Parisian Foodventures: My Top 5 Meals!

If you’ve been following me on the ‘gram, then you know that I just got back from an INCREDIBLE weeklong trip to Paris with my little family–yes, including the baby in tow! Most people thought we were absolutely bonkers to travel to Europe with a newborn who’s not even three months old, but it was so, so worth it. It was a LOT of work, but also tons and tons of fun. I’ll do another post on tips for traveling with an infant in Paris, so stay tuned ūüôā

For this post though, I want to focus entirely on FOOD. We spent seven nights in Paris staying in the trendy Le Marais neighborhood, and it was so wonderful staying put in one place. Pre-baby, our international trips always consisted of multiple cities with jam-packed itineraries and daily restaurant reservations. This time around, traveling with a baby forced us to slooow down, space out our sight-seeing, and leave lots of room for spontaneous breaks at those darling French cafes people-watching for hours. Yes, it was as delightful as it sounds.

We made a few restaurant reservations ahead of time (a must for most Parisian restaurants!), and made sure to mention that we were with a newborn baby who would be in her carseat sleeping. Because she’s so young, we were able to get away with a few tasting menus, but still opted for more casual vs. stuffy/fancy restaurants. That’s more our style anyway! We had an amazing mix of meals during our stay in Paris – from modern French tasting menus, to delicious North African cuisine, to mouthwatering Italian food, and of course those fantastic pastries. I don’t think there was a single meal that I didn’t enjoy, but here are my top five FAVORITE meals that we enjoyed during our time in Paris.

*Disclaimer: There are obviously a zillion other restaurants in Paris, and we selected places that were convenient for us to visit with a newborn baby, but hopefully this is still helpful in your trip planning! Oh, and tip for eating out in Paris with a baby–make an early reservation (most places open at 7 or 7:30 pm) so that you can get in and out before it gets too busy. Some places might get cranky if you show up with a carseat + stroller (mostly because Parisian restaurants are tiny), but we were so pleasantly surprised with how friendly and accommodating each of the below places were.¬†

1. LA BOURSE ET LA VIE
http://www.labourselavie.com/en/  

My carnivorous hubby was obviously on the hunt for the best steak-frites in Paris, which is how we ended up at La Bourse et La Vie, a modern (and slightly Americanized) take on a traditional French bistro. With super minimalistic decor, and an uber-cool wait staff, we were in for a stellar meal. I’m so glad we found this place, because I’m still dreaming about that¬†incredible¬†rare steak au poivre with thick, crispy potatoes cooked to perfection. We split one steak, which was probably for the best, but I kiiiinda wish I devoured one on my own. So. good.

2. LES ENFANTS ROUGES
https://www.les-enfants-rouges.fr/ 

Les Enfants Rouges was probably THE most convenient restaurant we went to in Paris, because it was located right next to our Airbnb. It was also just an incredible meal. A tiny restaurant located in a side street of Le Marais with a Japanese chef, Les Enfants Rouges was exactly the type of modern inventive French food we were craving for our very first dinner in Paris. We opted for the six-course tasting menu, and our super sweet waitress who had just moved to Paris from Tokyo (and was juggling three different languages) happily described each of our dishes in English. French, with a touch of Asian influence. Our favorite dishes included a beautiful beef & mushroom dish and a mouthwatering molten chocolate dessert with pistachio ice cream.

3. COME A CASA
http://comeacasa7.tumblr.com/

It’s tough competition, but this might have been my favorite meal of all, just because the restaurant was SO ME. I live for tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that make you feel like you’re inside someone’s living room, and that’s exactly what Come a Casa is. It’s a tiny place in a very residential neighborhood owned by an Italian couple that changes the menu daily. Oh, and there’s only like three things on the menu. And everything is simple, fresh, and exquisitely delicious. We sat outside, drank lots of wine, and ate to our heart’s content. Big thanks to my friend Kat (a former Parisian) who recommended this very special place to us!

 

4. EAST MAMMA
https://www.bigmammagroup.com/fr/trattorias/east-mamma 

We were severely depressed on our last night in Paris and had no idea where to go. We wanted to go someplace casual, and I was craving another Italian meal because well, what’s new. I always want Italian. Kat had told me to visit one of the restaurants from the popular ‘Big Mamma’ restaurants so I mapped out whichever one was closest to our Airbnb. So that’s how we ended up waiting in line for East Mamma to open its doors at 7 pm on a Saturday night. Pretty much everyone in the line was speaking in French, which is how I knew we were in for an amazing meal. And boy, did it deliver. We were quickly seated outside, ordered the truffle pasta and a truffle pizza, and…died and went to heaven. To top it off, we polished off a pistachio creme brulee that might have been even better than a Pierre Herme macaron. And that’s saying a LOT.

5. SEMILLA
https://www.semillaparis.com/en 

Semilla is one of those trendy Parisian restaurants that just oozes French sophistication. The local patrons there are impeccably dressed, and the waitresses are just-friendly-enough to still be cool. When we asked for the tasting menu, they warned us that our baby might not last the two and a half hours (…their polite way of saying, please eat quickly) but I’m glad we insisted on it anyway. And our little one thankfully slept through the entire dinner! I loved my meal here–it felt more clean and refined than the modern French cuisine at Les Enfants Rouges, but perhaps with a little less heart. I’d still recommend Semilla for the overall ambience and really, really good food. The sole fish with tons and tons of butter was DIVINE.

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Baby’s First Vacation: Portland, ME & Boston

Will time. please. SLOW. down?! I cannot believe that my baby girl is almost three months and that I only have¬†two¬†more weeks of maternity leave left. Cue tears now. I know it sounds cliched, but the past two and a half months have been the most challenging, yet gratifying and beautiful moments of my life. Time is SO relative – when I think about how long I’ve been away from work, my job feels like a distant memory, but when I think about how much time I’ve spent with the little one, it feels like a mere second. There are so many little projects I hoped to accomplish during maternity leave – baby photo books, finally getting my wedding albums together, blogging about motherhood…but of course none of it happened in the midst of all the newborn baby tantrums, diaper changes, and cuddle time.

One thing that my husband and I did prioritize during this time was travel! Everyone told us that the younger the baby, the easier it is to take them on a plane so we made sure to squeeze in at least two vacations during my maternity leave. We spent a week up in New England, road tripping from Boston up to Portland, Maine, and I’m shocked by how easy it was traveling with our baby! She was a little over two months at the time, so she slept like a champ. Slept through flights, car rides, and even fancy dinners. We’re headed to Europe this weekend (!), so will have to revert back with how that longer international journey goes…

Anyways, I wanted to share some of the delicious meals that we enjoyed in Portland. I was super excited to check out this little town by the water because of its reputation as a foodie paradise. It was the perfect little getaway from Boston for three days. Even though it was still fairly cold in mid-April, we had a great time bundling up the baby and walking through the little cobblestoned streets and enjoying some really fantastic food. The weather probably worked in our favor, because it wasn’t as crowded and touristy as I imagine it is during the summer months. The best part about our stay was that all these great restaurants were concentrated within just a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel (Portland Harbor Hotel) in the Old Port District. Made our lives so much easier with the little one!

Fore Street
http://www.forestreet.biz/

Maine is known for its farm-to-table restaurants, and Fore Street is the very original one that put Portland on the culinary map. I loved the ambience at this super rustic and romantic restaurant with a wood-burning oven in an open kitchen. So cozy! And the meal did not disappoint…a tagliatelle with fresh pesto appetizer, a cold seafood platter, fried shad roe (not pictured, but actually a Bengali delicacy as well!), and some of the best chicken I’ve ever had. Everything was very simply, but elegantly prepared with the freshest of ingredients. YUM!

Eventide Oyster Co.
http://www.eventideoysterco.com/

Literally everyone we spoke to said we HAD to visit Eventide Oyster Co. for the best lobster roll of their lives. And they were right. This was hands down our favorite meal of the trip! Since Eventide doesn’t take reservations, we were lucky to snag a communal table right away since it was off-season and on a weekday. We ordered their famous brown butter lobster roll (unique because it’s on a bao instead of a traditional roll), a fried oyster bun (just as good as the lobster roll!), chowder, and oysters on oysters on oysters. Amazing.

Js Oyster
http://jsoysterportland.com/menu/

Js is the type of place you’d see featured on Anthony Bourdain – grungy & dark with friendly locals with strong accents chatting up the dinner patrons. This wasn’t my favorite meal, but we did enjoy our lobster dinner with steamed clams, which is something neither of us had tried before! And the view by the water was beautiful.

Duckfat
http://duckfat.com/ 

Duckfat is another lunch spot that came highly recommended to us from literally everyone we inquired. It was nice to take a break from seafood on our last day in Portland before driving back to Boston. Duckfat’s a tiny little sandwich shop that’s known for their Belgian-style fries fried in duck fat. The fries, with truffle ketchup and Thai chili mayo, were INCREDIBLE and I could’ve had an entire meal of just those fries. We DEVOURED them, which is why I forgot to get a picture. Oops. For sandwiches, we split the Overnight Duck Confit and House Smoked Brisket. Heavy, but delicious. A great way to end the trip!

A New Chapter!

Looking back at my blog, I can’t believe that my last post was nearly a year ago. SO much has happened since then, and I’ve been furiously documenting every second of the past very eventful 9+ months through pretty much every medium¬†except¬†for this blog. I started a new corporate job last June, leaving the agency world behind after six years, but more importantly–I gave BIRTH to a healthy, beautiful baby girl on February 15, 2018!¬†Our lives are forever changed and we could not be more excited to welcome our little Nainika Rani Gupta with endless cuddles and kisses into the world and our little family.

So while my focus has changed for a bit from whipping up recipes to surviving the newborn parenting life, I plan to get back to blogging very, very soon. I hope you’ll forgive my irregular and erratic posts, but I started this blog as a fun, creative outlet and never wanted it to feel like a chore. So follow along in my journey (or not) as I navigate my new norm while remaining true to my passion for food, cooking, and travel. And perhaps some new baby-related interests along the way ūüôā If you have any post suggestions, or topics you’d love to see me discuss here, leave a comment!

Quick & Easy Salmon Zoodle Bowls

I’ve been on a health kick recently, but with all my recent travels and the start of wedding season, it’s been tough to stick to a steady routine and diet. So many decadent distractions everywhere! That’s why I love super simple recipes that are easy to whip up in the kitchen, but still good for you. Salmon is my go-to protein for weeknight dinners, and I’ve recently been pairing it with a little bit of pesto, garlic, tomatoes and zucchini noodles. So light, refreshing, and packed with a ton of flavor.

Here’s my recipe for Salmon Zoodle Bowls – everything you dreamed of for those busy weeknights. What are some of your tips and tricks for eating healthy with a busy schedule? I’d love to hear from you!

When you’re off your blogging game and Instagram Story is the best picture you have…

Ingredients (serves 2) 

1.5 tbsp olive oil
4 zucchinis – washed, peeled and spiralized into noodles
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 cloves of garlic, diced
2 small salmon fillets, cut into three pieces each and marinaded in a little bit of olive oil, s&p and the diced garlic
1/2 a tomato, diced
2-3 tsp of pesto, depending on your taste
Grated parmesan cheese

Recipe

First, prep your zoodles. Lightly fry the spiralized zucchini noodles in 1 tbsp olive oil and garnish with salt & pepper and any other spices to your liking. I usually add some onion powder and parsley flakes, but you can also add red chilli flakes for an added kick. This should only take a few minutes – avoid frying for too long, or the zoodles will become mushy and let out moisture. Keep em’ crispy! Once this is done, arrange the zoodles in a bowl.

Next up,¬†take your salmon pieces (already marinaded in olive oil, s&p and garlic) and lightly pan-fry them for a few minutes on each side in half a¬†tbsp of olive oil. As you’re frying them, drop in the diced tomatoes and add pesto over the salmon pieces. Stir this mixture so that the pesto combines with the tomatoes and coats the salmon. Cover until the salmon pieces are completely cooked (this should taken around 5-10 minutes longer depending how thick the salmon pieces are).

Spoon the salmon, pesto and tomato mixture over your zoodles. Garnish with fresh parmesan cheese, freshly cracked pepper and a little more pesto if you please. Enjoy! Guilt-free and delicious.

Southeast Asian Adventures II: Angkor Wat

If you haven’t read part I of my Southeast Asian adventures post, make sure to check it out here first.

Part II: 

Our whole trip to Southeast Asia was such a surreal and incredible adventure, I’m still not over it. My only regret is not spending more time in Cambodia, which in a mere 24 hours, completely stole (and broke) our hearts. There is so much to say about the strength and grit of the Cambodians, and I’d really love to spend a longer time learning more about this beautiful and resilient country. While things in the United States were sort of unraveling while we were away, being in Cambodia gave us a lot of perspective and taught us so much about acceptance, diversity, and generosity of heart.

Even though we weren’t in Cambodia for long, I’m so very glad that we got to spend a day at the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor, beginning at sunrise. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, with Hindu and Buddhist influences. The various temples in the complex have been damaged and deteriorated over the years, but you can still get a¬†sense of the incredible art and architecture. Some parts of the temple have literally been taken over by trees and plant overgrowth, and somehow this intersection of nature & religion just makes Angkor Wat even more magical. Here are just a few of my favorite pictures.

Angkor Wat at sunrise. Even though we didn’t get the clearest sunrise, there was something so spiritual about marching into the complex along with hundreds¬†of other tourists vying for the best sunrise spot. We weren’t alone by any means, but I’ve never felt so serene and at peace.

 

Tales of daily life on temple walls


The Bayon temple, with morning light shining on the spectacular faces of past kings, was my absolute favorite. Unbelievably beautiful. 

The Tomb Raider temples! Nature crawling its way through temple ruins. 

Thank you, Cambodia. We’ll be back!¬†

Southeast Asian Adventures: Thailand

Thailand & Angkor Wat in Cambodia have been on my bucket list for¬†years¬†now. I spent a good chunk of my adolescent years growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia and did an internship during college in Kuala Lumpur. I’m completely obsessed with Southeast Asian culture – the food, the rich history, the people, the weather, the¬†energy¬†is just all so ridiculously amazing. I’ve been blessed to live in many cities around the world – eight to be exact – and nowhere else in the world have I met such genuinely warm, hospitable, loving and generous people. Southeast Asia is just mesmerizing, and I’ve been dying to explore more of it.

I finally had the chance to experience Thailand & Cambodia last month and I’m so happy that my trip reaffirmed my love for the region. I was worried that Thailand would be too touristy and¬†overrun by Full Moon party-seeking backpackers, but it truly did not disappoint. Sure, there are parts of Thailand that can be crazy touristy,¬†but there are so many different experiences that you can choose to have in this diverse country. We began our trip in bustling Bangkok (which for some reason gets a bad rep for being too busy and overwhelming, but I loved it); continued onwards to the lush, beautiful, boho-chic Chiang Mai; spent three days soaking up the sea and sunshine¬†in Krabi; and ended our trip taking in the unbelievably magical Angkor temples of Siem Reap.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the Thailand leg of the trip РAngkor Wat will have its own post soon!

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Sunset over magnificent Bangkok from Lebua at State Tower (of Hangover 2 fame) – definitely one of the most luxurious hotels I’ve ever stayed at! Beautiful balconies and views.¬†

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Day 1: Exploring Bangkok’s Chatuchak (weekend) market which was such a fun experience. We spent hours walking around the different souvenir, food, and clothing stalls, completely mesmerized by all the beautiful antiques and souvenirs. We had to buy an extra suitcase¬†for all the souvenirs we bought home!

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The Grand Palace Рa must see when in Bangkok. It was hot and incredibly crowded, but beautiful nonetheless. 

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Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha

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We stayed at the Khum Phaya Resort & Spa in Chiang Mai, which was a bit far from the old city and the tourist attractions but such a gorgeous sanctuary. I mean, just look at all that greenery. This was our breakfast view for four days straight. HEAVEN! 

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One of our most memorable experiences in Chiang Mai was a cooking class, where we made a delicious assortment of fresh Thai dishes. It was so much fun grinding up all the spices and making all the food from scratch!

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Another experience I will never forget: playing with elephants at Chai Lai Orchid, an elephant sanctuary that also serves as a social business with a mission to serve women at risk of human trafficking. A one-day trip included a three hour hike (more like a leisurely walk) through the jungle, bamboo rafting, feeding elephants, riding elephants bareback, and bathing a baby elephant in the river. Yes, it was as fun and surreal as it sounds. I was squealing the entire time. 

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Such a precious moment! 

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Meeting the grandmama of the sanctuary ‚̧ She was so sweet and gentle.¬†

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If you’re too scared to try street food in Thailand, you’re seriously missing out. We only had one ‘nice’ sit down meal on our whole trip, because we were determined to eat our way through all of Thailand’s amazing night markets and street food. They say the cheaper the food in Thailand, the more delicious and we found that to be so, so true! One of our FAVORITE meals was Anthony Bourdain-approved khao kha moo (pork leg & rice) from ‘The Cowgirl’ stand in Chiang Mai. We ordered two small plates¬†first, which we devoured within seconds, and promptly ordered another large plate to share. YUM. Chicagoans, make sure to check out JJ Thai Street Food for a pretty solid version of khao kha moo.¬†

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Another favorite meal – khao soi from Khao Soi Khun Yai. Spicy & flavorful, we INHALED these little bowls of happiness.

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Ahhh, Krabi. Truly PARADISE. We stayed at the gorgeous Amari Vogue resort on Tubkaek Beach, which was so serene and utterly beautiful. The Andaman Sea is so still and warm as bathwater. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Every morning, we would venture out to Ao Nang to get our fill of local seafood – the best places to eat were the little halal street stalls with amazing chili crab, coconut shrimp curry, crab fried rice, garlic squid, and more. So delicious.¬†

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Venturing out on a snorkeling trip to the Hong islands. 

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Crystal clear perfection. 

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More snorkeling views on Hong Island.

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Quite possibly my favorite picture of my entire trip. They say that sunsets on Tubkaek Beach are pure magic. They weren’t wrong.¬†

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My husband and I had a moment of immense gratitude during this sunset. Hope to be back here with our kids some day. 

Authentic Thai Green Curry – straight from Chiang Mai!

Even though we’re in the thick of winter here in Chicago, my mind is still in beautiful Thailand. My husband and I recently got back from an incredible adventure to Thailand & Cambodia (blog post coming soon) and my heart still aches¬†for the beautiful people, culture, and FOOD of Southeast Asia. It continues to be my absolute favorite part of the world.

One of our favorite memories of the trip¬†was a half-day cooking class in Chiang Mai through Zabb-E-Lee¬†Cooking School. We had such a great time exploring Thai markets, picking up fresh ingredients (still can’t get over the fragrance of kaffir lime), and then spending a few hours in a gorgeous outdoor, bohemian-style kitchen whipping up over six dishes. Such a delightful experience for a couple who loves to cook together.

I’m excited to share the recipe from our culinary adventures¬†for Zabb-E-Lee’s chicken green curry. It was absolutely delicious and SO easy to make (well, once all the spices were ground up). I made it once at home too with store-bought green curry paste, and it was still pretty damn good. Obviously not as fragrant and fresh as the Chiang Mai version, but still a great recipe to quickly whip up when you’re craving some curry. Got my hubby hooked on Thai food now. Enjoy!

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Starting off the day picking fresh ingredients from the market with our awesome instructor

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Literally the cutest space for our cooking class. So boho chic! 

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So proud of our culinary creations!

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Silky smooth green curry. Nothing like that fresh taste of coconut cream and kaffir lime. 

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My version at home Рmore veggies, low fat coconut milk, and store bought green curry paste. Sorry for the poor picture quality Рalas, not much natural lighting in Chicago right now. Still delicious, and SO easy to make! 

Thai Green Chicken Curry (recipe adapted from Zabb-E-Lee Cooking School)

Ingredients (serves 3-4) 

2 tbsp canola oil
6 chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 can coconut cream (highly recommend the Aroy-D brand)
1.5 tbsp green curry paste* (I used the Thai Kitchen brand, but see below for the recipe to make this from scratch)
1 eggplant, cut into squares
1 zucchini, cut into squares
Handful of green beans (per your liking)
2 tbsp sweet basil
3 leaves kaffir lime leaf, torn in half
1 tbsp pea eggplant (optional – I didn’t use this)
2 red chilis, sliced diagonally
2 tsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce

Recipe

Let the oil heat on a wok or non-stick pan on medium high. Stir the green curry paste for a few minutes until fragrant and the oil surfaces. Add the chicken thighs and stir until fully cooked. Gradually add the coconut milk and add in the eggplant, zucchini, and green beans. Cover and let simmer. When the veggies are cooked, add palm sugar, fish sauce, sweet basil, kaffir lime, and red chilis. THAT’S IT – you’re done! Enjoy with rice or noodles.

*Green Curry Paste¬†(from Zabb-E-Lee’s cookbook)

Ingredients

10 fresh green chilies, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp galangal finely chopped
1 tbsp lemongrass, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 shallots, sliced
1 tsp kaffir lime ride, finely sliced
1 tbsp coriander roots, chopped
1 tsp fresh turmeric or turmeric powder
1 tsp shrimp paste (this is the secret sauce!)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp roasted coriander seeds
1/2 tsp roasted cumin
1 tsp ginger

Directions

Combine coriander seeds, cumin, black pepper in a mortar, pound well. Add chilies and salt to the mixture and continue pounding. Add remaining ingredients (except for the shrimp paste) and pound again. After everything is smooth, add the shrimp paste and continue pounding until the mixture is a smooth paste.