A weekend of wine without the hangover

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When you think of Paris, images of fresh baguettes, cheese and red wine come to mind. And you’re not wrong. There is, however, a more cosmopolitan side to Paris. Every weekend brings the opportunity to discover a new restaurant, a new cuisine, a new concept. This weekend, by complete chance, we dined at not one, but two relatively unknown restaurants offering the promise of beautiful-tasting natural wine, without the added side effect of a hangover the next morning.

Our first stop on the wine tour was Brutos, a French-Brazilian fusion restaurant in the 11th. Brutos has only been open for a month, so we were pleasantly surprised to get a reservation for four on a Friday evening without any problems. We started by sharing some parmesan fritters with some delicious natural white wine to work up an appetite. This was swiftly followed by some tasty beignets de morue and cervelle de veau (sometimes it’s best not to translate before eating).

They serve rare cuts of meat that you won’t find in a traditional brasserie and sothey don’t ask how you would like your meat cooked. Every dish is cooked to perfection, in the best way according to each cut of meat, to bring you the most flavour. My boyfriend and I both went for a slow-cooked lamb shoulder, served with houmous and farofa – a Brazilian fried flour side dish. This was accompanied by a red wine so pale and light, you may be forgiven for thinking we were drinking rosé instead. We finished with a bottle of orange wine (yes, it really does exist!) along with cooked apples served with crumble and dulce de leche.

After spending the next day DIY-ing in my boyfriend’s new apartment, we headed to Merguez & Pastrami around the corner from his place in the 9th. We had spotted the place a few weeks ago, thanks to it’s New-York-esque decor and so we were grateful to grab a spot at the bar on a busy Saturday evening. We started with the restaurant’s namesake of merguez sausages, alongside some veal meatballs served with a spicy dipping sauce and a selection of sesame-seed bagels and challah brioche – a pleasant change from your traditional Parisian bread basket. We both chose a schnitzel-topped tagliatelle dish in a garlic and parsley sauce for our main, washed down with a glass of naturel red wine from the Loire valley.

Natural wine is becoming more and more à la mode in Parisian restaurants and so, despite a higher-than-usual price tag, your head will thank you for it come Sunday. Besides the natural wine selection both of these spots offered, it was something of a rarity to the Parisian eating-out scene that made me want to return to these spots again; the friendly, welcoming and attentive staff. The dining-out experience in Paris can often be spoilt by rude waiting staff that you have to chase just to take your drinks order, something that shocked me when I arrived in this city. Let’s hope that this new “concept” of friendly service is here to stay so we finally feel that we get what we paid for.

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Dreaming of some Southern Sunshine

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OK, I admit it. I kind of cheated on this one. I’ve been dying to write another post, but with a week filled with job interviews and tasks, as well as catching a cold, I haven’t found time to do much stuff besides sleeping; you and me both know that’s not worth a ‘gram. So under a grey sky and snow looming in Paris, I decided to take full advantage of #flashbackfriday to reminisce on my break to southern Italy in November.

Our trip got off to a very stressful start. We made the mistake of taking an Uber Pool to the airport and so arrived just as check-in was closing for our flight. In the run-up to our break, my weather app had promised sunny days and unheard of temperatures for late November. However, as our luck would have it, when we landed in Naples, the rain was pouring down on the city. Trying not to let this dampen our spirits, we headed into the historic centre for some pizza. After believing we were in a disarrayed queue for a good 20 minutes, we realised we had to give the waiter our name for a table. My boyfriend and I were starting to believe we had been cursed with all the bad luck we were having.

This all changed when the food arrived. As we were in the home of the pizza, it would have been rude not to head to Sorbillo – one of the most famed pizzerias in the city. We both chose the speck, mushroom and mozzarella pizza and a glass of red wine. Now, I don’t know what the French had been serving me all these years with mozzarella di bufala as this was out of this world. I’d never tasted anything so good! Feeling much more relaxed than a few hours beforehand, we spent the rest of the day walking around the historic centre of Naples. We were slightly disappointed by Naples as each beautiful building was ruined by scrawls of graffiti. Despite this, we managed to eat ourselves into a food-induced coma with the variety of complimentary apéro snacks and copious amount of pasta on offer in their bars and restaurants.

The next day, as the sun came out, we decided to explore further afield. After grabbing an early lunch (we had learnt our lesson from the day before) with a pizza in one of the oldest pizzerias in Naples, Da Michele, we took a train to Pompeii to visit the ruins of the ancient city engulfed by volcanic ash in the 79 AD eruption of neighbouring Mount Vesuvius. Before visiting, I’d only seen a few photographs of the people who lived here buried in volcanic ash, so I was taken aback by the size of this city, the level of preservation that exists here and the sight of the volcano, looking deceivingly peaceful in the distance.

Earlier in Naples, we had taken a ride with a chatty taxi driver who advised us to visit Sorrento, as he said it was the most beautiful spot in southern Italy. And so, after grabbing some well-deserved gelato, we hopped on another train to see what all the fuss was about.

Our luck had definitely shifted as we arrived on the opening night of their famed Christmas illuminations. Sorrento was a different world – there was an authentic and picturesque feeling to the city, which was the polar opposite of the graffitied streets we’d strolled around in Naples. After we’d worked up an appetite admiring the colourful architecture, we decided on Da Gigino; a cute restaurant hidden in a side street. We started with some parma ham and mozzarella di bufala (of course) followed by the best carbonara I had ever tasted and a mushroom risotto, all finished off with lambrusco, an Italian sparkling red wine. I would return to this romantic spot in a heartbeat, so if you’re in Sorrento, be sure to check this place out.

We had an early afternoon flight back to Paris the following day, so after enjoying breakfast on the rooftop terrace and a cheeky final pizza, we headed to the airport, not wanting to risk a repeat of our taxi fiasco a few days earlier. The surreal view of the volcano in the distance as we were preparing for take-off on the runway was the perfect ending to our weekend exploring the delights of Southern Italy. With this on my mind, I plan to spend the remainder of my Friday planning out our next mini-adventure at the end of the month to Budapest. It’s a hard life I lead, am I right?!

The Fairytale of the Department Store

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Window shopping is my go-to rainy afternoon activity. The world of Parisian department stores is ideal in this respect – filled to the brim with designer items I covet but could never afford, it is the perfect escape from reality.

I remember when I visited New York at the tender age of 17; I was wowed by seeing designer shops with my own eyes, featuring names I’d only even seen in glossy magazines when researching my GCSE Textile coursework. It seemed so fantastic, so fabulous to see these luxurious products in real life, imagining the kind of lifestyle led by the people who had the chance to own such items. I still get this fluttering feeling when I step into one of the many iconic department stores in Paris. It may sound cheesy, but it feels like I’m stepping into a fairytale; glimpsing at another world and the people who inhabit it.

Le Bon Marché in Paris’ chic 7th arrondissement is no exception to this rule. It is considered to be the world’s first department store and so is the pride of Parisians. From the get-go you will be dazzled by bright lights, iconic architecture and some of the most famous names in the fashion business.

After an hour or so of dragging my boyfriend around the luxury departments, we headed across to the world-famous La Grande Epicerie. This spot is a foodie’s fantasy with its selection of gourmet groceries, chefs preparing dishes in front of your eyes and countless aisles of food and drink imported from around the globe. From the wall of (mineral) waters to the endless variety of spices stocked on their shelves, it is a treat for all of your senses. .

Being an Brit living abroad, many people will often ask you what do you miss about the UK? Amongst the Frenchies, the Brits have a renowned reputation for having the worst food, so it is to their surprise that my answer always revolves around something food-related..(and my family of course – sorry Mum!)

Therefore, after hunting down some truffle salt and popping corn to satisfy my craving for some DIY popcorn, I headed to the UK aisle to grab a few essentials. Despite filling my basket with some home-comfort delights, I had to draw the line at paying 3,60€ for a tin of Heinz baked beans. Although it is all too easy for me to get swept away in this dream-like world, nothing will bring you crashing back down to earth like an over-inflated tin of baked beans. Yes, it has been imported from the UK. Yes, you cannot beat a tin of their tomatoey goodness. But no, I just could not justify spending this much on my staple student meal that, had I been in the UK, would have cost me a mere 70p.

Sure, one day when I’m rich and famous I won’t bat an eyelid about popping into Le Bon Marché for my new Chanel clutch, some expensive foundation and a tin of the most expensive beaked beans to reminisce on my student days… For now this remains a pipe-dream, staying well and truly on the shelf.