Thistle (McMinnville, Oregon): The Best of Oregon

There have been many questions since the return to New York following a short book tour and road trip, idyllic and beautiful, along the lush green coast of the Pacific Northwest.

The burning question hasn’t been, “How did your readings go?” Mind you. Rather, the first question that slips out as soon as politely possible is: “OK, where did you eat?”

This being a somewhat book-centric trip — thank you Seattle and Portland for organizing such lovely A Tiger in the Kitchen soirees! — the time for restaurant-hopping wasn’t plenty. Among the several restaurants I did sample, though, one firmly sunk its chompers in me and hasn’t let go: Thistle, a deliciously charming little spot in McMinnville, Oregon, that manages to out-Brooklyn the wave of recent trendy Brooklyn restaurants branding themselves as farm-to-table havens.

After raving like a lunatic about this Oregon restaurant that that serves up amazing hyper-locavore Americana — all made with ingredients from neighboring farms (and a co-owner’s mom’s garden sometimes) — that could put many of its big-city counterparts to shame, I felt a little vindicated yesterday when I learned that The Oregonian had named Thistle its 2011 Restaurant of the Year (in the entire state of Oregon) this week. As soon as the smug joy subsided, however, I needed a Thistle fix.

So, out came the photos and the reverie began…

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Daniel Boulud on Beijing, Lotus Leaves & Duck A La Presse


Daniel Boulud may like the potential of doing business in Beijing, but that doesn’t mean he likes Beijing.

Speaking via Skype to a small audience in Singapore Tuesday night from his home in New York City, where he was just getting his day started, Boulud was surprisingly candid about his thoughts on Beijing for a man who’d recently opened a restaurant in China’s capital. (Maison Boulud à Pékin opened in July, 2008.)

Boulud, who was dialling in to kick off the premiere of a reality TV-style show he’d done for the Asian Food Channel, recalled how he had flown to Singapore from Beijing during his trip last year.

“Coming from Beijing, I tell you, Singapore felt good — Singapore was a little more civilized,” he said, noting that one of the first things he did after getting off the plane was get a haircut. ”I didn’t trust anyone in Beijing to cut my hair.”

Boulud, dressed in his chef’s whites and flanked with a portrait of himself hoisting a glass, then breezed on to close with a nugget, noting that he hoped to open a restaurant in Singapore. (A public relations person for Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Resort & Casino was perched in the audience. Singapore’s first casinos, which are still under construction, have been courting high-end chefs to open in their establishments.)

Such frankness, unfortunately, was a little less apparent in the reality show, “One Night in Singapore — Daniel Boulud,” which chronicled the chef’s first trip to Singapore and his process of putting together a seven-course meal for a group of 50 diners.

The intention to showcase tension is there, of course — the show kicks off with a dramatic voiceover heavy with Discovery Channel gravitas that notes the obstacles Boulud has to overcome to make his dinner a success: “high humidity … a kitchen that is too far removed from the main dining area.” But Boulud is too skilled a chef for much of that to be believable.

Let’s face it, the man could probably toss together a seven-course meal with little problem if he were air-dropped into the middle of a desert and had one hand tied behind his back.

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Paris: A Lunch With A View


For a first-timer in Paris, the Sister had not done badly.

Sure, we hadn’t managed to get into L’Ami Jean or Hidden Kitchen, but the basics had been covered: Berthillon ice-cream, Laduree macarons, cervelas at Brasserie Lipp, a cocktail at the Hemingway Bar.

What was left on the list? Much too much.

Nonetheless, we decided, end with a bang we must. And so we found ourselves packing into a tiny elevator and rocketing into the gray Parisian sky.

The lunch to end our lunches (for now) in Paris would be at a classic — Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower, which, at more than 400 feet above ground level, offered a sweet spot to sip some bubbly and look out onto the city beneath.

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