ten days in California were, in fact, a dream–we saw the ‘Fifth Dimension’  in the Hollywood Bowl, we went to Disneyland, we went to Knott’s Berry Farm, we ate loads of Mexican food, and then went to Tijuana and ate real Mexican food. We saw Shamu the whale at Sea World in San Diego, and we visited the nuclear plant at San Clemente, because my uncle wanted us to learn about ‘the energy of the future.’ We went to Laguna and saw people surfing, we ate at Swensen’s ice cream parlor, where they sprinkled little plastic monkeys all over our huge ice cream Sundaes, and we smoked a purloined Chesterfield cigarette behind the garage. The time went by so quickly that the next thing I knew, I was airborne again and heart-broken to the point of a tear or two as I stared out the window at a fluffy quilt of clouds. I desperately wanted to go back to California, and I still do, so I can’t wait for October 16 when I arrive in San Diego.

Here’s the tour schedule:

October 16, 2014 – SAN DIEGO

San Diego Wine Tasting with James Beard Award winner Alexander Lobrano

A fundraising event for the American Institute of Wine & Food scholarship program

Event Details

Thursday, October 16, 2014, 6:00pm
The Wine Sellar & Brasserie
9550 Waples St., Suite 115
San Diego, CA 92121
Cost: $45 per person (or $85 with signed book; includes discounted registration and donation to AIWF*)

http://www.adventuresbythebook.com/autherevent/hungry-for-france-wine-tasting-adventure-with-james-beard-winner-alexander-lobrano/

October 19, 2014 – LOS ANGELES (West Hollywood)

Steak Frites dinner with author Alexander Lobrano

Together with L’Assiette Steak Frites

Event Details

Sunday, October 19, 2014, 5:00-7:00pm
L’Assiette Steak Frites
7166 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Cost: $52 per person all-inclusive* ($5 discount if an autographed book is prepurchased at registration)
About the Event

Please join us for a Steak Frites Dinner & Wine Adventure at West Hollywood’s charming French restaurant, L’Assiette, with famed French food writer, author of the bestselling Hungry for Paris, and James Beard award winner Alexander Lobrano.

Your evening includes a L’Assiette’s signature steak frites dinner, soup or salad, bread, a glass of wine, tax, gratuity and book discussion.

*Copies of Hungry for France will be available for purchase and signing at the event, or prepurchase an autographed copy to be delivered at the event and receive a $5 discount on registration.

http://www.adventuresbythebook.com/autherevent/hungry-for-france-west-hollywood-l-a-wine-cheese-adventure-with-james-beard-winner-and-author-alexander-lobrano/

October 20, 2014 – SAN FRANCISCO – OMNIVORE BOOKS

OMNIVORE BOOKS

Mon. Oct. 20 • Alexander Lobrano • Hungry for Paris (second edition): The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 109 Best Restaurants • 6:30-7:30. FREE
If you’re passionate about eating well, you couldn’t ask for a better travel companion than Alexander Lobrano’s charming, friendly, and authoritative books, Hungry for Paris and Hungry for France, are essential guides to a renowned culinary scene. Having written about France for almost every major food and travel magazine since moving there in 1986, Lobrano shares his personal selection of the country’s best restaurants.

http://www.omnivorebooks.com/

October 21, 2014 – NAPA, CALIFORNIA

HUNGRY FOR FRANCE NAPA DINNER ADVENTURE WITH JAMES BEARD WINNER ALEXANDER LOBRANO

Together with Angèle Restaurant and Bar

Event Details

Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:00pm
Angèle Restaurant and Bar
540 Main Street
Napa, CA 94559
Cost: $105 per person (or $185 for VIP package*)
About the Event

Please join us for a Hungry for France Dinner Adventure at Napa Valley’s renowned French Bistro, Angèle Restaurant and Bar, with Paris-based food writer, author, and James Beard award winner Alexander Lobrano. Your evening includes a French dinner featuring recipes from Alec’s book, wine, tax, gratuity, and book discussion.

*Why not make your evening really memorable with a VIP package that includes the dinner event, a pre-dinner reception with Alec, sparkling wine, canapes, and an autographed copy of Hungry for France. But hurry, only a limited number of VIP packages are available.

http://www.adventuresbythebook.com/autherevent/hungry-for-france-napa-dinner-adventure-with-james-beard-winner-alexander-lobrano/

October 22, 2014 – LARKSPUR, CALIFORNIA (Marin County) 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Left Bank Brasserie
507 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, CA 94939
5:30pm Food & Wine Reception: $75* per person
7:00pm Dinner: $145** per person (includes autographed book) or $240** per couple (to share one book)

About the Event

Please join us for a Hungry for France Food & Wine Adventure at the renowned Left Bank Brasserie, featuring Paris-based French food writer, author of the bestselling Hungry for Paris, and James Beard award winner Alexander Lobrano.

The evening includes a food & wine reception featuring French wines and a selection of classic French regional appetizers inspired by Alexander Lobrano’s book and book discussion. Autographed books will be available for preorder at registration or at the event.

http://www.adventuresbythebook.com/autherevent/hungry-for-france-adventure-marin-county-with-james-beard-winner-alexander-lobrano/

“So What is French Food?” Benoit and Gaby Offer a Delicious Answer to That Question in New York City

September 9, 2014
The Sofitel, New York City

The Sofitel, New York City

 

“So what is French food?” she asked me. I very much doubt that she’ll ever read these words, but before all else, I want to thank Betty Russo for both her question and her kindness.

Several months later, I still cringe when I remember the way our conversation began. On a warm Spring night, a New Haven bound Metro North train jolted when the transformers were turned on, and then gently rocked its way out of New York City’s Grand Central Station and under Park Avenue to come above ground a few minutes later just before a stop at 125th Street. On my way to speak about my books HUNGRY FOR PARIS and HUNGRY FOR FRANCE at the public library in Westport, Connecticut, my hometown, that night, I was roiled by various emotions. Earlier in the day, it had first dawned on me that this event would be about much more than a just little speech about a pair of books I’d written and my life in Paris to a group of politely interested people. My mother would be in the audience, along with other family members and many other people who’ve known me since I was a little boy. Having chosen to live abroad for most of my adult life, I’d realized that my speech in Westport, a place I’ve always had mixed feelings about–it’s beautiful, smart and morally self-examining on the one hand and way too grossly privileged on the other, would be about splicing myself together, or reconciling the shy little boy who spent hours reading about faraway places and who yearned to know a larger and more vivid world than the one I inhabited with the adult I have become.

So on the train I was sort of fitfully reading a copy of PARIS MATCH I’d lifted from the airport lounge in Paris a few days earlier, and I was so preoccupied on so many different levels that I was startled when someone, the woman I’d sat down next to but hadn’t really seen, spoke to me.

Escargots at Benoit @pierremonetta

Escargots at Benoit @pierremonetta

 

“Do you speak French?” she asked, which momentarily exasperated me. Why would I be reading a French magazine if I didn’t know the language? So I nodded, and then registering that she was an older lady, I relented, and I spoke. “I do,” I said and smiled. “And where did you learn that?” she asked. I wasn’t really in the mood to talk, and I’m not generally much of a talker with total strangers in public transport situations under any circumstances, because I like the rare time to myself, but I certainly wasn’t going to be unkind. Maybe I didn’t feel like having a conversation, but maybe someone else really needed one. “Well, I started learning French in school–” I noticed the lady had gentle green eyes “–but I really learned it after I moved to Paris.” “Oh! So do you live in Paris now?” I nodded. “Is that where you bought that magazine?” Another nod. “How lovely that must be, especially now that you know how to speak French.” I nodded, and was still tempted to return to my reading out of some ill-defined fear that this conversation could be depleting me of the fragile social and psychic energies I’d soon be needing in front of the crowd at the public library. Then I noticed that her soft white hands, which she held together loosely in her lap, were lightly trembling. “So are you on your way home then, or is New York home?” I asked. “Oh, New York, I don’t think I could ever do that. It’s very interesting but I love my little garden too much to ever sell my old house in New Haven.” “What do you grow in your garden? “Tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, corn, all kinds of nice things. Right now, though, all I’ve got is just a little bit of lettuce and some radishes.” Her name was Betty Russo, a retired seamstress who used to work in a Gant shirt factory, and she’d gone into New York City for the first time in five years to visit her son, “Tommy,” who’d just had a serious operation in a Manhattan hospital.

Continue reading…

CHARDENOUX, Paris-An Eternally Charming Bistro, B+

August 25, 2014

Chardenoux Salle with waiter

Chardenoux has always been a very good bistro. This is saying a lot, too, since it’s also one of the very rare restaurants with which I’ve had a long and consistently happy relationship during the more than twenty-five years I’ve lived in Paris. Oh, to be sure, as is true of most relationships, we’ve had our moments. But the longevity of this connection is precious to me less for its durability than because it’s proven to be so reliably delicious.

When I first began going to Chardenoux, the neighborhood where it’s located deep in the 11th Arrondissement was still quiet and filled with artisans of various kinds–wood-workers, furniture makers, metal casters, jewelers, lamp makers and others–working in local ateliers (workshops). Previously working class, the neighborhood immediately around the Bastille was becoming trendy, however, and the eastern arrondissements of Paris were just at the beginning of the transformation that eventually  made them the younger and hipper half of the city. I was living a tiny apartment next to a convent on the Left Bank. I liked it during the summer, the season of open windows, when I was often awoken by the nuns softly singing hymns. The rest of the year, though, it had the distinct disadvantage of being too far away from Chardenoux.

The chef at Chardenoux then was Bernard Passavant, and the reason I remember his name is that I owe my mad love of foie gras to him. Maybe the second or third time I ever went to Chardenoux, I ordered something called a salade folle, or ‘crazy salad.’ I had no idea what this might mean, so the big mauve slab of foie gras that topped a tidy tumble of chive-flecked match-stick-sized green beans and shaved button mushrooms came as a hugely unwelcome surprise. Why? Well, believe or not, back in those days–this was probably 1987–I not only didn’t eat foie gras, but I actively avoided it. Like many suburban Americans, I flinched at anything offal, in fact, but that night I found myself shamed into trying the duck liver by the teasing of the Greek born Paris based men’s underwear designer who was taking me out to a business dinner I’d been avoiding a long time.

Continue reading…

LiLi Restaurant, Hotel Peninsula Paris–Elegant Cantonese Cooking Comes to Paris, B+

August 11, 2014

LiLi - Woman's Face, my photo

The LiLi Restaurant at the just-opened Hotel Peninsula Paris is an important restaurant beyond the fact it serves some seriously good Cantonese cooking. It’s not much discussed but consider that food is potentially a major instrument of any country’s economic, cultural or diplomatic power. In these terms French cuisine continues to have a glorious international radiance beyond the economic punching weight of France, and one of the most fascinating things to observe at the dawn of this still new century is the accelerating ascendency of Asian cooking. Oh, to be sure, many  Westerners grew up with a vague knowledge of ‘Chinese’ and ‘Japanese’ food, but the popularity of Asian kitchens has now translated to a momentum which means that lemongrass, galangal and other stapes are available at most French supermarkets. And as an Asian food loving American who’s lived in France for a longtime, I think this is wonderful. From my point of view, the growing influence of Asia on what we eat in Paris is welcome, too, and I rejoice at the way that ‘Asian’ food is now being taken seriously rather than hived off as an occasional inexpensive ethnic pleasure as was the case for so many years in France.

To a very great degree, this is a reflection of Asia’s burgeoning economic clout, but on the other hand, you can’t force people to eat food they don’t want. So it’s apparent Parisians, and visitors to Paris, love Asian food in all of its glory, which is why the offer in the French capital is finally leap-frogging the quaintly qualifying ethnic label. A major reason for this is the arrival of Asia’s great hotel chains, which are anointing travel to France for Asia’s new rich and other non-Western travelers for a new century, the 21st century one, with a fresh layer of luxury hotels that are rebooting what luxury means. To wit, if many affluent Asians admire French style and aesthetics, they don’t particularly want to pretend that they’re European aristocrats invited to the party for the price of a bedroom anymore. The faux aristocrat experience worked when the new money was American and South American, but it’s guttering out now as Chinese tourists become the most courted and perplexing new clientele of the French capital.  Continue reading…