March 30, 2015

The Perfect Blend

A while ago I wrote about some of my favorite burger places in Paris, one of which was Blend. Having not been there in quite some time, I was happy when I found myself not far from their rue d’Argout location at lunchtime on Saturday afternoon. 

The restaurant is small, and always draws a crowd, so don’t be surprised if you’re greeted with a wait. Luckily, food comes out fast, so people get in and out rather quickly. 

Interior of Blend, rue d'Argout, Paris
Menu at Blend, rue d'Argout, Paris
The atmosphere is relaxed, but the quality of the burgers is from it. Fresh baked brioche style rolls are topped with juicy beef patties, garnishes and sauces. The icing on the cake here? The sweet potato fries. It’s the only place I’ve found in Paris to get those delicious little guys.

Burgers, sweet potato fries & cheese fries at Blend, rue d'Argout, Paris
Exterior of Blend, rue d'Argout, Paris

Blend*
44 rue d’Argout
75002 Paris

*List of additional locations available on the official Blend website.

March 25, 2015

Embryolisse, Moisturizer to the Stars

On a recent search for a new moisturizer, I came across an astounding number of articles talking about French pharmaceutical brand Embryolisse (celebrating their 65th anniversary this year). They offer a full range of skincare, but it’s their Lait-Crème Concentré that has been getting a lot of hype from international models and makeup artists over the past few years. Curious to try this magical potion, I excitedly bought my first tube.

Embryolisse kit découverte
Simple, fresh and rich, but not greasy, this formula is an absolute dream! It glides on smoothly, leaving hydrated natural skin that is residue free.

When first opening my box, a standard paper insert fell out. Normally I can’t be bothered to read this sort of thing, but this time something caught my eye. By filling in a questionnaire and mailing it to the company, I could receive a skincare diagnostic, along with a selection of free samples.*

For 5 minutes of my time and the price of a stamp, I decided to try it out, and waited for my results to come back. About 1 ½ months later when I was beginning to curse La Poste, a lovely little package for me arrived and I eagerly tore it open.

As they say, good things come to those who wait, and in this case it was true. I received personalized recommendations for a skincare regimen, coupons and a whopping 11 samples that I cannot wait to get into!

*Please note that this offer is only available for those residing in metropolitan France.

March 19, 2015

Haute Couture Brunch at the Plaza Athénée

On several occasions, I have walked past the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, but never had the chance to stop in. Located on one of Paris’ most fabulous shopping streets, Avenue Montaigne, this palace was just begging for a visit.

As an (extremely) belated Valentine’s Day date, my husband and I made a reservation for brunch at the hotel’s recently refurbished restaurant, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée.

On Saturday afternoon we arrived for what would be one of our most memorable dining experiences to date.

Upon entering the glittering room, we were given our choice of international newspapers, a small, yet appreciated touch. Once seated, we began a culinary journey unlike any other. 

Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris

Our “Haute Couture Brunch” commenced with a choice of hot beverages and fresh fruit juices accompanied by an abundant pastry platter. A variety of baguettes were then brought out, served with a selection of jams and Chef Alain Ducasse’s homemade chocolate hazelnut spread. 

Pastries at the Haute Couture Brunch, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris
Haute Couture Brunch, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris
Alain Ducasse chocolate spread at the Haute Couture Brunch, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris

Although we were already filling up quite quickly, it was only the beginning of our luxurious meal. Next came tiny glass pots of yogurt and perfectly arranged tropical fruit plates. Then arrived a surprising amuse-bouche, a spicy fennel purée. 

Fruit plate at the Haute Couture Brunch, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris

Next on the menu, was a choice between two copious entrées. I tasted thin slices of Brittany artichoke and black truffle, and my husband sampled the sea bass carpaccio.

Brittany artichokes at the Haute Couture Brunch, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris
Sea bass carpaccio at the Haute Couture Brunch, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris

At this point, we had just about reached our eating capacity, but it was time for eggs and we continued onward. I stayed classic with benedict, but my husband was more adventurous, choosing the daily special - scrambled with black truffles.

Eggs Benedict at the Haute Couture Brunch, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris
Scrambled eggs with truffles at the Haute Couture Brunch, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris

As we finished our plates, the cheese course arrived - comté, emmental and a rather pungent camembert.

Cheese course at the Haute Couture Brunch, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris
Unbelievably, the XXL meal did not end there. An enviable spread of desserts appeared, including various verrines, dark chocolate, a caramel religieuse and pain perdu in a tiny pan. 

Desserts at the Haute Couture Brunch, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris
If that weren’t enough (which it certainly was!), we finished off with a bit of bubbly, some of the finest I have ever been served.

The food was the star of the show, but we cannot forget the staff. At Plaza Athénée service is a true art form, much like a graceful ballet. Each fine detail appears effortless, but one recognizes that an incredible amount of preparation goes on behind the scenes. 

Being a guest here, even if only for a few hours, was truly unforgettable.


Hotel Plaza Athénée
25 avenue Montaigne
75008 Paris

March 8, 2015

Tropical Escape at the Terrasse d'Hiver

With it being Fashion Week, Paris is certainly abuzz. Walking down the rue de Rivoli, there seems to be an endless parade of models and other fabulously and outrageously dressed designers and hopefuls.

Yesterday, as the city enjoyed unseasonably warm weather, the Fashion Week crowd and everyone else were out and about in full force. Having gotten our fill of the busy rush, my husband and I slipped off the street to find a little piece of tranquility.

Steps away from Place Vendôme, The Westin hotel has transformed their courtyard into a covered terrace for winter. The "Terrasse d'Hiver" is a nod to their sister hotel in Mauritius, and features tropical drinks, décor, music and heat.

In the afternoon, guests enjoy exotic teas and pastries. When the sun goes down, it's about fruity cocktails and island beats from hip DJs. 

The Westin, Terrasse d'Hiver, Paris
Fashion Week at The Westin, Paris
Fountain at The Westin, Terrasse d'Hiver, Paris
Complimentary welcome tea at The Westin, Terrasse d'Hiver, Paris
Drinks at The Westin, Terrasse d'Hiver, Paris
 
Looking for an escape of your own? The Terrasse d'Hiver is open until the end of March.


The Westin Paris Vendome
3 Rue De Castiglione 
75001 Paris

March 4, 2015

Emma & Chloé: 100% Fashionable, 100% French

I’m always on the lookout for the latest beauty, fashion and lifestyle products. I've found that one of the best ways to get your hands on some of the next big things is through monthly box subscriptions.

In the past, I’ve signed up for My Little Box and Gambettes Box, both from the hit site My Little Paris. More recently though, I decided to test out Emma & Chloé.

Emma & Chloé February box

For 19€ (+ S&H), Emma & Chloé sends you a carefully selected piece of jewelry from an up-and-coming designer. But here's what sets it apart from other similar boxes....creators are 100% French!

Each original piece comes packaged in a chic black box, along with a storage pouch, mini lifestyle magazine and certificate of authenticity.

The verdict on this one? It’s an awesome way to add something fresh to your accessory collection, while discovering and supporting new French talent.

March 2, 2015

An American Entrepreneur in Paris: Andrew Lyons (Part 2)

In part 2 of my interview with American expat and entrepreneur Andrew Lyons, we get an inside look at his Paris-based venture, Cyclo-Café.

Cyclo-Café logo and photo montage




What is Cyclo-Café?
Cyclo-Café is the abstract product of my life’s jumbled adventures. It is my ‘labor of love’ for the beautiful city of Paris. It is also my vision, my hope, for what Paris becomes in the near future: a happier, more energetic, friendly and smiling place in which we share.  

Cyclo-Café is the newest, most innovative, most fun and 100% ecological way to experience Paris. It is best positioned for the local community, French or expats, of all ages and importantly including and welcoming persons with disabilities. It’s a great way to experience positive, community togetherness, in the world’s most beautiful, historic city…Paris!

On Cyclo-Café you will be amongst the authentic sights, sounds and tastes of French culture. Aboard, you will not ‘visit’ Paris, rather, we will ‘live’ Paris together.




What is the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur in France? The most rewarding?
By far, the most difficult part of becoming an entrepreneur in Paris is navigating the administration. This problem is compounded as a foreigner. Although I did succeed in attaining my French citizenship in 2012 (which I am very proud of), it takes a lifetime of learning to efficiently and effectively create and achieve your career goals in Paris.

Even those born in bred in France proclaim their trials and tribulations with administration. Maybe after 100 years you will master the ‘tricks of the trade’ here!

The most rewarding, has been to see Cyclo-Café on the ground in Paris. The perplexed, curious and smiling faces of young and old alike have affirmed that we have truly brought something special to Paris.


How did you succeed in bringing Cyclo-Café to Paris?
The key to bringing Cyclo-Café to Paris was surrounding myself with energetic, creative and talented people. Without a great team, anyone is susceptible to being overwhelmed.

My fellow American, successful international entrepreneur and trusted Cyclo confidant, Dan Lavelle, has been instrumental in laying out the detailed ground work and forward thinking strategy. Dan, through his business Eyes On Email created the perfect website and manages crucial social media, imperative to any small business. Both Dan and I have a few ‘screws loose’, so it has made for a great match.

And how to bring the ‘French touch’ to a business in Paris? Cyclo-Café is not about America. As such we required the design, communication and public relation skills that only Johanne Goll could bring. Johanne, a native from Toulouse has integrated the right marketing and promotional mix to make Cyclo-Café a Parisian staple.

I am also proud to admit that my mother was the artistic genius behind our trademark logo.

We are all working together to motivate each other and strive to improve Cyclo-Café’s offering and experience for everyone.


What's in store for Cyclo-Café in 2015?
Cyclo-Cafe, Paris first entered the imagination in 2012. After 2 years of figuring out the many obstacles, re-designs and project modifications, we launched Cyclo-Cafe in 2014.

We only had a couple short months to work with in 2014, as a 'trial' period. We are excited by all the positive feedback and encouragement we have received.

In 2015, we see many bright opportunities to serve the Parisian community, as well as a few challenges. This is the 'love story' that invigorates any entrepreneur and new business.

Cyclo-Cafe would like to attract family or friends, group get togethers, birthdays as well as company team buildings. Cyclo-Cafe aims to promote local businesses and associations.

We are now accepting 2015 reservations and would love to hear from you at fun@cyclo-cafe.fr.

This year, we have a full spring/ summer season to work with, anything is possible. The only guarantee, you will have the most fun and unique experience you have ever had in Paris!





Cyclo-Café logo
 
Interested in learning more about Cyclo-Café or taking a spin around Paris? 
Check them out at www.cyclo-café.fr

March 1, 2015

An American Entrepreneur in Paris: Andrew Lyons (Part 1)

In an exclusive 2 part interview, Founder & CEO of Cyclo-Café, Andrew Lyons, shares insight into taking the entrepreneurial route in France and life as an American expat in Paris. Today we kick things off with a few personal questions. Be sure to check back tomorrow as we buckle down and talk business.

Andrew Lyons, Founder & CEO of Cyclo-Café, Paris

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you originally from? What is your professional background?
I moved to Paris from Charlotte, NC. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I got my degree in Supply Chain Management from Michigan State University. My background and education has molded me into somewhat of a risk-taker and adventurer. Not that France is the most ‘exotic’ of locations, but it does embody numerous challenges in life, career, patience and determination. The trick for me has been, not to succumb to some of the pressures a socialist model can bring, but to harness the advantages it offers, while aggressively pursuing all American optimism.

Since 2006, I have been working with a large French corporation as a Supply Chain Expert in the area of Metallurgy. It has been an amazing experience and given me the opportunity to travel the world meeting and interacting with all genres of people.

These experiences have kept alive my passion for learning, risk-taking and desire to always improve my personal and professional aspirations. Almost at the midway point in my career, I decided the time was ripe to take on my most challenging project yet… and in one of the most challenging business environments in the Western world. With the gracious help of some trusted friends, I launched Cyclo-Café in Paris, France.


How long have you lived in Paris? What brought you here?
I have been in Paris 9 years now. It sounds like a lot longer than what it feels like. I remember moving here from America and every day felt like a European vacation. That novelty has since worn off through countless metro commutes and Paris prone rainy, gray days. However, Paris has become something more important than a magical vacation destination. Many people can claim the title ‘been to Paris’… few can claim it as home.
I am no different from most Americans growing up, dreaming of European romanticism and adventure. Instead of backpacking here after high school or college graduation, I got the idea in my head to move here.

What’s the best part about living in France? The most challenging?
The best part of being in Paris is just that!!! Being in Paris! Never have I developed such a bond to be outdoors. Walking down the ancient cobblestone streets, flanked by monuments that, by far, outdate my traceable family tree. Sitting at the corner street café, enamored with life’s simple entertainments as the world goes by. Good riddance to cars, strip malls and air conditioning!

The most challenging aspect of life here is adjusting to the average French standard of living. For better or worse, I took the hard path and did not come here armed with an expat package. I found my job on monster.fr, and am on a French contract with a French corporation. Meaning, we adapt our budget to live month to month, endure the absence of disposable income and set aside a savings account just to pay the income tax bill.

The benefit to not being on an expat contract? Citizenship eligibility!


What do you miss most from home?
I have to say, I sorely miss American culture and everything that falls under it. The way we think, the way we act, saying ‘hello’ to complete strangers, the foods we eat, our determination to better our lives and our optimism. It is truly unique and we should never lose our culture no matter where we live.


Where is your favorite place to spend a day in the city?
This is simple and most likely common to every Parisian. A picnic basket (Contents: wine, cheese, bread), a 2 meter spot on the banks of the Seine river, all spring and summer long.


Favorite restaurant to grab a bite to eat?
I do love French food. Duck is a delicacy here that most Americans don’t have an opportunity to savor. However, I find most French bistros to have relatively the same offering and customary lousy, rude service.

Therefore, I fall back on my American taste buds when choosing a favorite restaurant. I go for Mexican. Tacos, burritos and guacamole are finally making a revelation here in Paris. After suffering the absence of Mexican food during my first 4 years in Paris (I remember one place back then putting mayonnaise on an enchilada instead of sour cream), now it seems there is a new tasty restaurant every 6 months or so. They are pretty authentic no matter where you go, although the Margaritas are all insanely overpriced!


What advice would you give to those planning a trip to France? A permanent move?
Wow, I don’t even know where to begin on this question. This is precisely the reason why I started the Meetup group American Expats in Paris. So, I guess the first thing I would advise is to join this group, bring your notepad and expel all your curiosities and needed recommendations.

You will meet veterans like myself, happy to impart their knowledge, authentic French & international persons whom have spent time in the States and want to continue that experience, as well as newbies like yourself. Make friends with and navigate the Parisian jungle together, expat package or not!