La Crêperie (Key West, Florida): A Little French on the Island

Ask anyone in Key West about lunch and you’ll likely get the question: “Have you been to the crêpe place?”

Admittedly, this island is not a place I’d think of for crêpes — seafood, yes. (Perhaps even a boozy lunchspot with a view.) Crêpes? Silly as it sounded, it didn’t seem local enough for one of the few meals out I was allowing myself during my month of writing.

After a few weeks of getting this question though, I decided to investigate. So off we went one morning on a jaunt to a little corner in Bahama Village …

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L’Amant: A French-Colonial Homage

The perfect boîte can be an elusive thing.

For me, it has to have several components — a seductive yet comfortable setting, cocktails that are as delicious as they are inventive, and a menu that goes far beyond basic nuts and cheeses, filled instead with snacky dishes that actually excite.

Recently, I found a new little place in New York‘s West Village that checks all those boxes: L’Amant, a French-Vietnamese bistro that opened early September …

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Colonie: Style Over Substance

Saturday night in Brooklyn Heights and the unthinkable finally happened.

Striking up a conversation at the new restaurant Colonie with a group of people who were kitted out with the glaring symbols of current New York hipster-ness — the plaid shirt, the Bear-like beard, the professorial Mad Men-style glasses — we discovered that they were, as suspected, definitely not of the staid stroller-central that is Brooklyn Heights.

No, this group hailed from Williamsburg, home of the impossibly fashion-forward and often sneering of other lesser neighborhoods. Not only that, they had traveled to Brooklyn Heights because they had heard of Colonie and were curious to check it out — quite possibly marking the first time that a restaurant in my neighborhood has garnered the level of buzz to encourage this type of stunning reverse migration.

The anticipation of Colonie’s opening has been palpable for months. For starters, the restaurant smartly began generating chatter about its plans by raising more than $15,000 on Kickstarter last fall to obtain “sexy kitchen appliances, beautiful pendant lamps, and cool tiles for the wall.” By the time the restaurant finally removed the paper shrouding its glass doors in February, locals (and out of towners) began packing its sleek bar stools right away.

Would it live up to the hype? We were keen to find out …

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Buvette: Chicken, Au Courant

It is never easy to lose something you love.

For me, this moment in New York restaurants occurred in late 2009, when the storied Pink Teacup, a soul food spot that had drawn celebrities ranging from Whoopi Goldberg to Mick Jagger (and had the autographed photos plastered on its walls to prove it) suddenly shuttered after 55 years. For years, this sleepy rose-hued cubby hole along slender Grove Street in the West Village was my go-to place on many a weeknight and lazy Sunday afternoon. Strawberry pancakes, smothered pork chops and — in my opinion — the best fried chicken in New York, the Pink Teacup had it all. Astronomical property taxes and rising food costs ultimately sealed its fate, however. (The restaurant has since reopened in a different spot but the scene — massive, clubby and loud — is different and sadly, so is the fried chicken.)

Just over a year later, a new restaurant has shoehorned its way into the old Pink Teacup’s sliver of a space, however, and it could not be more different. Billed as a “gastroteque,” Buvette, by chef Jody Williams (formerly of Morandi and Gottino), is a lot of things its predecessor was not. Packed with a crowd that looks as if it would be completely at home on the set of “Gossip Girl,” the place is French, constantly burbling with loud chatter, downtown chic and anything but homey and comforting.

When chef Simpson suggested we check it out, I was instantly dismissive. Surely, I couldn’t possibly like my old sweetheart’s replacement. Why waste my time?

Curiosity is a powerful thing, however. And soon enough, I found myself reluctantly sliding into a seat at Buvette’s jammed bar …

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Vino Rosina: The New Italian On The Block


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Years ago, I found myself creeping along the quiet streets of a swath near Baltimore's Little Italy, squinting through the darkness as I tried to find Charleston, a restaurant that had been highly recommended.

Even though this roughly eight-block area was flanked by the perennially packed and fratty Fells Point on one side and the touristy Inner Harbor on the other at the time, its streets were still largely undeveloped in the late 1990s. Charleston, a Southern-inflected French restaurant, was an early adopter in the neighborhood and once we'd located it, we were glad we went. The meal was phenomenal and it was thrilling to be at a place that felt like it was on the cusp of something larger.

The husband and I recently returned to Baltimore for a short visit and decided to trek to Charleston to take a look at the place where we'd had one of the first romantic dinners of our courtship. The restaurant, helmed by the talented Cindy Wolf in the kitchen, is still there and hopping but the area around it has since become unrecognizable. Now named Harbor East, the area has sprouted gleaming condiminium, office and hotel buildings and has become as packed with restaurants, cafes and bars as its nearby neighborhoods. (You can check out a piece I wrote for the New York Times Travel section this past weekend on Harbor East here.)

Amid the current hubbub, a new little place caught our eye: Vino Rosina, a modern Italian restaurant in the Bagby Furniture Company Building, a historic red-brick structure that used to be a factory. Outside on the street, we could hear laughter wafting out along with the intoxicating smells of oven-roasted meats. So of course, we decided to step in and give the place a whirl …

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Nutella-Ginger Cookies Only A Mother Could Love


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I have been yearning for butter ever since I saw Julie & Julia a few days ago.

From the first moment that I saw Meryl Streep as Julia Child drop a slab of butter onto a pan, my deep, deep hunger began.

It’s made me request extra pats of garlic butter to perch atop my steak in a French bistro and slather it so generously on bread that you could have omitted the bread and, honestly, I would not have noticed.

But, as Julia supposedly said, “With enough butter, anything is good.”

And it was this very spirit that led me to finally get off my tush and make the Nutella dessert that I had pledged to do when I signed up for The Nutella Challenge. (It’s a little exercise created by Paula at Bell’Alimento in which dozens of amateur bakers have agreed to come up with a dessert starring Nutella.)

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And Now For A Pause


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It always comes to this, a mad race to the finish.

I knew I was in trouble when I found myself slurping up the remnants
of a big bowl of beef ball noodles last week while plotting, mid-bite,
to have a second dinner at Swee Kee, a Hainanese chicken rice joint that’s been drawing crowds for decades.

There’s never enough time when it comes to eating in Singapore. And my last days there before heading back to New York are always filled with crazed eating marathons as I frantically squeeze in that one last bowl of prawn noodles, that one last dish of Hainanese curried squid, all to tide me over until my next trip back.

Inevitably, when I return to New York, there has to be a break.

The palate must be cleansed; the body needs a rest.

This time, I’d come back eager to rev up my stove again after weeks of squatting in my aunties’ kitchens. But, what to make?

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