Monaco and the French Riviera

Welcome to Monaco

Welcome to Monaco!

I’m really grateful to have friends who are spread out across the globe, which gives a unique chance to visit places in the eyes of a local. While I was in Italy, I took a weekend trip to Monaco to visit one of my closest friends, Christophe.

Petit Farcis and Socca in Nice

Petit Farcis and Socca in Nice

Christophe took me to Nice, where we strolled the Avenue des Anglais and admired the gorgeous beachside. We wandered through the alleyways of Old Nice and grabbed a quick bite at Lou Pilha Leva (10 rue du Collet). Lou Pilha Leva is a super casual restaurant where you just walk up to the counter, order and eat at the communal outdoor tables. This small place serves local specialities, petit farcis and socca. Petit farcis is basically stuffed vegetables and socca is a chickpea pancake. In Italy, they also make socca at a lot of pizza restaurants, but it’s called farinata (a good option for gluten-intolerant eaters).

Eze Garden

Èze Garden

Loved these statues in the Eze garden

Loved these statues in the Èze garden

Not far from Nice is the city of Èze. Èze is a medieval city on top of small hill. For a few euros, you can enter the Jardin botanique d’Èze where you can admire the gorgeous panoramic views (and the cactus and succulents garden). Apparently, the garden used to be a favorite destination for Walt Disney.

Monaco Open Air Cinema

Monaco Open Air Cinema

By far, one of the coolest experiences of my life was going to the movies at the Monaco Open Air Cinema (Ave de la Quarantaine). In San Francisco, when they talk about outdoor movies in the summer, it’s normally a classic movie that is open to the public and you just create your own make-shift picnic and watch. When Christophe suggested going to the Open Air Cinema, that was my initial expectation.

Watching Inside Out in Monaco

Watching Inside Out in Monaco

It is SO much cooler than San Francisco park movies. Open Air Cinema, which is only available in the summer, always plays current blockbuster hits in English (with French subtitles). When you arrive, your ticket price is dependent on the level of comfort of your chair. We splurged for the white chairs with red cushions (18 EUR) and it was so worth that extra money. Christophe and I got our own private table and little foot stools to rest our feet on. You can buy drinks and snacks and just enjoy the whole atmosphere. It felt surreal that I was watching Pixar’s “Inside Out” while sipping on a glass of rosé in Monaco. If you happen to be in Monaco during the summer, I highly recommend going to the movies at the Open Air Cinema!

French Riviera Beach

French Riviera Beach

Considering that it was like 90 degree weather, our second day was spent at the beach. The beaches in the French Riviera are very different from the ones in California. First of all, there is no sand, only gravel and rocks. The locals are used to it, but it’s actually slightly painful to walk on barefoot. I could not believe how incredibly clear the water was. You can really see through all the way to the bottom. Given how salty the water is, Christophe pointed out that you can actually float in it more easily. I had not been to the beach in years and it felt so nice to relax in the cool water on such a hot day.

It was the perfect weekend. I got to catch up with a close friend, explore Monaco and the south of France, and just relax. It’s a beautiful locale and I really recommend visiting if you’re in the area. A big thank you to Christophe for showing me around!

Monaco at Night

Monaco at Night

Top 10 Instagram Moments from 2013

2013 was an amazing year. I don’t know if any other year will every compare, considering it was a year of great change. I lived in three different cities, visited 11 cities in nine countries, graduated from my MBA program, found a job that I love and relocated to Shanghai. I fully recognize that I probably will never travel that much in my life ever again. I definitely cherish every single moment of 2013. However, I’m excited for what 2014 will bring and for new Shanghai adventures.

It’s too difficult to rank my favorite moments of 2013, but I did want to capture 10 of my favorites (brought to you by the lens of my iPhone 4 and Instagram).

1. Invalides (Paris, France)

InvalidesI had just moved out of the suburbs of France and into Paris. After having a lovely brunch on a cold, snowy day, the Métro broke down and I had to walk home. What started out as a inconvenience, turned into an absolutely stunning walk and I got to capture this gorgeous shot of Invalides (which never would have happened if the Métro worked!).

2. Burj Khalifa (Dubai, UAE)

Burj KhalifaIt was my first trip to the Middle East and Dubai was such an eye-opening experience. I learned so much about the local culture and was also just stunned with the entire city. Everything was so opulent and it was more than I could have ever imagined. The Burj Khalifa is currently the tallest building in the world and I loved the way it was lit up at night with its own sparkling lights like the Eiffel Tower.

3. Château de Chenonceau (Loire Valley, France)

Loire ValleyI felt like I was on the set of Downton Abbey while wondering the vast halls and gardens during my Loire Valley Châteaux tour. It made me feel like a Pretty, Pretty Princess. The Loire Valley is definitely worth visiting and I personally enjoy it a lot more than visiting the palace in Versailles.

4. Victoria Harbor (Hong Kong)

Rubber DuckWho doesn’t love a giant, 6-story inflatable rubber duck? It was awesome to be in Hong Kong the same time as this wandering art installation from Dutch artist, Florentijn Hofman.

5. Arc de Triomphe (Paris, France)

Arc de TriompheThis was the night I found out that I was accepted for an amazing opportunity in Hong Kong and that I would be leaving the wonderful City of Light. It was such mixed emotions for me as I was excited to go to Hong Kong, but I was so sad to leave Paris earlier than anticipated. I took this photo right before hopping on the Métro. It wasn’t until afterward that I realized that I had captured a picture perfect “stolen moment” of a couple in love. I feel like this picture captured the true essence of l’amour and my own love affair with Paris.

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Hong Kong: Jackie’s 25 Things to Eat Before You Die

Black Pepper Crab at Katong

Black Pepper Crab at Katong

Mango Drink at Hui Lau Shan

Mango Drink at Hui Lau Shan

High Tea at Sevva

High Tea at Sevva

My time in Hong Kong has unfortunately come to an end and I’m off to a new city for a more permanent move. I’ve had the most amazing four months in Hong Kong and this is the longest amount of time I’ve ever spent here. I’ve fallen in love with the city, the people and most of all– the food!

I’m definitely not an expert on the food scene in Hong Kong, because it is absolutely epic here. Between the Michelin-rated restaurants and the down-and-dirty street food, there is such a wide variety of choices! I could honestly live in Hong Kong for years and probably not even make a dent on the restaurant scene.

From left to right: xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung; tomato crab vermicelli soup at Nha Trang; fish tacos at Brickhouse; steamed papaya soup at The Chinese Restaurant

From left to right: xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung; tomato crab vermicelli soup at Nha Trang; fish tacos at Brickhouse; steamed papaya soup at The Chinese Restaurant

I wanted to continue my tradition of creating a food guide when I leave a city. This follows the same vein as my 100 Things to Eat in San Francisco to Eat Before You Die and 50 Things to Eat in Paris Before You Die. You probably notice a pretty gaping hole and ask: “Jackie, where is the dim sum?” Don’t get me wrong. I had great dim sum, but I don’t feel like I’ve been able to truly explore the best of the best of Hong Kong’s dim sum. It was difficult since you can’t really order dim sum for one person. I leave that for my next challenge!

So finally, in no particular order, I present to you:

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Paris: Jackie’s 50 Things to Eat Before You Die

Escalope de foie gras chaud à ma façon at La Fontaine de Mars

Escalope de foie gras chaud à ma façon at La Fontaine de Mars

Affogato at Pozzetto

Affogato at Pozzetto

Oeufs de poule mollets roulés à la mie de pain, toasts de beurre truffé at Le Violin d’Ingres

Oeufs de poule mollets roulés à la mie de pain, toasts de beurre truffé at Le Violin d’Ingres

It is a little crazy to think that around this time last year, I was leaving San Francisco and developed my own list of 100 Things in San Francisco to Eat Before You Die. This past year in Paris has flown by and I’ve done so much (understatement of the year). I still can’t believe that this is my last week as a true Parisian.

Éclairs at L’Éclair de Génie

Éclairs at L’Éclair de Génie

While I cannot claim to be an expert on the crème de la crème of the food scene in Paris, I thought I would compile my own list of my favorite things in the City of Light. I believe that there is SO much good food still out there; alas, I can only vouch for the things that I’ve personally eaten.

Truffle risotto at Dans Les Landes

Truffle risotto at Dans Les Landes

I wish I lived here long enough to develop 100 things to eat before you die, but I guess you will just have to settle for 50. You’ll notice that some restaurants have multiple dishes listed because they just simply excel at gastronomy. One dish is not enough to list. Also, you’ll probably notice that there are a lot of desserts on the list. What can I say? No one can beat the French when it comes to pastries and dessert. In no particular order, I present to you:

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Paris: Pierre Sang Boyer

Pierre Sang laying the final touches on dessert

Pierre Sang laying the final touches on dessert (photo by: Amy-Actually.com)

I know that I talked about Frenchie being my best meal in Paris, but Pierre Sang Boyer (55 rue Oberkampf) gives Gregory Marchand a run for his money. How good is Pierre Sang? I ate there twice in one week.

First Meal at Pierre Sang

First Meal at Pierre Sang

Pierre Sang: Beautiful Plating

Beautiful Plating

Diane was kind enough to introduce Pierre Sang to me. The restaurant does not take any reservations (they don’t even have a phone line) and has mostly counter seating with a few tables upstairs as well as downstairs. I would definitely opt for arriving early and grabbing a seat at the counter to watch the magic unfold.

Pierre Sang Sous Chef

It is practically lunch and a show

The menu changes daily and is based completely on whatever local produce the chef is inspired by. For lunch, diners can choose the “simple” (2 courses), “initial” (3 courses) or “freestyle” (4 courses + cheese). Freestyle is the way to go. For 35 euro, you can watch Chef Sang unveil his culinary genius before your eyes. Lunch was so amazing that I had to take Amy (click to read her review) back the same week.

Pierre Sang: First Course

First course: Razor clams marinated in red wine with asparagus, anise, pickled onions and olives

Pierre Sang: second course

Second course: Smoked haddock with grapefruit rinds, cauliflower, shaved carrots, salsify, served with lemon sauce and herb foam

Pierre Sang: Third Course

Third course: Pork in red wine reduction served atop wild rice with napa cabbage, alongside mushrooms, fried garlic, and shaved turnip

Pierre Sang: Cheese Course

Cheese course: Cheese served with a coconut and yogurt cream sprinkled with white chocolate shavings and cracked black pepper

Pierre Sang: Dessert

Dessert: Opera cake with chocolate and coffee layers served in pineapple sauce with peas marinated in cardamom and tarragon, topped with a macaron and sliced strawberry

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Paris: Les Papilles

Les Papilles

Les Papilles

One of Amy and my old co-workers highly recommended Les Papilles (30 rue Gay Lussac) so Amy was quick to make dinner reservations. I am so glad we went because Les Papilles is a hidden gem in the 5th arrondissement. For just 35 euro, you get a beautiful four-course dinner with big portions and a lively atmosphere. The restaurant is also a wine cellar with all the bottles lined up against the wall with prices. You can browse the collection and pick the bottle of wine you want to accompany dinner.

Les Papilles: Carrot Soup

Les Papilles: Carrot Soup

Every night, Les Papilles has a set menu with soup, main course, cheese and dessert. Our first course was a cream and carrot soup with fresh carrots, bacon, croutons, coriander, chives and curry powder. I loved how each of us got our own bowl and it was self-serve. The family-style of food really added to the warm and homey atmosphere. While the soup base did not have a strong carrot taste, I liked how it had a great mix of textures with the croutons and bacon.

Les Papilles: Beef Pot Roast

Les Papilles: Beef Pot Roast

Les Papilles: Tender Beef Pot Roast

The meat was so tender

Our main dish was beef pot roast cooked in red wine with baby potatoes, carrots, peas, garlic and thyme. Our waiter told us that they cook the beef all night. I believed him because I could not believe how tender and easily the meat fell apart when I gently touched my fork to it.

Les Papilles: Blue Cheese and Apple Panna Cotta

Les Papilles: Blue Cheese and Apple Panna Cotta

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