EUROPE 2017 – PART 3 – BRETAGNE (BRITTANY)

After touring Mont St. Michel in the morning, we drove to St. Malo, found a place to park, and quickly searched out a place for lunch.  There were three restaurants within the walled city that are listed in Michelin and open Tuesdays, so we checked them out and settled on Autour de Beurre.  This is an adjunct of the Bordier store next door, where they sell their famous butter and cheeses, along with other gourmet items.  The restaurant is a beautiful space with stone walls and soaring ceilings.

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I don’t normally photograph food, but I couldn’t help it when presented with this assortment of 8 different butters, flavored with various herbs and spices.  Every one of them was delicious, and we finished them off with the excellent bread.

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We both had the lunch menu, two courses at 17 and three at 20, marinated salmon served on cole slaw, hanger steak with carrots, poached pears and mushrooms.  We shared one dessert, baba au rhum with fruits and whipped cream.  It is an incredible deal, and we had a nice bottle of Cotes de Bordeaux for 21.  With coffees, the total was 62 euros. Photo Sep 26, 1 25 58 PM (2).jpg

http://www.lebeurrebordier.com/en/bistrot-autour-du-beurre/

We strolled a bit more after lunch, and checked out the cathedral.

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Next, we drove over to Dinard, which is more of a beach resort.  It’s not as interesting as St. Malo, but I took a couple of photos looking up at the houses on the cliffs from the bayfront.

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From Dinard, we continued on to Dinan, where we would be staying for the next couple of days.  Our hotel is actually in Taden, but just a few hundred meters outside the town of Dinan.  Our room at the Campanile was better than the one where we stayed in Caen, larger and with more storage space, a bathroom with a tub, hair dryer, and heater, and a phone.  The non-refundable rate of about 49 euros a day is a bargain.  The beds are very comfortable, and the location is very quiet.

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Dinan is arguably the most charming town in Brittany.  The historic center is very well preserved.

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For dinner we chose Auberge du Pelican, a modern restaurant serving creative dishes.  The room was nicely decorated but suffered from the French curse of blindingly bright lighting.

Auberge du Pelican

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Assiette de Fruits de Mer, foie gras ravioli in mushroom cream, choucroute de mer, chicken breast on tagliatelle, fromage blanc with raspberry sauce, strawberry Bavarois.  The chicken was poor, and the tagliatelle served with it spent too much time under a heat lamp, but everything else was delicious.

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We love Bandol, and this one seemed like a bargain at 30 euros, but it was oddly unexceptional.  The total bill was 87 euros.

Wednesday, September 27

The weather was more promising to the South, with rain predicted all day in Dinan, so we headed down to Vannes, with fog lifting and sun poking through on the way, as we passed through countryside and a couple of picturesque villages.  Vannes has an attractive historic center, and today was market day, so it was quite lively and we enjoyed looking at all the food in the two enclosed markets.  We also wandered up onto the battlements and into the Cathedral of St. Vincent, which, being built on a slope, has three distinct floor levels, with the high altar at the lowest level.

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Another reason we chose to go there is the Michelin-starred restaurant Le Roscanvec, which has a three-course lunch menu for 30 euros.

Roscanvec

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Soft-boiled egg topped with a wafer, Foie gras mousse with sangria glaze, poached shrimp with fennel cream, barbecue sauce, on a bed of tabouleh, stuffed saddle of rabbit on a compote of peppers, onions, and black olives, with sauteed girolle mushrooms.  Variation on peach melba, chocolate and mint evoking an “After Eight” mint.  It was a great deal for a starred restaurant.

With a bottle of Cahors for 25 and coffees, the bill was 95 euros.

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http://roscanvec.com/

After lunch we attempted to find the scenic coastal road from Vannes to Auray, but it proved impossible, so we drove directly back to Dinan.  Most restaurants here are closed on Wednesday, and we were growing tired of all the gourmet food anyway, so we decided to find a simpler traditional place.  Michelin was no help in this regard, so I resorted to Tripadvisor, which I treat with some skepticism, but have sometimes found useful.  Creperie Ahna got pretty much all rave reviews, so I made a reservation.  It turned out to be an excellent choice, with a lively and convivial atmosphere.

Creperie Ahna

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We both ordered leg of lamb and a mixed salad.  The lamb was served with a gratin of leeks, potatoes, and three sauces.  The lamb is brought to the table as three raw slices. and a hot stone is provided to grill the lamb to your taste.  It was delicious, and the sauces made it outstanding.  For dessert, we had a crepe, La Stephanie,  which is bananas with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.  With a bottle of Cotes du Rhone, the total was only 64 euros.

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Thursday, September 28

We took off in the morning on a drive along the Northern coast, eventually reaching the charming port of Paimpol.  We followed a meandering route through some lush countryside, part of which looked like the Cotswolds, both the landscape and the stone houses and villages.  We strolled around the harbor and old quarter in Paimpol before going off to lunch.

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The restaurant Le 360 in Pointe de L’Arcouest, which I found in Michelin, offers a nice menu at 30 euros, with several choices for each course.

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View of Isle de Brehat

While we sat, two ferries pulled in, disgorging and receiving passengers for the Isle de Brehat.

Stanley had a duck breast tartare, while I had a platter of three preparations of salmon, smoked, slightly cooked, and tartare with orange and grapefruit.  For main courses, we had lamb shank and monkfish, and for dessert opera cake and apple turnover.  The first two courses were very good and interesting, but the desserts fell short a bit, tasting like something from a commercial bakery.  Nonetheless, a nice lunch with a beautiful view.

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With a bottle of Muscadet at 18, and coffees, the bill was 82 euros.

http://terrasses-brehat.fr/en/restaurant/

On the way back to Dinan, we stopped in Dol de Bretagne, which is supposed to be one of the most charming towns in Brittany, but was not all that interesting.  Dol was rather dull.

Tonight’s dinner was Stanley’s birthday celebration, at the Michelin one-star Maison Crouzil in Plancoet, about a fifteen minute drive from Taden.  Our meal was by far the most spectacular of this trip, and though pricey at 68 euros for three courses, it was worth every penny.

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Since it was a special occasion, we had aperitifs, Stanley a glass of Champagne and I a kir.  Canapes were served, then an amuse-bouche.  We originally thought we would order the menu terroir at 38 euros, not realizing it is only served at lunch, so we went with the 68 euro menu, which was impressive.  For appetizers, he had grilled scallops with lentils, and I had lobster stew, which was spectacular.  Next, I had filet of St. Pierre with girolle mushrooms, and he had sweetbreads., both beautifully prepared.  For dessert, I had a religieuse, which is a large cream puff resembling a nun.  It was filled with salted caramel cream, and served with caramel ice cream and dots of chocolate mousse.  He had a souffle of “exotic fruits”.  Mignardises were served after.

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The service was impeccable, and the atmosphere elegant.  With an excellent bottle of Montagne St. Emilion at 32 euros, the total came to 190.

http://www.crouzil.com/fr/

 

 

 

 

Europe 2017 – Part 2 – Normandy

Saturday, September 23

We got an early start this morning and drove to Caen, arriving in time to do a little walking tour before lunch at Bouchon du Vaugueux.

Caen took a severe blow in the Normandy invasion, and the surviving bits of the old town are stitched into modern buildings in a tasteful manner that maintains the original scale and style of the city.

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Bouchon du Vaugueux

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This is a very small and charming place, with warm and caring service.  The many choices are listed on blackboards.  We chose the two-course menu at 25 euros, starting with a chunk of lightly smoked salmon with black caviar and ginger, and foie gras. Next were veal kidneys and steak.  The food is simple but very tasty.  Accompanied by a bottle of Cotes du Rhone, Domaine des Violettes, and coffee, the bill came to 70 euros.

 

http://www.bouchonduvaugueux.com/

After lunch, a quick drive to Bayeux, a lovely town but a bit overrun with tour buses, etc.  The Tapisserie de Bayeux (Bayeux Tapestry), depicting the events leading to the Norman conquest, is a must see.

 

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We also stopped into the Cathedral.

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Saint Robert

Back in Caen, or Saint Contest to be more precise, we checked into the B&B Hotel, no frills but quite comfortable and cheap (43 euros a night), just a few minutes drive from the center of town.  It’s also totally quiet, and the beds are especially comfortable.  We asked for extra pillows, as we always do, and slept very well.

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Dinner was at Le Dauphin, where the specialty is the tripe.

Le Dauphin

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A nondescript hotel dining room, it offers a menu at 30 euros that is quite satisfying.  We began with a presse of chicken, and salmon with small shrimp and avocado.  Next we both had the famous tripe, served in a jus with carrots and potatoes, very good.  Dessert was a pear mousse on a cake base with ice cream.  With a bottle of Beaume de Venise, the total was 88 euros.

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http://www.le-dauphin-normandie.com/165-le-restaurant

Sunday, September 24

Today our plan was to visit Honfleur and Deauville, with stops in a couple of charming towns, Pont l’Eveque and Beuvron en Auge.  We set out in the morning and programmed the GPS, or “Madame”, as we decided to call it (due to her tyrannical insistence on directing us to toll roads, even though we had programmed it to avoid them).  Unfortunately, this meant we had to ignore her and rely on our map and the road signs.

The first stop was Pont l’Eveque, where we stopped to stroll and take some photos.

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Then on to Honfleur, where we walked around the harbor before lunch.

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St. Catherine church

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Bell tower

After checking out several restaurants, all from the Michelin guide, ignoring the hundreds of others which looked like tourist traps, we settled on L’Ecailleur, and it turned out to be a fabulous choice.

L’Ecailleur

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From the 31 euro menu, we chose the oysters and a combination of shrimp and sea snails to start, then had cod on a cream sauce with Middle Eastern spices, ratatouille, and mashed potatoes, and a breast of pintade (Guinea hen) with fried sweet potatoes.  For dessert I had a molten chocolate cake, very intensely chocolatey, with ice cream, and Stanley had an apple crumble.  With a bottle of Cotes de Provence rose and coffees, the bill was 96 euros.

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Service was perfect, and the decor evokes the inside of a yacht.

http://www.lecailleur.fr/

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After lunch, we drove along the very pretty coastal road to Deauville, and not finding a place to park, continued on through as far a Villers sur Mer.  Then, after some further difficulties with Madame, found our way to Beuvron en Auge, passing through some very scenic countryside.

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Back in Caen, we chose Le P’tit B for dinner.  Michelin showed no restaurants in Caen that are open on Sundays, so I had to resort to Tripadvisor, where a poster noted that this restaurant was a cut above the tourist traps that line Rue du Vaugueux.  It turned out to be an excellent choice.

Le P’tit B

The 31 euro three course menu offers many choices.  I started with six oysters, while Stanley had a vichysoisse with crab.  He had a duck breast with cherry sauce while I had skewers of rouget and shrimp, with saffron risotto.  For dessert, another molten chocolate cake, this one less intense but good nonetheless, and a strawberry “tarte” with white chocolate in a white chocolate shell on top of a nut and crumb base.

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With a bottle of Coteaux Bourguignons, the bill was 88 euros.

The atmosphere is charming and service attentive.

http://leptitb.fr/

Monday, September 25

The day started out drizzly, so we visited the Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen in the morning where we encountered that charming French habit of ecclesiastical Muzak.

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Tomb of William the Conqueror

then set out on a scenic trip southward, and as we drove the weather improved, getting sunny on and off during the afternoon.  We passed through some charming old villages, stopping for lunch in Flers, a nondescript town, but one with a restaurant with a Bib Gourmand in Michelin.

Au Bout de la Rue

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We loved our table because we could see directly into the kitchen.  It was fun to watch the cooks at work, and note that it was so spotless and well organized.

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The weekday lunch menus, at 19.50 for 2 courses and 24.50 for three, are a great bargain.  Stanley ordered the three-course, but I was tempted to splurge a bit by ordering the day’s specials a la carte.  I had the ris de veau (sweetbreads) with broccoli (15 euros), pickled red onion and greens in a vinaigrette, and lieu jaune (yellow pollock) with trumpet mushrooms and spinach (18.50).  Stanley started with smoked herring in a “cheesecake” with beets, then had a slow-roasted loin of pork with an orange sauce (utterly superb).  We shared his dessert of raspberry semifreddo with raspberry coulis.

With a wonderfully intense bottle of Madiran, and coffee, the total was 93.20.

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https://www.auboutdelarue.com/

We then made our way back to Caen through more scenic countryside, confounding Madame as much as possible.  For our last night in Caen, dinner was at Villa Eugene, a modern restaurant on the outskirts of the city.

Villa Eugene

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This was another great choice.  The extensive menu is entirely a la carte, and quite reasonably priced.  The decor is someone’s idea of hip, not mine, but it’s nice that the lighting is not harsh like in so many restaurants in France, and there are candles on the tables.  A cordial welcome and nice service are pluses.  The food is French but with some Italian overtones.

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We started with vitello tonnato and croque monsieur of langoustines, then had ris de veau with langoustines, and  filet of Saint Pierre (British name John Dory).  I was thrilled to find Saint Pierre, which is similar in flavor and comparable in price and quality to Dover sole, for only 22 euros.  It was a real treat.  Desserts were le St. HO, a variation on St. Honore cake, cream puffs topped with whipped cream and served on a shortbread, and a white chocolate sphere filled with raspberry sorbet and topped with a hot raspberry sauce that melts the sphere.  As you may have guessed, the cooking here is creative.

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With a bottle of Cotes du Rhone for only 21 euros, the total was 108.50.

http://villa-eugene.fr/

Tuesday, September 26

Heading to Dinan in Brittany (next post coming soon) , we stopped at Mont St. Michel on the way.  I was there thirty-two years ago, but it was Stanley’s first visit and I enjoyed  seeing it again.  I would highly recommend arriving early.  We got there at 10:00 and it was not yet crowded, but when we left around noon the tour buses had arrived and the hordes were swarming up the hill.  I won’t do a detailed description as the photos pretty much tell it all.

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Restoration of the cloister in progress.

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EUROPE 2017 – PART 1 – PARIS

Thursday, September 21

This year’s trip to Europe follows the pattern of our 2016 trip, with two days in Paris at the beginning and three at the end, staying with our friends Ana and Bertrand in La Varenne, and six days of touring in between.  This year our tour will be to Normandy and Brittany, which I will post about as it evolves.

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Quai Winston Churchill, La Varenne-St. Hilaire

Once again, we had a very nice flight on Norwegian, arriving on time. We found a cab driver whose GPS led us faultlessly to 79 Quai Winston Churchill, giving us just enough time to say hi to Ana and Bertrand before hurrying off to lunch at Clown Bar, the very trendy bistro in the trendy 11th Arrondissement.

Clown Bar

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This is one of two restaurants we are trying this time that are run by Japanese-born chefs, and combine Asian influences with French technique.  The food was as fabulous as we had hoped.  We started with three appetizers and then shared one main course (everything is a la carte).  First up was a bowl of calf brains and a plate of tempura sardines with a red pepper cream dipping sauce, both outstanding.  Next was steak tartare, which, though we would have preferred it to have more spice, was nonetheless delicious, and helped by the generous amount of black pepper that I added.  The main course was pigeon, cooked perfectly rare, with the most wonderful potatoes.  We were quite filled, so no dessert, just two coffees.  With a bottle of an interesting wine from the Ardeche, “Le Canon” 2013, the bill came to 114 euros.

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The atmosphere is rather no-frills, with the exception of the gorgeous ceiling and bar.  The servers were very cordial and attentive, really nice people.  This is a fun place.

http://www.clown-bar-paris.com/

After lunch, we headed back to La Varenne, where we first stopped off at the Spanish gourmet shop to buy several bottles of Pedro Ximenez Sherry, then visited with Ana and Bertrand before we all headed off to dinner at Le Radis Beurre in the 13th.  We were excited to return there after the wonderful lunch we had there last year.

Le Radis Beurre

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Once again the food was superb, and Ana and Bertrand were thrilled to try it.  The three-course menu at 35 euros is a steal, and the menu changes daily, though the signature appetizer of pig’s feet seems to always be available.  Bertrand and I started with that, while Stanley and Ana had the pate de campagne.  For the main course, I had beef tongue with mashed potatoes and gaufrettes, and the others had confit of lamb belly with Paimpol beans.  Both dishes were exquisite.  For dessert, Stanley had a poached pear with ice cream and chocolate sauce, while the rest of us had rice pudding with caramel sauce.  With a bottle of Cotes du Roussillon, Les Milleres 2015, the total was 175 euros.

As before, the service was very friendly and professional, and the atmosphere simple but elegant.

http://www.restaurantleradisbeurre.com/fr/index.php

Friday, September 22

Friday morning, after a rather fitful sleep, I took it easy and started writing this post.  Then we headed into Paris again for lunch at Amarante, once again revisiting a favorite from last year’s trip.

Amarante

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Once again, I started with thin-sliced cold veal tongue.  Stanley had foie gras.  Then I had the pintade and he had tripe.  The lunch menu is a great deal at 19 euros.  We had a bottle of Cotes du Rhone, and the total with two coffees was 70 euros.

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http://www.amarante.paris/

After lunch, we went to the Petit Palais to see the special exhibits, one of pastels and the other of the Swedish artist Anders Zorn.  They were well put together and the building is magnificent.

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http://www.petitpalais.paris.fr/en

By then it was late afternoon, so we had just enough time to get back to La Varenne and relax a bit before going back into Paris for dinner at Tomy & Co. in the 7th.  Tomy Gousset was formerly the chef at Pirouette, and opened his own restaurant a year ago.  We didn’t manage to try it then, so it was on our list for this trip.

Tomy & Co.

Photo Sep 22, 9 38 20 PMPhoto Sep 22, 8 48 26 PMPhoto Sep 22, 7 59 04 PMPhoto Sep 22, 8 01 01 PMWe opted for the three course menu at 47 euros (with 6 euro supplements on two of the dishes).  Stanley started with gnocchi with black truffles, a lovely dish, though the truffles did not have the intense flavor of the ones we’ve had in Piemonte (see my post on that from last year).  I began with an interesting variation on tete de veau that was very good.  Our main courses were confit of shoulder of chevreuil (roe deer) topped with foie gras, and duck breast with beets, both delicious.  For dessert we ordered figs with cream sauce, and a Granny Smith apple ice with tapioca.  They brought us an extra dessert, which was a chocolate tart with nuts (this was actually the best of them all).

With a bottle of Cahors at 25 euros, the total was 131 euros.

After dinner, we stopped at Gare de Lyon to pick up the rental car for the trip to Normandy and Brittany, and drove back to La Varenne.  My report on Normandy is coming up next.

 

 

 

The Red Cat – Revisited

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The Red Cat opened in 1999, and Stanley and I tried it sometime not long after.  We liked it, but somehow never felt compelled to return.  So when I received a 30% off deal from Blackboard Eats recently, I thought why not give it another try.  I’m glad we did.  Looking at the menu, I thought it seemed a bit pricey, but the portions were so generous that we could easily have made a dinner out of two appetizers per person or shared a main course.  They also have a nice selection of beers, so ordering a bottle of wine is not necessary.

We started with calamari alla puttanesca and steak tartare.  These were heavenly. For mains, I chose calf’s liver and he had tagliatelle with mushrooms and capers. The liver was a thick slab, which allowed it to be cooked rare, as I prefer it, a nice change from the usual thin-sliced versions.  Though we were quite stuffed, we could not resist the desserts, so we shared the pick me up sundae, which is actually a slight variation on tiramisu, and probably the best take on it that I’ve ever had.

Add to this the cheerful atmosphere and attentive service, and you have a place that deserves many return visits.

 

http://www.theredcat.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Chop-Shop II – Interesting Asian in Flatiron

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Chop-Shop II is the Flatiron branch of Chop-Shop in West Chelsea.  Not having been to the original, I can’t compare them, but we have enjoyed our two meals here very much.  My only complaint is that, as with many Asian restaurants, the food comes out a little too fast. You can easily be in and out in forty-five minutes.

The food is a mixture of Chinese, Thai and other styles.  Dishes are well spiced without being mouth-burning.  We loved the lamb dumplings, chicken lollipops, coconut curry risotto, spare ribs, and flank steak.  Szechuan orange beef  and drunken noodles with shrimp were good but could have been spicier.  I love that they serve Beer Lao.

Service was cordial and attentive.

http://www.chop-shop.co/flatiron/

 

 

 

Hudson Curry House – Hudson, NY

Home

We had another very enjoyable dinner last week at Hudson Curry House.  Having been there several times now, I’ve found it to be consistently tasty, with excellent service every time.

Housed in what was formerly a Wendy’s, in one of the nondescript shopping areas on Fairiew Ave., it doesn’t look very promising, but don’t be put off.  Do be aware they do not have a license to sell alcohol, so you may bring your own beer or wine, which for us is a big plus.  The prices are very low for the quality of the food.  They have a buffet on Wednesday and Friday, but we have not tried it.  I would only order a la carte.

Dishes we have liked best are the two shrimp appetizers, another appetizer listed on the menu as shish kebab that is really seekh kebab (ground meat grilled on a skewer) with onions and peppers, chicken jalfreze, lamb vindaloo, salmon curry, and chicken malai kebab. All dishes come with a generous portion of basmati rice. We always tell them we like the food spicy, and it’s been just right.

http://hudsoncurryhouse.com/

 

Wilderstein, Rhinebeck, NY – Historic House Tour

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Front view

We were in Claverack this past weekend, and on Sunday we decided to head to Rhinebeck for a tour of Wilderstein.  We have visited most of the historic homes in Dutchess and Columbia counties in the last twenty-five years, but somehow never got to this one.  It is a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon.

Wilderstein was built by Thomas Suckley (pronounced Sookley), a descendant of the Beekman and Livingston families, in 1852, as a much more modest Italianate house, then remodeled and greatly enlarged in 1888 in the Queen Anne style, by Thomas’ son Robert.

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Side view

The last occupant of the house, Margaret Suckley, known as Daisy, was a close friend and confidante of Franklin Roosevelt.  Whether there was a romantic involvement has never been confirmed, but she spent a great deal of time with him after he and Eleanor began living separately.  There is a wonderful interview in the introductory video that begins the tour, of Daisy and her sister Elizabeth, when Daisy was ninety-five, four years before her death.

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View of the Hudson from the house

The interior is fascinating in its ornateness, along with the Victorian preference for very dark rooms.  I took these photos of the entrance hall before we were informed that photography was not permitted:

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For more information and visiting hours, visit the website:

http://wilderstein.org/