King Cake

Paris On My Mind

August 10, 2015

On the few delicious weekends that my husband and I get to spend in DC, we have a pretty set routine. Run the bridge loop. Go to SoulCycle. Stop by the Apple store to see the new gadgets. And eat at our favorite places, usually at the bar. These include Thunder Burger, TownHall, Black Salt, Rasika West End, Morton’s, and of course Peacock Café.

Last night, we decided to go out of our comfort zone and try one of the three new Georgetown restaurants recently written up in DC Modern Luxury Magazine – Chez Billy Sud. I have always loved the space this restaurant occupies, previously home of Café LaRuche. The bar area is so intimate and the side patio lovely – but what I love the most is that once inside the main dining room, I really feel like I could be in the Saint Germain neighborhood in Paris.

I have to say that we will have to add this to our list of favorite Georgetown places – I already can’t wait to go back – perhaps for brunch. The highlight of the evening were my Kir Royal, made perfectly and served in a champagne coupe glass instead of the usual flute, and the appetizers. I still can’t decide what was better: the smoked bluefish rillettes, perfectly fishy yet not too chunky, made smoother even by the crème freche, or the chicken liver torchon, which had the perfect balance of liver and Armagnac.

We chose the duck confit and the “semoules” as our main courses, which were both delightful – flavorful, delicisouly-prepared, yet not too heavy (which is always a concern of mine with French cuisine).

While a true French dinner must end with dessert, we had to pass this time – although I eyed the Plat de Fromage the couple at the table next to use was having.

Chez Billy Sud, we will be back. And now I have Paris on my mind …


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Tinos Remains a Paradise

July 1, 2015

The tide comes in an out. The monks chant. The wind blows. The bells of the church ring. All seems to be well, normal, on the Greek island of Tinos. We have been coming here for the past six years, and these are all “normal” things indeed. This year, however, there are signs of uncertainty, signs that the economy is unwell. Signs like long lines at the ATMs, when they are dispensing money. Signs like red posters in front of the ATMs indicating that they are not working, all out of cash. No one wants to talk about it – after all, most of the people we meet are, like us, on vacation (mostly Greeks summering in Tinos), and part of the point of vacation is to forget about the cares of real life. But given the timing, it is impossible not to discuss. The mood, while not somber, is very uncertain. When we ask our new friends Georgios and Dimitra when they will come back to Tinos, the answer is “we don’t know… we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.” Our architect friend Panagyotis doesn’t know if he will have access to his money to pay his workers on the various sites he has to visit in Athens tomorrow. It is, indeed, uncertain.

Yet for all of this, the paradise that is Tinos remains a paradise. The people who live here have a deep kindness, a genuine care for others that I have never seen anywhere else. Last night, we left our favorite restaurant, Bourou, after a delicious meal, without paying. The credit card machine was down. (Does this have to do with the banking situation, who knows?). While we had cash, the maître d’h Georgios just told us to come back tomorrow morning. “The banks may close,” he said, “but we will still be here.”

For all that is going on, however, Tinos remains the paradise it will always be for me. An island in the Cyclades without an airport, it is one of the least touristy for that reason. And, in my mind, one of the most beautiful. Should you decide to explore Greece, head to Tinos – the flight to Athens, followed by a 45-minute taxi ride to the port of Raffina, followed by a 2-hour ferry to Tinos is well worth it. And when you get here, make sure you visit these addresses (and have a Greek salad at each, you will taste differences in the feta that will make you question what we call feta in the US).

-          Bourou: mentioned above, this is one of my favorite restaurants. It moved this past March closer to town (it is located between the center of town and the beach of Kionia), the food is excellent (grilled sardines are their specialty), and the décor shows a certain attention to detail and to aesthetics that I love.

-          Pranzo: in town, this is a fabulous Italian restaurant for when you need a break from Greek food. They also make their own wine.

-          O’Dinos: this is in the bay of Kardiani, a restaurant by the sea where three generations of the family work. The grandfather, Dinos, oversees the work; the father cooks; and the young son does “bus boy” tasks. Their fish soup is a must to start any meal.

-          Thalassaki: In Isternia Bay, this is the place to watch the sun set; you are literally on the water, where the magic of sunset is most powerful. Indeed, the name of the restaurant literally means “the young sea.” Try the squid ink risotto and the pasta with meatballs.

-          If you make the trip to Panormos, about halfway around the island, eat at the third taverna, Maestro. The meat is delicious, as is the homemade Tinos cheese.

Whatever happens in the coming weeks, I will return to Tinos. Every year as long as I am able. It is my happy place, it is good for my soul. You should go there too…

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'A Woman Who Does Not Wear Perfume Has No Future'

June 21, 2015

Aksenia Krupenko and Salamander Spa Director Penny Kriel (Photo by: Ada Polla) Aksenia Krupenko and Salamander Spa Director Penny Kriel

A woman who does not wear perfume has no future. Coco Chanel 

Last Thursday, the Washington Spa Alliance brought together a beautiful crowd of spa industry leaders at the French Embassy for an evening presentation: "The History of Natural Perfumery: from Cleopatra to Chanel" presented by Michael Scholes, President of Laboratory of Flowers. Scholes describes himself as an Alchemist, Therapeutic Formulator, and Natural Perfumer.

He reminded a captivated audience of key facts about the sense of smell, including that smell was the first of our senses and that the olfactory system ha a direct link to the brain which is primarily subconscious recognition. Indeed, smell is a prime mover of higher brain function: the sense of smell is wired directly into the limbic system. This is where we process emotions, memory, basic drives, hormonal responses, and a part of the brain that tells us when we have had enough. 

Anjali Dighe, Pilar DiVittorio, Heather Shaw Menis (Photo by: Ada Polla) Anjali Dighe, Pilar DiVittorio, Heather Shaw Menis

He then explored the history of natural fragrance throughout the ages while having the his listeners smell various samples, in effect making them travel on an aromatic journey through time. He passed around rare and precious oils including jasmine, rose, geranium, tuberose, narcissus, violet, orange blossom, wild orange and other concoctions that mark time, celebrate moments in history, as well as the sacred scents of biblical times. 

The mission of the Washington Spa Alliance is to act as a knowledge center, connecting spa professionals in the nation’s greater capital region. WSPA works to promote the exchange of education and innovation in the field, and to ensure that the highest ideals of spa are met through policy and action. For more information, visit Washington Spa Alliance.


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