Eating With: Master Chef Jean-Yves

Over time Paris has grown to be one of my favorite cities. I love everything about it; the culture, the architecture, the nightlife, but most of all, the food! I can't help going back for more. However the challenge that comes with frequenting a city over and over is finding new adventures to explore and keep it interesting. 

Well on my last trip I was browsing the net for good eats and suddenly found myself on the EatWith website... This is a great site that connects you with local Chefs in different cities who invite you to purchase a private dining experience in their homes. I saw an event hosted by Master Chef winner Jean-Yves who does an amazing French/Asian gastronomic fusion and my mind was instantly made up. I knew I was in for an awesome foodie adventure! 

I arrived at the disclosed location promptly at 8pm with an empty stomach and a world of excitement. My first impression of Jean-Yves was a very friendly and welcoming one. (Though I can't imagine anything less from someone that runs this kind of experience) Feeling very much at ease, I entered his home and formally met him and his Sous Chef David, who was also a stand up guy. 

I was escorted into the dining room where I met the only other guest at the time, Ben from the U.K. We jumped into conversation like we were old buddies and swapped stories of food and travel as we waited for the rest of the guests to arrive. Shortly after that a local Parisian and his father, another lone traveler from Amsterdam and a fun couple from Chicago joined the table. It was a great group of well-travelled foodies and I knew right away this was going to be an epic night. 

The dinner started with a brief introduction from our host, accompanied by a glass of delicious champagne garnished with fresh cranberries. He gave us a little background on his career and hosting style, and told us what to expect from the night. With this we were ready to start our meal!

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The first course out was the Madame Butterfly Rolls. A lemongrass grilled chicken wrapped in rice paper and garnished with cucumber, mint and a delicious sweet and spicy sauce. As it came out, Jean-Yves took the time to explain what it was and how to eat it. The roll was first, then the cucumber and mint together to cleanse your palate, followed by a lettuce boat of delicious sauce for an extra kick of flavor. We were off to a great start. 

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The next course out was the Imperial Ravioles, served with prawns and mushrooms in a sabayon sauce. Again, Jean-Yves broke down the dish by teaching us the difference between ravioli and ravioles. Then he explained the sauce ingredients and told us the history behind the French flower garnish. Another great dish and I could tell by the progression in flavor that he would be taking our palates on a very welcomed roller coaster ride.

The next and main course was one of my favorites! A duck breast Rossini grilled with foie gras, a sweet potato mousseline cream and zucchini cake with a fresh seasoned yellow pepper garnish. He topped it all off with a homemade crunchy cheese cracker and mmm mmm mmm! Not sure how many times I can tap the "like" button on this one, but let's just say my thumbs would go numb! The flavor was impeccable, the duck was cooked perfectly and the crunch of the cracker helped to balance all the textures in the dish. It was simply amazing and my favorite of the night. 

That was until dessert was served. I don't have the biggest sweet tooth these days but I can always appreciate a great dessert. Especially when you're in Paris, eating with a renowned chef who specializes in gourmet macaroons. Umm, need I say more? The softest most delicious raspberry and passion fruit macaroon with a melon ganache, cornflake gold dusted chocolate ball and lychee pearl. Like, what?! I literally had to stop myself from licking the plate. Well-done sir... Well done. 

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Just to recap: The food was divine, we had wine pairings with each course and Jean-Yves was very cool with me invading his kitchen for behind the scenes photos. Now I've been lucky enough to have some amazing food experiences in Paris and around the world, and I'm no stranger to good food; but this was that and so much more. It was a curated night of memorable experiences. As good as the food was, what I loved even more was sharing a table with a group of traveling foodies and chefs that spoke my language. Swapping stories and sharing laughs made it feel a lot like family, and to me food and family go hand in hand. I highly recommend exploring this and other experiences that EatWith has to offer. It won't be my last, that's for sure!

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Gustav Von Aschenbach: A new line by Robert Geller

This season a designer we know and love decided to introduce something new to the world. Robert Geller unveiled his new line entitled, Gustav Von Aschenbach.  Personally I think it’s kind of a mouth full of a name for a clothing line, but Robert said he named it after a character from one of his favorite childhood books, so I suppose it includes a level of nostalgia for him.

Regardless of the name, it’s the clothes that stand out here. Pretty different from his namesake line, this one has a more casual, baggy silhouette. I think the goal was to produce something that was a little more diverse and ready to wear. It’s also priced significantly lower than his other line, making it a bit more accessible to the public.

The presentation itself was what really got my attention though. Starting with the casting- we all know that diversity hasn’t always been embraced in fashion, but lately I’ve been noticing a lot of designers casting more diverse and interesting young models in their shows. At this particular show, Geller’s choice to cast all black models brought a smile to my face. It’s not something you see often especially when the designer isn’t a person of color. I’m not sure if the choice was made to make the clothes look more urban and cool, but in all honesty I don’t care. I’m just happy to see more of these young models getting booked.

Aside from the cool casting choice, the set was interesting to me as well. Each model was placed in front of a solid color door. Each door matching the color of their garment and representing one of five colors that made up the palette for the whole collection. Overall I thought the presentation was clean and cool. I didn’t love all the color choices, but I think there were some pieces in there for everyone. I’m looking forward to seeing where this new line goes for Geller and if it will match the success that we all know he is capable of.

Finding Christmas Spirit in NYC!

The holidays are a magical time of year in the city that never sleeps. From decorated storefronts to massive art installations, there are plenty of visuals to help spread the holiday cheer in New York City. Whether your thing is to watch a Christmas show or grab the best hot chocolate in the city, there is literally something for everyone. I have some routine sites that I make it a point to visit every year to help me find my holiday cheer and I’d love it if you all tagged along this year! 

5. Gingerbread House Boulevard in Madison Square Park: I love going to see these life size edible treats. A newer installation in the city but fun for the whole family! 

4. Bryant Park skating rink: I love this rink because it’s centrally located in midtown Manhattan and despite being closer to Time Square, it’s usually a bit less crowded than it’s Rockefeller Center counterpart. Go to skate, or just sit at the café and enjoy a winter cocktail! 

3. A stroll up Avenue of the Americas: I always enjoy the walk up 6th between 47th and 50th street because they put up giant Christmas installations at this time of year. It’s the same art every year, but that just makes it a bit more nostalgic to me. My walk ends at Radio City Music Hall where you can feel the energy from the Christmas Spectacular show radiating from the building all season long!

2. Rockefeller Center: I always end my Christmas walk at Rockefeller Center. It’s not Christmas until you stop to see the famous Christmas tree at the Rock! Beautifully decorated every year, this tree serves as the community tree for those who may or may not have one at home. A big piece of Christmas cheer for everyone to enjoy and a prime photo opt for anyone looking to add some Xmas spirit to their Instagram feed! 

1. A little cup of heaven from Jacques Torres: My last stop is not about an attraction but a treat! I always end my Christmas tour with one of the best cups of hot chocolate I’ve had to date from Jacques Torres Chocolatier. If you haven’t had it before, do yourself and your taste buds a favor and get there, stat! The hot cocoa and chocolate chip cookies are to die for here and I guarantee by the time you finish one you’ll feel the full potential of your Christmas cheer! 

Tallinn, Estonia: Culture Shock and Sun all day!

I didn’t know what to expect when my job asked me to fly to Estonia. I learned that Estonia was the startup capitol of the world and that it was somewhere in the Baltics, but aside from that I knew nothing about the place. Always open to new travel, I learned a hand full of Estonian words and got ready for my trip.

I felt eyes on me as soon as I walked off the plane. Being a man of color is something that immediately sticks out there as there aren’t too many of us in the country. In fact throughout my whole stay, I noticed the innocent stare of children and got a lot of odd celebrity like attention while out at the local bars and clubs. It was never in a negative way, but more from a place of intrigue.

Aside from sticking out like a soar thumb, I have to say that my experience was a very pleasant one. Everyone was incredibly nice and accommodating and there were lots of fun things to do. I stayed in the heart of the Old Town in Tallinn, which was absolutely beautiful. With a sort of mid-evil theme to the architecture, it boasted of a town filled with history.  However this wasn’t some boring historic landmark of a town. With great food and a nightlife scene complete with fashion shows, rooftop lounges and lots and lots of beautiful people, there definitely wasn’t a dull moment.  Tallinn may not have been at the top of my list of places to visit, but I’m glad I got the chance to see it and I would totally go back again! 

Monticello, NY: A Weekend Retreat to Remember!

Looking for a quick winter weekend getaway from New York City? Gather a handful of friends and head upstate to Monticello, NY! This cute little town in the Catskill region is an oasis for anyone that doesn't mind a little snow tagging along their trip. Book your stay with Red Cottage Inc. to make the experience that much more unforgettable! 

I recently made the weekend trip with a few friends and it was a bonding experience like none other. From snowy hikes through the woods to cooking all of our meals and everything in between! We played games, soaked in the hot tub and got to know each other that much better!

I'd suggest this as a weekend run for anyone looking to strengthen the bonds amongst friends or lovers. It was a quiet weekend with a great group of people that I would gladly do again before the season ends; and Red Cottage Inc. gets two thumbs up for providing a great atmosphere for that magical weekend!  

Restaurant Laurent, Paris, France: Fine dining the French Way!

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It’s no secret that the French know how to eat, and we all know Paris is known for its amazing culinary scene. I recently got to experience some of the best food Paris has to offer and believe me when I say the experience was life changing. I’m talking about The Restaurant Laurent. A gem of an establishment tucked away in the gardens of the ever-popular Champs-Elysées.

I was happy enough knowing where we were going that night so you can imagine how much wider my smile got when we walked past the main entrance to a back door that led straight to the kitchen. A friend of mine is good friends with the head chef, Alain Pégouret and let me tell you, it paid off. 

The service was impeccable. 12 courses of edible artwork and the visual of these artists cooking up a storm in front of you. I was speechless. My palette has never been so affected, so alive or so intrigued. I absolutely loved every minute of it. I didn’t stop there though. As a true foodie and ambassador for foodie establishments, I took a walk around this venue to get a sense for the whole experience and there was no disappointment. The staff was friendly, the décor was beautiful and the food was incomparable. This is worth the stop and money for any seeker of fine dining in the city of lights. I'll let the images from that night speak for themselves...