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Delightful Treats at Pinkberry

kim eating a green tea frozen yogurt

This place tastes as good as it looks. The menu is simple: three frozen yogurt flavors with a topping counter. Adding one or many fresh fruit toppings enhance this healthy treat.

I heard of the cool concept of Pinkberry but I never tasted yummy yogurt until yesterday.

After a tasting, I am fond of the three flavors: original, green tea and the latest addition, pomegranate. Pinkberry caters real, nonfat frozen yogurt with live and active cultures.

pinkberry toppings

Pinkberry is the creation of Shelly Hwang, an entrepreneur, and the architect Young Lee. They opened their first store in 2005 in West Hollywood. From business partners, they become a couple. (I cannot tell you if they still are a couple).

The Decor

pinkberry interior details

I sat on an orange Philippe Starck’s Victoria Ghost chair but I prefer the banquette. Lee went for Le Klint lamps because they evoke the swirls of the frozen yogurt. The flower wall is stunning. On a bookshelf, they display Alessi kitchenware and tableware. They serve as décor that you can bring home since Pinkberry sells them. Overall it is so fun to go to Pinkberry that I plan to go one more time before leaving LA.


Unique eating experience at studio-restaurant Proef

I watched with delight Chef Abroad hosted by the Canadian Chef Michael Smith has he finds a culture that has lost touch with its traditional food ways in Amsterdam.

ham man designed by Marije Vogelzang :: proef in amsterdam

I adore Amsterdam. It has been over a decade since my last visit which was a couple years after I graduated from interior design. Shopping in Amsterdam is a treat since you discover amazing design products. The sad thing for us is that almost none of Dutch design product is exported.

The Netherlands like to push the envelop of design. This is what eating-designer Marije Vogelzang of Proef does in her designs studio-restaurant in Amsterdam.

Marije is an artist who plays with edible food. Her creations are meant to be eaten. She wants us to take conscience of where our food comes from. Her Ham Man filled with pieces of ham on a stick illustrates one of her display techniques.

Other times, Marije Vogelzang works on ways to rediscover a forgotten vegetable. Some dinner menus are declinations on an ingredient where one ingredient is eaten 7 ways from appetizer to dessert.

proef events

She uses how we perceived eating and etiquette to stimulate people interactions at the communal dinner table. For example, she gives two half-plates to every guest with the same food on both plates. Half the people receive two plates of smoked salmon; the other half gets two plates of lemon. People have to exchange plate to assemble the dish. Another event was a picnic where half of the guests received the food and the second half got the tableware.

As a designer Marieje explores food through 8 factors: senses, nature, culture, society, technique, psychology, science and action.

If you are curious to have a look at her spectacular eating concepts but do not plan to go to Amsterdam in the upcoming weeks, get her book Eat Love where she explains her philosophy.

I applauded her imagination. It is on my to-do-list for my next trip to Amsterdam.

+ Images from Proef
+ Eat Love by Marije Vogelzang ? 32


French Top Chefs invent the Fast Good

ouest express by bocuse

France is renowned for its culinary excellence. Leave it to them to reinvent the fast-food industry. Fast Good is the latest breed of restaurant. Instead of the unhealthy meals, you get the excellence of the French café in a self-service version.

In January 2008, Paul Bocuse opened Ouest Express located in the 9th arrondissement of Lyon. The long white Corian service counter is split in 6 themes: hot, bread, fresh, sweet, coffee and drink.

interiors of ouest express in lyon

The menu changed 4 times a day. Breakfast is served until 11 AM, followed by lunch, then, the afternoon snack and the dinner menu starts at 7 PM.

It is more expensive that a fast-food meal but the quality is there. It costs between 10 and 14 euros for a well-balanced meal. This time of establishment did not really exist in France.

Fast Good In Paris

miyou by atelier guy martin

Guy Martin opened an upscale sandwich shop called Miyou at its 9th arrondissement cook studio in Paris. Sumac shrimp, goat cheese with fresh coriander and vegetables, duck foie gras are a sample of the flavors. If you have a connecting flight at Roissy airport, look for Miyou’s sister shop at the Terminal E.

These places are great to know if you travel and do not want to pass a lot of time eating.


  • Miyou by Atelier Guy Martin – p (0)1 42 66 33 33
    35, rue Miromesnil, Paris in 8th arrondissement
  • Ouest Express by Paul Bocuse – p (0)4 72 17 95 95
    41, rue des Docks, Lyon in 9th arrondissement

+ Via Amabilia


Gender Equally Discussion in Restaurant Service

dining out etiquette

Frank Bruni of The New York Times published a worth reading article about gender equally and old gender roles at dinner.

I am not talking about business meals where the rule should follow the business relationships and not the gender. What I have to say applies to social meals. The distinction between business and social events require more skills from servers. I admit that it is not an easy job but servers need to pay attention; they need to read the table.

Since my youth, I have been a defender of women rights for equality. But I also recognized that men and women have different tastes and expectations. I believe that many etiquette rules could prevail in our modern society without diminishing women. Called it chivalry if you like, I see it as a matter of savoir vivre.

As I grow older, I came to appreciate the value of old-fashioned good manners. Frankly, , some rules make my life easier. I look at them as a way to delegate. I take advantage of it, whenever it suits my mood. Everybody knows that I am a career woman; so I do not feel the need to prove anything to anybody.

Modernized Service

I go to restaurants to be pampered and feel special. I believe that servers should still follow the traditional etiquette of attending to the women at a table before the men, unless it is a large group. When I go for a burger or a pizza, I am less picky about the rule.

I condemn restaurants and/or servers that lower the level of services for an all-women table. Restaurants should not assume that women have necessary less money or will leave less tips. I demand that a server remembers who gave the credit card or read the name before putting it back on the table. A server who gave my card to my men companion will receive a lower tip.

Ordering wine is not a gender issue anymore. A server should not assume that the men will order the wine. The easiest way is to ask who wants the wine list or to leave the wine list in a neutral zone on the table. The person ordering the wine is the one who pays for it, unless specify otherwise. If you order a bottle of wine, the server will ask you to taste it first and you will be served last.

The Biggest Restaurant Service Offense On My Book

Sadly, North America restaurants and patrons fail to deliver on an elementary principle of etiquette. The biggest no no in restaurant service is when a server removes the plates at a table before everyone has finished eating the course. This basic rule should apply whether you eat at a corner restaurant or in a upscale restaurant. Efficacy or your personal well being cannot justify this lack of good manner. I hate this habit.

The NY Times article covers all aspects including the menu selection. Over 260 comments have been posted. How do you feel about that gender equality in restaurant services? Do you have any good or bad restaurant service experience that you wish to share with us?

+ Images by Kim Vallee from restaurants I visited – rights reserved


Lisa Kothari’s City Guide

original starbuck :: asian art museum :: trophy cupcakes :: monsoon :: lark

Here is the part 2 of my interview with Lisa Kothari, the founder and CEO of Peppers and Pollywogs.

AHWKV: When we travel, it is best to know the places where the residents hang out. Tell us about your favorites places in SEATTLE.

Lisa: Seattle is the home of Starbucks, and the original Starbucks is located in the famous Pike Place Market; try and get there to not only stroll the market, but to see where Starbucks all began. No matter what, though, have coffee at any of the vast number of coffee shops around town. My favorites are Café Verite and Uptown Espresso; there are multiple locations around town!

Seattle is also one of the most literate cities in the US, and so definitely check out a famous bookstore in Pioneer Square, Elliot Bay Book Company. This is a great bookstore with lots of local authors passing through and speaking on their latest books.

Visit Volunteer Park for a lovely stroll, a great view of the Space Needle, and to take in the collection at the Asian Art Museum. Many locals walk their dogs here, play tennis, and just enjoy the grounds on a beautiful day!

ATWKV: What is your favorite cupcake shop in SEATTLE?

Lisa: Seattle has seen an explosion in specialty cupcake stores, and Trophy Cupcakes in Wallingford is the star! Stop in for a delightful cupcake and don’t forget the coffee! The owner was recently featured on Martha Stewart’s show during cupcake week too. Really unique flavors too!

ATHKV: Which restaurants in SEATTLE serve the best brunch?

Lisa: Monsoon in Capitol Hill is really wonderful. It is a French-Vietnamese restaurant and so it offers a colonial menu of traditional eggs and waffles, as well as wonderful tasty Dim Sum and Vietnamese menu as well. I particularly like the Daikon Cakes and Congee. Diverse menu in an atmosphere that is sophisticated and family-friendly all at once.

ATHKV: Which restaurant do you prefer for a romantic evening?

Lisa: Lark is just so lovely on Capitol Hill. Fresh produce, small dishes, lovely ambiance.and no reservations! Pick an off-night or go early!

ATHKV: What are the best places for dinner?

Lisa: In Seattle, you really can’t go wrong with the Tom Douglas group of restaurants. A local famous chef, Tom has a series of restaurants that range in different types of foods, some fancy, some casual, that utilize the fresh flavors of the northwest and deliver time and time again. I love Serious Pie for a taste of gourmet pizza.the sausage pizza is so yummy!

Places in Seattle

If you are familiar with Seattle, share your favorite spots on my Places.
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Martini at the Oak Bar in Boston

strawberry martini at the oak room boston

Since it is Saturday night, I will share a few of my travel pictures. I told before that I enjoy staying at the Gold Floor of The Fairmont Copley Plaza when I visit Boston. I love boutique hotels but I also enjoy the pleasures and attention to details from the old luxury hotels.

Even if I am a modernist, I love history and value the treasures of classical architecture. The Oak Bar décor is reminiscent of a British Officer’s Club in the Orient.

A Treat for Martini Lovers

The Oak Bar at The Copley hotel is a must for martini lovers. They cater Boston’s largest martini menus. One martini order counts for two drinks.

I enjoy the way they serve their drinks. If you order a martini, your order comes in a mini pitcher served on your own ice bucket. This is what I called entertaining in style.

Casual Chic Clothing

There is an evening dress code. I suggest observing the dress code all day. When you travel, your best bet is to wear casual chic clothing all the times. This way, you can act on impulse and be presentable for any time of bars and restaurants.

Next to the Oak Bar, you get the Oak Room, their formal dining room. The overall look of your outfit should look dressy than jeans at the Oak Room. It is good to know that you can eat anything on the Oak Room menu in the Oak Bar.

The Oak Bar
p 617.267.5301 – 138 Saint James Ave, Boston, MA, United States, 02116


Dine on Design Extravaganza

dine on design at monkeytown :: notcot

As I read the outline of this amazing culinary event integrating art and design every steps of the way, I felt some envy for the NOTCOT team that went to Monkeytown for the Dine on Design event.

I wrote down this address for my next visit on the Big Apple. Monkeytown is in Brooklyn, New York.

The most intriguing is the Back Screening/Dining Room where Monkeytown hosted performances with a meal. The back dining room has 4 large screens connected to a surround sound for multimedia performances. Communal seating for 50 persons adds warmth to the place.

Ultimate Integration Of Design And Performance In A Meal

Dine on Design paired dining and design in short-lived gastronomic events where designers, artists, chefs and performers are able to present new and event specific work in a dynamic setting.

Performances change all the times like an exhibit. The one that NOTCOT attended lasted 3 nights in May.

I do not want to say too much; I left the honor to NOTCOT. But I will give you a hint about how cool and unique the food presentation was. The bread was served as a lampshade designed by Kimberly Hu. She imagined a lighted ice cream scoop to dish the smoked sea salt butter. Other items were humorous like the tablecloths/bibs.

I love too much tableware to not mention this plate with a removable bowl designed by Daina Platais. This is a great piece for entertaining.Unfortunately, I did not find the plate and bowl set on the Web site of Daina Platais.

By readings the report by NOTCOT, you will discover that every detail from tableware to the food plating has an artistic twist. The 8-course menu sounded tasty too. I wish I could have been there.

>>> Sourcing:
Learn more: Dine on Design at Monkeytown – May 16 to 18,2008
Via: ICFF: Dine On Design- 06.15.08 [NOTCOT]


Mario Navarate Jr. leads the Nuevo Latino Cooking in Montreal


With my injury, I must lie down on my sofa most of the time. Therefore, I watch more TV than I used to.

While eating lunch today, I watched Curieux Bégin at Télé-Québec. The show was dedicated to Latino cuisine. I included a tasty Lamb Shank recipe in French at the end of the post. This is how I discovered an amazing and likable Chef here in Montreal.

Born in Lima, Peru Mario Navarate Jr. operated two restaurants in the city. He is a rising star in Montreal. Raza opened in 2005. En Route magazine voted Mario Navarate Jr. one of the top 10 new Canadian Chefs in November 2005.

Two restaurants for this Peruvian Chef

Madre, meaning mother, opened last year (I think) on Masson Street. You will not be surprised to learn that the menu is inspired by his mother’s recipes.

Madre is about stylish simple food, a down-to-earth version of the upscale Raza, his first restaurant. Raza scored 28 out of 30 for its food in the 2006 Zagat guide.

The pencil drawings were inspired by pictures of him with his mother. Theses canvas drawings are hung on the walls of the restaurant. The décor is simple, like a family restaurant should be. The next picture showed Mario with his mother. The bottom pictures illustrates the typical dish styles at Raza.

I am planning to try his two restaurants this summer. I read excellent reviews on the Web from bloggers. What people are complaining about his restaurants is the short wine lists. I can live with that since most people were looking for bottles less than $40. But both restaurants propose food and wine bundles to save money.

The table d’hote at Madre proposes a three-course menu for $35 that becomes $58 with wine pairings. The tasting menu at Raza costs $59 for a 5 courses ($99 with wine pairings) or $70 for a 7-course meal ($120 with wine pairings).

What others are saying?

If you wish to read about an experienced meal at theses restaurants, read the reviews of Madre and Raza by MontrealFoodie. It is the first time that I visited MontrealFoodie so I cannot pledge for their taste but their reviews seem fair.

You can also read what the reviewer of Montreal Mirror had to say about his meal at Madre. Read what EnRoute (OnAir) said about Raza when it made their Top Ten restaurant list.

>>> Sourcing:
Learn more: Menu at Madre Restaurant – a weird navigation since you must press English on every page
Learn more: Menu at Raza Restaurant – same weird navigation
Recipe: Jarrets d’agneau braisés à la coriandre et à la bière by Mario Navarate Jr. [Curieux Bégin]


My Montreal Girl Geek Dinner Talk Last March

kim vallee and tanya mcginnity at March Montreal Girl Geek Dinner : Tibetan Om Restaurant

It has been a week since I spoke at the Montreal Girl Geek Dinner, an offshoot of the London Girl Geek Dinners started by Sarah Blow. These monthly events provide a welcoming atmosphere and a platform for learning in an informal environment, typically a local restaurant.

If there is a Girl Geek Dinner chapter in your town, I invite you to join. These meetings are not about hard core geek stuff. The proof, I was invited to speak for what I am doing right now.

That is one of the marvelous things about blogging: you do not need to be technologically savvy to succeed. But knowing about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), statistical tools, online advertising and social networks can grow your brand faster.

My personal story

For me, the Montreal Girl Geek Dinner talks are about sharing experiences. As a blogger I aim to inspire my readers. It is now possible to earn a living as a professional blogger. I am not there yet but every month I am closer of my goal.

For the past 5 years, I dreamed of building my own home living and shopping magazine. Because I was stuck in the old media business model, I failed until last year to see that I could do it with a blog. A chain of events led me to take the steps for realizing my dream.

To make a story short, this is my third career. I am finally working by passion. Because I believed in following our dreams, I decided to discuss how I am building my online brand. I gave tricks on how to generate traffic through simple SEO techniques that take a few seconds per post, how real-time statistics can sometimes shape your editorial plan and I demonstrate the power of social media. I talked about design issues and the need to be active in and out of your own blog.

I encourage you to read the report of Tanya McGinnity, the organizer of the Montreal Girl Geek Dinner on the MGGD blog. You can see on the blog what the other girls talked about at previous events. If you want to talk, do not hesitate to contact Tanya. Most of the communications are done through Facebook, so join the Montreal Girl Geek Dinner group or your local chapter (Toronto, Bay Area, international listing).

I am grateful

I want to say thank to Tibetan Om Restaurant for accepting that we do a presentation at their restaurant. It is special experience because they were other customers. If you never tasted Tibetan cuisine before, it is really good. It was my first time. I ate a lentil soup, a sampling of dumplings and a beef stew served with vapor bread (that is white the bread is still white). My husband, my official event photographer, ordered a plate of shrimp dumplings that were delicious.

I also wanted to thank all the participants for listening, asking good questions and giving me many sound advices. Finally, thank you Tanya for asking me to talk. Preparing and doing the speech allowed me to put my goals and my achievements into perspective which give me a chance to move further. The Girl Geek Dinner event is really a two-way street.

More Marketing Tips

I want to share two blogs that gives excellent, down to earth advices on generating traffic and blog monetarization. If you are serious about blogging, make sure to add those to your RSS daily feed.

  • Problogger – do not miss his Best of Problogger
  • ReadWriteWeb – useful tips on how to write an online publication

I also suggest you follow a couple of blogs from specialists in communications or marketing. I do not give you any names because it is a matter of personal style.

I will go back to my regular editorial on my next post.


Looking better than it tasted at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar


As I visited Toronto for the IDS 2008, I booked the Sunday brunch at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar. I heard the buzz about this place so I was excited.

Jamie Kennedy has earned a great reputation in Toronto for his upscale restaurants. With the Wine Bar, he proposes an affordable option executed by the Chef of cuisine Tobey Nemeth.

My opinion

Sadly I liked the décor more than the food. In all fairness, I should have sat at the kitchen bar. Usually it is a treat to see what is going on.

That Sunday, we were speaking about Status Competition, our Facebook application, at PodCamp Toronto. So I opted to sit at a quiet table. I imagined that Jerome and I may refine our presentation during the brunch.

Basically, Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar serves small portion seasonal dishes either for lunch, dinner or at brunch. I was told that the menu slightly changes on a daily basis. As you may suspect by the name of the restaurant, wine pairing plays a big role on the menu. Next to each dish on the menu you have the wine recommendation of the sommelier. Due to our speaking engagement, we did not taste any wine.

About the Sunday Brunch menu

The Sunday Brunch Prix Fixe menu lets you select 2 dishes from the menu for $20. Side dishes are extra. I found that the mix of flavors on the Cheese and Dried Fruit Grilled Sandwich was not really successful. The caramelization of the dried fruit with the cheese (I do not remember which one) did not work for me. Since we were pressed by time, I did not say anything to our server. My egg dish was good. Jerome ate a warm tartelette and an omelet. His selections were more interesting than mine.

We had the House-Made Berkshire Pork Bacon which I enjoyed since I ate the lean parts. I was surprised that there was that much thick fat on our pieces.  The white fat was easy to remove with a knife but I would expect the kitchen to do it before serving.

About the Décor

As you can see from the pictures I took, the restaurant decor is warm, cool and creative. The Mason jars wall looks amazing. That is my favorite thing in the place. It is an idea to steal for your own kitchen.  The school dining table ambiance in the larger room is charming.

The night before, I lived through a delightful dinner at Kultura. I was still under that spell so maybe I asked too much from my brunch. I suspect the dinner at the Wine Bar must be a different experience. If you ever ate at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, how did you like the food? Should I try it again?

Learn more: Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar
Photo credit: Jamie Kennedy with his sous-chef at the Gardiner Museum taken by Mary Elizabeth Armstrong – Rights reserved picture


Social dining at Kultura in Toronto

kultura restaurant lounge in Toronto

It is fun to go at a trendy restaurant with a young, well-dressed crowd, beautiful décor and most important with incredible food. That was on my agenda last Saturday night. I elected Kultura as the place to review.

My husband and I went to dinner with three of friends that were participating in PodCamp Toronto. Earlier that day, I tried to reserve a table for 2 but Kultura was already fully booked. They told us that we could eat sitting at the counter of the Lounge. That is what we did with our friends.

Everybody enjoyed the meals. Since we were sitting at the lounge, it was noisier but we could still have a conversation. Executive Chef Roger Mooking brings a new twist on multi-ethnic cuisine. The dishes surprise us with an unexpected mix of flavors. The food presentation was imaginative.

What did we eat?

The dinner menu is composed of small portion dishes. The idea is to explore and share a meal. Our friendly server recommended two to three dishes per person. For two girls and three guys, I ordered the following:

  • 2 x Duelling Tartare
  • 1 x Mediterranean Salad
  • 1 x Foie Gras Trio
  • 1 x Mushroom Orecchiette
  • 1 x Green Beans Plate
  • 2 x Filet Mignon with truffle potatoes
  • 1 x Jamaican Chicken Risotto

The amount of food was right. Kultura delivered on my expectation of great food, décor and ambiance. I wish to dine at the restaurant next time I visit Toronto. The signature drinks we tried pleased me except that the Cosmopolitan was apparently too sweet.

The third floor of Kultura is available for private party of up to 30 sitting guests. I visited it and the space creates a really nice atmosphere. Kultura is located at 169 King Street East, downtown Toronto.

Learn more: Kultura