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Have a taste of my Valentine’s Day

happy valentine\'s day : la porte restaurant : billecart-salmon champagne : frog prince at red envelop

To conclude my series on Valentine’s Day this year, I thought of leaving you with inspirational shots. I will also share with my plans to celebrate Valentine’s Day.


The food is from the La Porte restaurant on Saint-Laurent Street in Montreal. I took these pictures last October. The oysters tasting plate was amazing.

Restaurant La Porte is a story of love. First of all this is a small French restaurant run by a couple. Thierry et Pascale Rouyé had a restaurant in France before they moved to Canada. These long-time restaurateurs have transmitted their love affairs to their son who is a sous-cook under his Chef father.

The restaurant is named La Porte because they imported a stunning wooden door that they saw while visiting Morocco. It is the focal point of their restaurant.

Finally the attention to details and simply hearing them talking about their dishes indicate that food is a true passion for them. I recommend you try La Porte the next time you fancy upscale French cooking.


As a truly glamorous girl, I am fond of Champagne. What happens with Champagne is that there are a lot of smaller producers. The average consumer does not realize it because the government regulated liquor stores typically carry the big names. When we went to Los Angeles, we bought a bottle from a brand that is not available here. It is really interesting to experience the differences in bubbles and taste.

I did not know at the time that a select a champagne from a champagne house that was born out of the wedding of Nicolas François Billecart and Elizabeth Salmon.

Tonight, we will drink a 1998 Cuvée Elizabeth Salmon Brut Rosé from the Billecart-Salmon champagne house. Just reading this poetry from Billecart-Salmon built up my expectations for tonight:

This vintage stands out for its amazing coppery-pink glints underscored by an outstanding string of pearls and a lasting but fine and delicate mousse.

How do I plan to celebrate Valentine Day with my prince?

Our vintage champagne bottle can accompany a huge array of superb dishes from poultry to a delicate red fruits dessert. I will stop by the French bakery this afternoon to pick up a red fruit mousse cake. My husband and I will pick up sushi on our way back from work. I will lay down large cushions around the coffee table and we will eat in front of the fireplace.

Talking on my prince charming, I saw this cute Frog Prince at Red Envelop. My husband has never been an ugly frog but I never imagined when I first met him that he would be The Love of My Life. A long story so it would be for another time.

I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Valentine’s Day! Share the love. It is free and it makes the world a better place to live.

Learn more: Restaurant La Porte
Learn more: Billecart-Salmon
Buy online: Frog Prince at red Envelop – price: $58 USD


Upstairs on the Square with La Tartine Gourmande

Beatrice Peltre: bea of la tartine gourmande with kim vallee

I am sure several of you are a fan of Beatrice Peltre, the extraordinary food stylist behind the popular La Tartine Gourmande. Many of you will envy me since I got the chance to eat brunch with Bea while I was in Boston.

She chose Upstairs on the Square, an exciting restaurant in Cambridge. The type of restaurants that only the locals know about. The front door is on a tiny pedestrian street called Winthrop.

Unusual decor, delicious food

The décor is out of this world. It is not my cup of tea but at least the decor has the advantage of being stimulating for the customers. The ambiance and the menu bring you back.

We had a little performance by a singing chorale from Harvard. Unfortunately, I do not recall the name of the group. On the video, you can have a look at what the restaurant look like. You can also see our friendly waiter.

The conversation was delightful. We are both married to an IT developer. Therefore, our husbands had plenty to talk about. We had a wonderful afternoon.


Upstairs in the Square
91 Winthrop Street Cambridge, MA 02138
facing Winthrop Park in the heart of Harvard Square, corner of JFK Street and Winthrop Street
p   617.864.1933

You can reserve online via but if you cannot get the time or date you want, do not hesitate to give the restaurant a call to make sure they cannot accommodate you at that time/date. Bea used and I taught it was handy because I got link to the map and the Web site.

Learn more: Upstairs on the Square
Recipes and food photo: La Tartine Gourmande


Margarita on The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian

the grand canal shoppes at the venetian

The Internet connection is on and off at the Westin Casuarina, so I will condense what I want to share with you about my trip to Las Vegas.

Yesterday, we rode on the monorail to see to eat at Quarks and live the Star Trek Experience. My husband is a geek, what can I say. On our way back, we stop at The Venetian to see this out of this world Venice man made universe.

We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant with authentic Mexican cooking, as much as you can get in America. It was a good choice. The food is delicious at Taqueria Canonita.

Taqueria Canonita is located next to the canal of The Grand Canal Shoppes. On my picture, you see their terrace in the background next to the gondola. We were seated at the most entertaining spot in the house. Watch the video as I am telling you all about my margarita.

This morning, we booked a tour of the Grand Canyon on helicopter. I will tell you all about it as soon as I can.


Faux-Pas at the Communal Restaurant Table

my husband at the father\'s office

While we were at Father’s Office, the guy next to us put his half-full plate inside the plate of my husband because he did not like having his plate in front of him.

He did not ask if my husband has finished his plate, he just assumed. Frankly, he acted like a thoughtless guy who just thinks about his small person. Let’s make it clear. In no circumstances whatsoever can that behavior be acceptable. Even with your close friend or a relative, it is not tasteful to act that way.

What did I do?

I was astonished by his behavior; I never seen that before. I did not want to start an argument but I want to send him the message that it bothered me. So I pushed back the two plates on his side a few times until his girlfriend took the plates away from us. She put the plates against the barman’s bar this time. They did not even talk to us to say they were sorry and it was their mistake.

Reviewing the applicable table manners

Always remember that etiquette is based on the principle that your behavior should not disturb the well-being of others. Having said that, the etiquette rules when you are eating at a restaurant counter are:

  1. You do not invade someone else’s space. Depending on the design, you are usually allowed about 18-20 inches of counter space.
  2. Ask the waiter to take your plate away
  3. If you see that you seem to have offended someone or touched them inadvertently, say I’m sorry. It does not cost anytime and you acknowledged the other person’s concern. If you do not understand why the other person was upset, simply ask them politely what you did wrong? Do not forget that etiquette changes between regions and cultures.
  4. If you need something from someone, always ask permission first. Acknowledge that the other person has the right to refuse. So wait for the answer and make sure to say thanks before you act. If the person refuses, you should not look offended. Just answer that it is OK.

That is all for today’s lesson.


Not your Father’s Office | Review of a Pub in LA and their burgers

father\'s office on Montana Ave in Santa Monica

For our last night in LA, we wanted to eat some comfort food. So we went on a hunt for the best burger in town. And a local pub from the list of 101 reasons why to live in Los Angeles grabbed my attention.

Father’s Office is not your typical place. It is a neighborhood meeting place like we find in Europe. Founded 50 years ago, it is very popular with the locals today.

In fact, I heard the doorman saying to a man ordering some take-outs outside that a second pub twice the size of the original is scheduled to open soon. The fact that a man has to order his take out outside is a definite proof that they observed a strict policy on capacity. Since he did not want to wait in line, a waiter met him outside to take his order. With a maximum capacity of 76 persons, we waited in line 10 or 15 minutes on a Monday night at 8 o’clock.

The local customs

We heard while waiting in line some comments than suggested the place works differently. So we asked our friendly doorman for tips on how it works. He told us that the first thing to do once we get in is to find a free table. It usually means spotting the ones that are almost finished. The first person who arrived at a table gets it. There were many people on the hunt but my husband luckily found us a space for 2 at the five minutes later. He is the best!

Then, you go to the bar and order your food and drinks. You get your beer right away and a number for your food. Make your number visible so the servers can bring your food to the table. Most of their beers are from micro-brewers. We enjoy the taste of our AleSmith Brewing beer.

What differentiate Father’s Office burgers from the rest?

In three words: their unique recipe. And when I say unique it has double meaning. They only make one burger served with the same condiments. They have an absolute No Alterations or Substitutions policy. Their $12 burger is made of a plump of dry, aged beef stacked high with Gruyere, Maytag blue cheese, caramelized onions, applewood bacon compote, and arugula. Your burger is no served either with the usual burger bread. It was absolutely delicious.

Since the mad cow disease, everyone is ordering their burgers well-done in Canada. With such premium ground beef, it would be a crime. We ordered ours medium and the meat showed the right pink red center. We later saw locals ordering bloody burger, so you do not have to be afraid.

Not just burger

On the whimsical side, their fries “A la cart” may be served in a double serving-size shopping cart. Our fries were served in our basket, like half the room. You can order regular fries (long tiny ones with herbs, served with an aioli sauce) or sweet potatoes.

Beside the famous burger, their daily specials and the anything else on the menu look very tempting. The night we were there, an inviting French Seabass was on the chalkboard menu. If you are two girls, there is plenty to share a burger and fries.

We enjoyed our time at Father’s Office because of the food and the atmosphere. My only complaint, which is not their fault, is an incident with a clueless guy on table manner. Find out the details by reading my next post.

Learn more: Father’s Office on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica


Having breakfast with a paparazzi at Toast

having breakfast at Toast Bakery Café on 3rd street in Los Angeles

We were told by a friend of a celebrity that Toast Bakery Café on 3rd was a great place to eat breakfast. So yesterday we gave it a try. And I am glad we did.

The food was excellent. It is a trendy popular place. If you go, unless you are lucky like us and found a parking spot right in front across the street, go for the valet parking. It is only 5 dollars.

In less than 15 minutes, we sit at our table. This gave my husband time to take some outside shots. As he was taking a picture, a car stopped with three cute girls. They asked him: Who’s there? As he was talking to them, I called him. They thought he was a paparazzi! It is true that we do not see a lot of amateur Nikon cameras around here, especially with someone wearing a hat.

The food

I ordered a twist on the Egg Benedict called The Open Face. Strangely, their real Egg Benedict is served on an English muffin instead of a croissant. To make an Open Face, you layer smoked salmon, scallions and scrambled eggs topped with hollandaise sauce an opened face croissant. Pass it in the oven just enough for the hollandaise sauce to stop being liquid. It was delicious. If you are planning a brunch, that recipe should be a hit.

My husband Jerome ordered The Favorite omelet. It was filled with goat cheese, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, mushroom and basil. Next time you take a trip for leisure, take the extra time to eat breakfast where the locals instead of the hotel restaurant. The experience is worth it and you never know who you might see. In Los Angeles, Toast Bakery Café is a trendy place that delivers on taste.

We did not spot any actor or actress although I got the impression that the guy besides us was an agent or something like that. With so many new celebrities, it is hard to tell. Then on our way out, we saw the groupie girls eating on the terrace and we shared a few laughers.

+ Toast Bakery Café in Los Angeles – get directions


Eating out at Gonpachi in Beverly Hills

kim vallee with masa yamamoto and jerome paradis

Last night we went for sushi. I first spot a sushi restaurant designed by Philip Starck team but we were unable to get a reservation for 8 o’clock.

So the hotel concierge suggested Gonpachi on North La Cienega Boulevard. Watch the video to get a glimpse of the wonderful time we had at Gonpachi. I take about the food when we came back.

+ Gonpachi in Beverly Hills – get directions


Enjoying a breakfast at Le Cafetier in Sutton

Le cafetier de Sutton

A few weeks ago, we went to Sutton for the week-end. We ate breakfast at a nice café called Le Cafetier. There are a few ideas that you can recycle for when you have guests over. This post is about small discoveries I made while shopping.

1 | An old tool for serving tea

Le Cafetier serves the excellent teas from Camilla Sinensis, a tea house and boutique located in Montreal.

They bring an hour glass with each tea pot to check out the infusion time. It is a handy tea serving practice. It is so easy to duplicate it when you having friends over.

Hour glasses are sold as kitchen tools. But if you do not mind the plastic finish, you can even spare the expense. Simply dig into the boxes of the game boards you own. You will gather at least a couple.

2 | Delicious food

Since I am an avid lover of Egg Benedictine that is what I ordered. The Egg Benedictine at Le Cafetier is one of the most succulent I had the pleasure to eat in the last couple of years. Serving a homemade jam in an individual small bowl looks more stylish. You can find white porcelain bowls like these in China town for less than a dollar a piece.

3 | Beautiful Asian lanterns

Le Cafetier sells a few art and craft stuff. The silk fabric lanterns look incredible with the fabric taken several tints depending on the viewing angle. The colorful paper lanterns are simply joyful.

4 | Front Store of Atelier Bouffe

atelier bouffe à Sutton

On the same trip, I had to stop by Atelier Bouffe, a kitchen boutique to see the new stuff they have. I adore visiting this shop.

The front store done by the owner or manager really caught my eyes. The birch trunks and long branches look amazing. They stayed straight up without noticeable attachments. I think the result is creative and beautiful. If you have a cottage, this is a décor you can reproduce easily for a fall or winter party.

The two tables pictured at the front are a breakfast nook and a console table by Francois Fournier from Abercorn, QC. Francois specializes in fine woodworking.

5 | Beautiful tableware

Atelier Bouffe carries French table cloths. They look as impressive in silver and in gold. They will not pass unnoticed on your table. The Bistro paper napkins made the short lists for an upcoming party.

Le cafetier 9 Principale Nord, Sutton, QC J0E 2K0 | T 450.538.7333
Atelier Bouffe 14 Principale Sud, Sutton, QC J0E 2K0 | T 450.538.2766


Where to eat in Montreal?

Le Club Chasse et Peche in Old Montreal

Adding to the fact that many bloggers visited Montreal lately, Holly from decor*8 requested suggestions on where to eat and to shop in Montreal. So this is the right time to publish my list of favorite restaurants in town.

Most of them are fine restaurants. They are reasonably priced for a night out. I added a few suggestions for lunches and breakfasts. My list is ordered by neighborhood. I select three neighborhoods that are popular and fun to explore for travelers.

Old Montreal

Olive & Gourmando – 351 Saint-Paul West 514.350.1083

This bakery shop is the spot for a quick breakfast, a lunch or to simply enjoy an excellent coffee with baked goodies while you are visiting Old Montreal. Everybody raved about their soups and sandwiches. Do not forget to get one of their delicious breads. Olive and Gourmando is open from 8 am to 6 pm Tuesday to Saturday.

Le Club Chasse et Peche – 423 Saint Claude 514.861.1112

I ate there a few times since their opening. I am always delighted by my entire meal. This is a fine dining restaurant with a more masculine, rustic décor. The menu is inspired by the name of the restaurant which means Hunting and Fishing Club.

Expect $110 per person at night but it is money well spent. The wine list is impressive. We were invited last month for a dinner party by one of our clients and let say that we got a feast of cocktails, food and fine wines. It was a long night to remember. The staff was professional but friendly.

Notice that the restaurant is closed for lunches from July 14 to until August 13, 2007. Because the restaurant wants to operate only one kitchen team to insure the same quality level all the times, they are closed on Sunday and Monday.

Version Laurent Godbout – 295 Saint-Paul East 514.871.9135

Opened in 2005 by the chef of the popular and excellent restaurant Chez L’Epicier (311 Saint-Paul East 514.878.2232), Version Laurent Godbout proposes an interesting Iberian-based cuisine. The terrace is absolutely stunning. It is no secret that Laurent Godbout is a well viewed and loved chef in Montreal.

The décor, the way the dishes are plated and the recipes themselves are quite imaginative. Each dish is based on a theme. You are encouraged to share plates between guests at the table, like you see in the Iberian culture. If you are a group of 12, there is a charming private room at the front where you can watch the pedestrian crowd of Old Montreal.

Plateau Mont-Royal

Cafe Melies and Pullman Bar a vin

Cafe Melies – 3536 Saint Laurent 514.847.9218

This is the bar and restaurant of Ex-Centris, the most stylish Cinema and New Media Complex in Montreal. Just from an architectural and design point of view, the place is worth a trip. Just look at the street lights in front of the building. They depart from the rest of the street because Daniel Langlois wanted something more design than the basic city lights in front of his building.

I suggest you go for breakfast or lunch at Café Melies. The décor is quite special. This is a mix of art deco, futuristic and last century steamships integrated with references of movie gears.

Jano – 3883 Saint Laurent 514.849.0646

This is an inexpensive family own restaurant where you eat succulent Portuguese Grill food. If you go on the week-end, expect a huge line. I suggest you make a reservation. The restaurant Coco Rico also belongs to the Castanheiro family. You do not go at Jano for the décor, you go there to eat good simple food.

Primadonna Ristorante & Bar Sushi – 3479 Saint Laurent 514.282.6644

The Primadonna is on my top 3 list. In a cool stylish décor, you eat exceptional Italian cuisine and great sushi. The food quality is the same whether I am going on a Tuesday night or during the week-end. One thing I appreciate is that they try to assign their regular guests to one waitress. The wine list is pricier.
If you are looking for large dishes and a more crowded lively place, you may prefer the Buona Notte across the street.

Pullman – 3424 Avenue Du Parc 514.288.7779

This wine bar carries mostly special importations. The selection is always in movement. On the menu, you get innovative and nicely plated tapas. So you can go to get a bite or for a full meal. I suggest you get wine by the glass to match it to the food. You can order them in 2 or 4 ounces wine glass.

Tri Express – 1650 Laurier East 514.528.5641

Formerly of Kaizen and Le Petit Treehouse (now closed), Tri Du is a sushi chef of the highest quality. You will discover that Tri is an adorable guy. Go there for lunch to eat his amazing sushi. He is a creative chef that does not always stick to traditional Japanese recipes. The place is small and you can order for take-out.

CLOSED : Zumaia – 3712 Saint Laurent 514.288.8729

This Spain-Portugal small restaurant is a wonderful addition to our town. I suggest you try the Degustation menu. You will get the full meal except the dessert for $29 CAD. And leave room for dessert. The molten chocolate cake with a dash of olive oil, fleur de sel and espelette pepper (if I am not mistaken) is a divine pleasure. Honestly, it is to die for. You get many wines around $30 a bottle.

If you are looking for a great bar after dinner, try the groovy GoGo Lounge. But be sure to dress cool if you want to get in on weekends; the place is packed. 3682 Saint Laurent 514.286.0882


Restaurant Alloro in Outremont Montreal

Restaurant Alloro – 160 Laurier West 514.270.6003

This restaurant was designed by one of Montreal’s most prolific restaurant designers, Jean-Pierre Viau. You go there for the eating at the beautiful terrace. Alloro proposes simple Italian cooking. You just have to cross the street for drinks before or after the dinner at Barmacie Baldwin 115 Laurier W., 514.276.4282

Chez Leveque – 1030 Laurier West 514.279.7355

You go Chez Leveque to eat authentic, traditional French cuisine. With the current trend for French cuisine that I see in English Canada and the USA, I thought you will appreciate this restaurant. Their wine list is reasonably priced.

I got more of my list. But I will let you enjoy my first compilation of the best restaurants right now in Montreal. Have fun visiting us.

Via: Tips for Montreal and Quebec? published on decor*8

Photo credits:
Cafe Melies (1st row of middle montage): from their Web site
Alloro (bottom): Andre Pichette, La Presse
Club Chasse et Peche (top pictures) + Pullman: Kim Vallee