Today, I visited a favorite Seattle neighborhood, Madison Valley. The French flavor is so strong there, that locals - and the media - have nicknamed it: "Seattle's Little Paris."
You may remember the story I wrote about it. I introduced you to some of my favorite places. Some are now gone. Madison Valley, like most places, keeps evolving.
My friend Kelly and I made fun plans this weekend, but she woke up with a bad cold, and we had to cancel our little outing.
I needed a back-up plan. Should I stay at home and spend more time reviewing for next week's exams? Should I go out in the damp and grey weather for a long walk with the Yellow Dog? Should I go up in the attic and finally drag down the big storage boxes to decorate the house for the Holidays?
Non. Fugget-about-it. "I deserve a fun break," I thought, "not to mention I need new material for this week's blog post."
Off I went. Across the bridge. Away from suburbia. Back to the city. Ahhhh... Holiday lights. Boutiques. Coffee shops. Actual sidewalks, with actual people strolling... In short: Civilization!
Of all the French restaurants I love in Seattle (and I am lucky to report the city has a few good ones,) Luc, owned by Chef Thierry Rautureau, holds a special place in my heart. This is the restaurant where I once met for dinner with my French students, and that fun evening inspired the very first story I wrote on this blog, three years ago.
|The French Studio group, circa December 2010|
A great bunch!
Luc is a popular bistro, but I hoped I could find a table between brunch and dinner service. When I pushed the door after 3:00pm, the place was almost empty. An uncommon sight.
I even got to choose my table, and sat by the window, so I could watch people in the street. Just like in France!
The brunch menu was original, and impressive. There were traditional egg-based dishes, with a twist. There were heartier plats (entrees) one would expect to find on a dinner menu; Boeuf Bourguignon; trout amandine; and traditional bistro fare, like les moules-frites; and grilled beef onglet steak.
Yet, for a French Girl of Pied-Noir ancestry, the homemade merguez sausage proved too hard to resist. It was served with a fried egg, potato-spinach gratin, roasted squash, and some greens. Délicieux ! (The merguez had just enough of a kick to make it stand out.)
Portions were copious, but the young waiter was so friendly I could not resist ordering a chocolate pot de crème for dessert. It was a feast, and in the middle of the day.
Pourquoi pas ? On ne vit qu'une fois. You only live once.
Pourquoi pas ? On ne vit qu'une fois. You only live once.
|Notice the whipped cream and chocolate sablé cookie...|
A decadent dessert, but served French style (i.e. a small portion)
I enjoyed my meal, under young Chef Rautureau's watchful eyes (the painting was on the wall above my table.)
Thierry Rautureau is known as "the Chef in the Hat," and if you look closely, you can spot said-hat not only on the Chef's head these days, but also on the restaurant sign, and in the painting... That hat (and its owner) have been well-known on the Seattle food scene for many years.
The best part of the afternoon came after the meal. I strolled in the small neighborhood and stopped at a few favorite boutiques to get in the Holiday mood...
Lavender Heart is a must-see. They specialize in fragrant gifts, like soaps and candles, but you never know what you will discover there. It is the perfect place to find a hostess gift. Best part of the visit: a chat with the friendly owner (Yesterday, we discussed our favorite dishes chez Luc, located on the same street block.)
|A festive atmosphere|
|Two of these Elves' and Pixies' soap bars, |
made in Belgium, came home with me!
Another mandatory stop in Madison Valley is my friend Nohra's Inès Pâtisserie. I introduced her and her spectacular confections here.
I had not seen Nohra in a long time. She remains as enthusiastic, direct and independent-minded as always. J'aime bien Nohra. I like her. She tells it like it is. Some customers might be surprised, but her business is thriving. She will be opening a new branch of Inès Pâtisserie in popular Capitol Hill next year.
When I arrived, Nohra was on her way out, and the display windows almost empty, but there is always time to catch up with "a sister." She sent me home with a delicious almond croissant for Sunday's breakfast, and a scrumptious-looking tarte aux pommes (apple tart) because, she declared: "You've had a rough year, and it is time to have fun again!"
|Petit-déjeuner à la française. Merci, Nohra!|
There was time for one last stop, and I had to choose carefully. I have not had a chance to really get in the Holiday spirit this year. The fall has been too busy.
"I want to smell real Christmas trees," I decided. And I knew just the place.
It smelled so good at City People's I almost expected Frosty the snowman to show up and grab Nohra's pastries out of my hand! Cars were lined up on the small parking lot waiting for the staff to wrap up their Christmas trees and load them up. A seasonal scene if there ever was one.
It's not a great shot of the store sign, but I want you to know I almost got run over by a S.U.V. to take it. Had this happened in Paris, I would have certainly died, but the Seattle driver did not even honk at me.
This "paparazette" is dedicated, you see!
As anticipated, "cute" and "Christmassy" awaited inside City People's garden store. Illustration.
|Who does not like owls...|
|... or little mice...|
|... or a handmade miniature fox with a backpack?|
|... or a wise (and elegant) angel?|
As I said, cute and Christmassy.
The following journal was neither, but I was très, très tempted, especially when I noticed each page featured Ryan Gosling's face and an enticing message: "Hey girl, tell me all about your day..."
But I do not need a Prince Charming for now. I think I am going to have fun being on my own for a while (sorry, Ryan.)
So off I went, back to suburbia, my favorite car smelling like my old Parisian neighborhood, thanks to Nohra's fragrant pastries.
There would be time later for a long, long, long walk with the Yellow Dog (because all indulgences come with a price...) There would be time for home decorating, and for more studying.
For now, as I drove across the bridge, I was happy to hum along with Frank Sinatra (courtesy of Junior, a big fan of the Rat Pack...)
All photos by French Girl in Seattle
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-- French Girl in Seattle