Monday, December 13, 2010


Life is about detours some days. You start out with the idea of having a lunch party at a good restaurant with 4 bottles of great wine to celebrate the end of one chapter in your life and the beginning of another, but only one friend shows as the others have plans, and then he has to go work-out, so then suddenly you find yourself heading down the highway to find some 'entertainment' in Kentucky, but the place just lost their liquor license, the heat's off and the girls are late. Bummer.

So at least the cigars are good but the Corona sucks and 90 minutes later there is still no show and the audience is getting restless. And the thought of a $100 shower dance in a 55 degree barn is not the original vision of how the day would go when you awoke two hours before sunrise.

So whenever you hit a roadblock, get out the map. You get back on the road and head home to a warm meal with your friends and family, break out the 95 Cos D' Estournel and relax by the fire. And light up one more cigar.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Home Away From Home

The link is to just one of the many Bistros in the neighborhood on Rue Commerce in the 15th near the Eiffel Tower, which is my new home away from home. No, I have never been to the top of the Tower, but everyday I see it when I walk around and even when miles away I can see it, so I can always find my way home as it is a beacon. And the Champs de Mars is a wonderful place to walk around in warm weather with grass and benches and is popular with children, bike riders, tourists and young lovers, I have been told. You can even pick up souvenirs there if you wish. Cincinnati is a great small town but for some reason I am drawn back to Paris and this neighborhood. Not sure if it's the strange currency, the wonderful food, the quirky language or the love of life.

The 15th is not a tourist destination but rather a neighborhood where Parisians live. Except for the Tower and the River and a little statue that looks a lot like the Statue of Liberty, there isn't much to 'see', but if you live there you will find everything you need. Shops for cheese, wine, meats, chocolate, ice cream, hardware, stereos, rugs, milk, bread, and a Farmers Market under the Metro line. And there are at least 4 stations in my neighborhood so you can travel throughout the City in less than 30 minutes for $2. And many places to eat and after 5 trips in one year I have barely scratched the surface for places to dine, but have also had many wonderful meals at home too. Because it is not just a place to visit, it is also a place to live.

Apartments are not cheap but life is rich. The 15th is not one of the 'hot' neighborhoods so there is value here and a history and everything you want, so you don't need to travel far, once you make the short 8 hour flight from CVG to CDG. Then you can relax and start living. And if you need some cream for you coffee or a fresh baguette for breakfast baked fresh that morning, you slide outside, walk two blocks and practice your new language, "Je voudrais une baguette et une tarte aux framboises, SVP." Because I always try to come back with more than what's on the list. It gets noticed. And is appreciated.

Le Cafe du Commerce (not Le Commerce Cafe, which is fine for a quick cafe and breakfast) is a classic, old world Restaurant on three levels with standard food. I don't dine there often, but they will sell you beautiful oysters to-go from Normandy with names like Omaha and Utah Beach, which resonates on a different level for us Americans. They will shuck them for you and give you one to taste as you wait while thinking of the American sacrifices on those beaches 65 years ago. You can taste the brine of the salt water as these oysters were pulled from the cold Channel waters the day before. You taste the ocean and think back 65 years and make a note that you must visit there and see the beaches yourself and give thanks for the bounty. And the sacrifice. It is only a few hours away by the TGV, so you make a promise to go.

So, if you are in the neighborhood, stop in and I will show you around, but my French is weak and I am a newcomer. People have lived here for thousands of years and will no doubt for many more. But I am beginning to learn my way around my new home and I can show you the many sights and sounds and smells and tastes that keep drawing me back here. And fair warning, it will draw you back also.

Why Do You Travel?

I travel like everyone else in that I want to see new places and have new experiences. But more importantly I go to learn and bring that wisdom home.

Little things like how to cook mussels. One day at lunch at L' Avant Comptoir, the tiny wine bar near the Odeon station in Paris, I saw clams served out of a teapot and began chatting up a new ex-pat acquaintance, an Italian married to an American, and he gave me the scoop. "The mussels are better. The trick is to pull them off the heat after 30 seconds of hard steaming. And don't add water."

Well, I went home, bought a teapot, and cheated by adding a splash of wine, some garlic and butter, because everything in life goes better with wine, garlic and butter. I do have an old habit of putting my own spin on everything. And in my experience everything is better with wine, garlic and butter. Think about it. The results were fantastic, so now I have three 'go to' dishes when entertaining, beyond the grilled bone-in Ribeye steak and Texas style Chili.

So I travel to learn and one is never too old to learn a new recipe, or to learn to make a better life, or to have better relationships. On the eve of turning another chapter in my life, I look forward to the next one, and the future is bright. You learn from your mistakes and keep your eyes open to better ways to succeed. And the teapot mussels are proof.

But I still can nail a wine/food pairing. And that's an old trick.