Fratelli’s in the 17th


Great restaurants are everywhere in Paris. Some are very fancy, and I love those on occasion. But our favorites are usually the friendly, quaint, neighborhood places where the locals hang out — where the food is great, and the service is friendly and welcoming. Restaurant Fratelli, over on Boulevard Malesherbes in the 17th, is just that kind of place. If you are ever in Paris and you’re craving Italian, THIS is the place to come.

My husband first discovered it through tripadvisor, where it’s rated #505 out of 13,396 restaurants in Paris — not bad for a simple little trattoria! It’s a lovely, little space, with brick walls, a gorgeous mirrored bar, black leather banquettes, and a large, outdoor dining room. The pizza they serve here is better than any I’ve found outside Italy, and their Carbonara is silky, creamy, salty…and perfect.

Leon had already been to the restaurant once before — on a business trip the year before we moved here. On that visit, the specialty of the day was a pizza made with truffles. Since he knows I’m a total truffle hound, he brought me back to Fratelli’s right after we moved to Paris, and told me to order the truffle pizza. Our adorable waitress, Anais, told me that unfortunately, the “Pizza Truffe” was no longer available, as it had only been a special item for a short while, months before. But she volunteered to go back to the kitchen to ask the chef if he would make it especially for me.

In just a moment, she came back to our table, winked, and told me that she was, in fact, dating the chef. So…of course, he would make me the special pizza.  Score!

Well, that pizza was heaven. I’d never tasted anything like it: crispy, wood-fired crust drizzled with truffle oil, shaved truffles and melted cheese, and finally, topped with a salad of fresh arugula, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Every couple of weeks or so, I’d get a craving for “Pizza Truffe” and we’d head back over to Fratelli. Each time we went for dinner, I’d look over all the beautiful things on the menu, thinking I’d try something new. But every time, like clockwork, as our sweet waitress, Anais, walked over, she’d smile at me and ask, “Pizza Truffe?” and I would laugh, and say, “Of course!” And that would be that. It didn’t matter that the kitchen hadn’t had that particular pizza on the menu for months. Truffle pizza was what I wanted, and she knew it. So, every time I came, she made it happen.

After a few months, I finally started trying some of their other beautiful dishes. The carbonara is insanely good, served with a raw egg yolk on top that you stir into the dish at your table, to make the sauce extra creamy. The linguini bolognese is subtle, but flavorful; the calamari is crisp and tender. And they have this wonderful red wine that they serve chilled — it pairs beautifully with almost every dish on the menu. Even their cappuccinos are heaven! In fact, everything I’ve ever tried here, has been great. And the service? Phenomenal.

From the moment you arrive, every single person in the restaurant makes you feel welcome. Every waiter, bartender and manager stops whatever they’re doing when you walk in, looks you in the eye, and with a big smile, says, “Bon jour!” You are shown to your table and the pampering begins. Every time I’ve been here, (and we’ve been here a lot) the waiters have been brilliant. Never interrupting the flow of our conversation, never drawing attention to themselves, but always slipping over to our table whenever they see the need: replacing carafes of water, pulling plates, bringing more bread. Every waiter is on constant alert…roaming around, making sure everyone is happy at all times.

And our adorable waitress, Anais? She’s the manager now! When we arrive, she still rushes over to give me kisses and ask how we are. And you know what else? Truffle Pizza is a standard item on the menu these days! Guess they realized how great it was, and decided to make it a regular thing. Well, that’s what I did with Fratelli…realized how great it was, and decided to make it a regular thing.

If you ever get a craving for home-style Italian food while you’re in Paris, trust me, Fratelli is the place to go.

Here’s the review on tripadvisor, just in case you’re interested!

Dogs in the City

Paris has gone to the dogs…in the absolute best way possible. I’m aware that there are a lot of cities where you can take your dog to the terrace of a restaurant, or into a bank or whatever. But Paris seems to treat dogs as part of the family. In many places here in Paris, you can take your dog into a formal restaurant, complete with white tablecloths and linen napkins and sit your pooch down on the floor at your side while you dine.

In fact, Leon & I have done exactly that on more than one occasion. I’ve seen waiters kneel down for a moment petting, playing with and loving on our babies. When we’ve been seated, sometimes we have actually been given a table for four…so that the dogs would have enough room to be comfortable. They almost always bring over a bowl filled with cold water for the pooches too. Yep…I love this town.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city as dog-friendly as Paris. We wander the streets with the pups every day, discovering new areas to love. And when you’re walking along with your furbabies, people actually stop you every so often to tell you how cute they are, “Ooh…trop mignon!” They will ask if they can pet them, ask about their age or breed, or both. They’ll even ask you if your dogs like living in the city. It’s utterly charming.

And it’s not just Paris…The entire country of France is very dog-friendly. So far, our pups have been welcomed in hotels, restaurants, shops and galleries all over France: Bordeaux, Champagne, Cognac, Armagnac, Saint Emillion, Pomerol, Dijon, Barbizon, Fronsac, Annecy, Strasbourg, Lacaves, and Bergerac, In fact, it’s pretty difficult to find places that don’t allow dogs. They are welcome almost anywhere. It’s fantastic if you’re a dog-lover. In France, people just get it.

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras

The Best Restaurant in Paris – Mon Bistrot


What do you call a Guide Michelin restaurant that breaks all the rules, but still manages to treat you like family, and consistently turn out gorgeous French food paired with beautiful wines and champagnes? You call it Mon Bistrot. And my husband, Leon, and I call it our favorite restaurant in Paris.

Mon Bistrot is owned by two remarkable men: Yann and Franck. Franck works the bar and the front of house. He’s a real sweetheart and is a lot of fun to hang out with, not to mention he pours some pretty great cognacs, armagnacs and calvados from behind that bar. Yann is the genius in the kitchen, creating beautiful food based on the French style, but with his own unique flair — every dish, a bit unexpected and fun. Since Yann has a young daughter, he doesn’t want to work on the weekends, so the restaurant is only open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday. They’re also closed the entire month of August so Yann can go on holiday with his family. Told you they pay no attention to the rules.

The waiters here pamper you within an inch of your life. (I won’t insult their level of attention by simply calling it “service.”) Julien and Etienne cater to your every need. They are both wonderful. And Marciel, the brilliant sommelier, is a charming flirt. Everything about this place is fancy but informal. It’s a wonderful contradiction.

Leon discovered this little gem through tripadvisor. (It’s one of our favorite resources for finding “the great and unusual” wherever we travel.) We were still living in Dallas at the time, but Leon had to travel to Paris every couple of weeks for work. Since he’s a real foodie at heart, he was looking for something extraordinary near his office. Boy, oh boy, did he find it.

The first time he took me here was about six weeks after his first visit, when I tagged along for one of his business trips. At that point, Leon had been here four times already. The second I walked in the door, Yann ran over to kiss me, saying, “Madame Leon! Madame Leon! We have the best table in the house just for you!” Thank goodness everyone falls in love with Leon the second they meet him. I was golden by association – even before I said hello.

That first night, when I was leaving, I was still confused about the whole French “kissing on the cheek” thing, so I asked Marciel, the sommelier, “I forget. When I am leaving, is it one kiss or two for goodbyes?” Without missing a beat, he very seriously replied, “Pour moi? Quatre!” Since then, every time I see Marciel or Julien (our favorite waiter) they get four kisses each. I forgot once, and Marciel was actually shocked and hurt. I can’t tell you how much we love these guys. They are just like everything else here, very elegant but at the same time, wonderfully friendly and welcoming. The interior design of the restaurant manages to walk that line perfectly as well.

It’s beautiful here. The walls are painted this dreamy, robin’s egg blue. There are massive, gilt-framed, art gallery originals lining the walls — vintage ads for liqueurs and absinthe; I lust after them every time we have dinner here. As if that weren’t enough, in one corner, there is a huge crystal vase simply packed with cherry blossoms. The flowers float across the ceiling in the corner of the dining room like a giant canopy of pink butterflies.

Dinner that first night was incredible, and to this day, every time we visit, we have a ball. The food is always special. Whether it’s lobster, smoked duck, risotto with grilled shrimp, or tuna tartar, everything here has Yann’s special magic. His menu changes constantly, but two dishes are ever-present. One is Leon’s favorite main course, and one is my favorite dessert. Let me tell you a little bit about them both and you can see why everyone raves about the food here.

We’ll start with Mon BIstrot’s famous steak called the “Johnny.” Yann flies all of his beef in from Argentina weekly, and the meat is so tender you would almost think the cows got spa treatments every day. The “Johnny” is a filet mignon, barely seared on one side, then covered with a mustard sauce to allow the rest of the steak to warm. This dish only comes one way — bleu. (“Bleu” means practically raw but warm.) You cannot order it medium, or even rare. It is ALWAYS served bleu. (I truly believe you could get this steak up and walking if you had to, so it’s not for the faint of heart.) Leon gets the Johnny almost every time we visit, and he always recommends it to friends. Once they’ve tried it, they’re totally hooked.

My favorite dish is, of course, a dessert, Yann’s deconstructed lemon tart. It’s served in a beautiful, three-tier, crystal dish that looks sort of like a glass Christmas tree. The top tier holds a toasted, marshmallow-y meringue. The homemade crumble lies in the tier below that. And in the largest crystal bowl on the bottom is the silky, tangy, sweet, lemon crème. It’s served with a long wooden spoon which you draw through the meringue first, coating the spoon thoroughly. Then you swish that through the homemade crumble (which stays on the spoon thanks to the sticky meringue). Finally you scoop up the lemon crème. Once all three components are loaded onto your spoon, you get a bite of one of the most special desserts you can imagine. In each spoonful you get cool and warm, sweet and tart, creamy and crunchy. In short, it’s perfect.

And it’s not just these two dishes that blow everyone away. It’s the unexpected way that Yann puts everything together: fresh popcorn in a chilled, zucchini soup, veal carpaccio with fava beans, grilled polenta and smoked duck, glazed with a balsamic reduction. The dishes are all delicious, and they are so beautiful that they look like art on a plate. We have brought all sorts of people here, and whenever we bring a new group, Mon Bistrot becomes one of their favorite places in Paris too. The food is that good, the wines are that beautiful and the people are that special.

One time last year, we had brought two friends to join us for dinner. We had a table for four in the corner, and at the other end of the dining room, there was a party of about 12 people. Throughout the night, we noticed that the restaurant and bar were completely full, but the table for two right next to us was always empty. At the end of the night I asked Julien about it. He said, “Ah yes. Well, Yann didn’t want you all to feel crowded, so he told us not to seat anyone there for the evening. We turned away about 26 people tonight.” That’s the kind of thing that make this place so extraordinary. That’s why people keep coming back over and over — because they make you feel cared for, like family.

From Leon’s first visit, Mon Bistrot has been our favorite place in the city to bring friends, family, business associates, even neighbors. Everybody we can possibly bring, we have brought. When we found out a couple of friends of ours were coming to Paris for their honeymoon, we knew we had to give them a wedding dinner here, complete with free-flowing champagne. The guys here really know how to pull out all the stops.

Everyone we know in Dallas already loves the place, whether or not they’ve been to Mon Bistrot themselves. They love it just from the all the stories they’ve heard about how lovely these men are. It’s like going to a Michelin star restaurant that just so happens to be owned by your crazy-funny family. Serious food, but lots of laughter and irrepressible joy.

The next time you’re in Paris, stop by and tell them Leon and Grace sent you. You’ll be glad you did!

To read more about Mon Bistrot, or even see a video of Yann making the “Johnny” for the local news, check out their website.


Fajitas in Paris


After all these love letters I’ve written about Paris, you might think I never get homesick, but you couldn’t be more mistaken. Surprisingly, the thing I’ve missed the most while living in France for more than a year is good, old fashioned Mexican food: homemade guacamole and margaritas, mostly. As hard as I tried, I hadn’t been able to find a single, passable Mexican joint in this city of 13,300 restaurants…UNTIL I found a quaint little place in Saint Germain called Fajitas. My husband, Leon, and I did a lot of desperate research on the internet trying to find somewhere that I could get a decent margarita on the rocks. Finally, we stumbled across reviews for this cozy little hideaway on Rue Dauphine, and we decided to give it a try. I’m so glad we did.

The restaurant is owned by a wonderful couple, married for 22 years. Amy is from the United States, western Massachusetts to be precise. Her husband, Miguel, is from Vera Cruz, Mexico. He is the chef for this little gem, and Amy handles the front of  house. The main floor only seats about 30, and the lower level can seat about 15 more in a pinch, but it’s used mainly for private parties. Don’t even think about coming here for dinner unless you book a few hours ahead. I’ve seen them turn people away at the door more than once, simply because there wasn’t enough room. It’s not a “turn ’em and burn ’em” kind of place either. Once you are seated at a table, it is yours until you want to leave — no rushing allowed.

Fajitas opened in 2001 and has been sold out every night that I’ve eaten there. The regular crowd seems mostly to be made up of Americans: both tourists and Expats. You’ll get the occasional French couple, but primarily, the language you hear at the tables is English with an American accent, another unexpected taste of home! Amy and Miguel had another restaurant before this one, and from what I understand, it was also a big hit, open for years. But, I think Fajitas is the restaurant they always wanted: small, friendly, crowded and fun…Just my style.

The interior is charming. It feels like the back patio of a grand hacienda somewhere in Old Mexico. Hanging from the ceiling are thick, ropey braids of garlic, strands of dried peppers and worn, old, terra-cotta pitchers. Lining the stone walls are decorative planter boxes stuffed to the brim with dried wheat instead of flowers. And since almost all of the tables seat only two to four people, the restaurant feels very intimate even when it’s filled to capacity (which it always is).

I have to say, to have a woman like Amy, with a good old American accent come to your table and ask in English what I’d like for dinner — well, that makes my night, in and of itself. Not to mention the fact that she is always floating around the restaurant, making sure everyone is happy and well cared for. She runs the register, brings the food, mixes the drinks and handles anything that comes up -before it can become a problem. If she sees a scarf on the floor, she quietly drapes it over the back of the owner’s chair. The second someone walks in the door, she drops what she’s doing to greet them with a smile. She’s like the perfect blend of circus ringmaster, CEO and Fairy Godmother.

Miguel is no slouch either. He makes this spicy salsa from scratch with three different kinds of peppers. It’s totally addictive. I put it all over everything. My husband, Leon loves it so much, he eats it with a spoon, like soup. Oddly enough, I’ve never tried the namesake fajitas here. I’m sure I will, but so far, my cravings have been all about their chicken enchiladas and homemade guacamole. And, somehow, these cravings are always accompanied by the desire for a good, strong margarita. Amy, acting bartender, never disappoints. I like that gal.

There are a lot of wonderful things about Paris, but to me, the best thing about Texas is our Mexican food. And this cute, little spot helps me get over my homesickness every time. I’ll always be grateful for that…and for the margaritas!

If you want to check it out for yourself, the Fajitas website is

French Market Cooking Class


I often get asked “What’s the most fun thing you’ve ever done in Paris?” And in the past, my reply has been varied, depending on my mood and recollection. But from now on, I will always know exactly what to say! Last Saturday night was absolutely, without a doubt, the most fun we have EVER had in Paris.

We took a French market cooking class, complete with four-course gourmet dinner. It was so much fun! “Cook’n With Class” is the name of the company, and they’ve been really popular for years. They take a maximum of six people in any one class. That way, you get individual attention and have the ability to bond with all your other classmates, making the entire experience feel very personal, like dining in someone’s lovely home. But, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

First things first. We met each other on a street corner near the French market, and our “professor/chef” for the evening showed up with his shopping caddy. His name was Patrick (pronounced Pah-TREEK) and he was friendly, charming and full of great information! (By the way, each of the chefs for this school is very accomplished, and they are all fluent in English. They have to be.) All of the classes at this school are conducted entirely in English, which makes this a wonderful way for tourists to have a very French experience without the stress of actually having to speak French!

We went straight to the French market as a group, and hit the fishmonger, the butcher, the fromagerie, the produce market and even the boulangerie. Patrick showed us how to pick the freshest fish, the best quality meats, and even freshly baked bread. Wow, I learned things I never even expected.

I knew that a high-quality fish market should smell like the ocean, never like fish. But, there was a lot I wasn’t aware of. Who knew, for example, that when you’re looking for the best flat fish, you want it to be slimy? Weird, right? Patrick also showed us that when checking out the round fish, you have to look under the gills to make sure they’re still red and not brown. In addition, the fish should always look wet. Patrick was very insistent that you should always buy fish from the rear of the store, not the stall in front that’s on the street. (That’s where they try to sell the stuff that is oldest and about to go bad.) After learning all we could at the fish market, we moved on to the butcher.

At a French butcher, you’ll see a lot of things with their heads and feet still attached. I always thought this was just a creepy local custom, but man, was I ever wrong. Parisians know how to “read” these parts of the animals so that they know exactly the level of quality they’re buying.

We learned that chickens with yellow feet are the most common and usually lowest in price. Then come the chickens with black feet — higher quality, better taste, higher price. And finally, the rare blue-footed chicken with its gorgeous plumage is called the Poulet de Bresse. It is supposed to be the best chicken you can possibly eat. The quality of this bird is right up there along with Kobe beef from Japan. These beautiful birds are much more special than just a red label. Instead they sport a huge, blue, white and red label. The butcher even leaves the head on this guy with a ring of his beautiful plumage at the neck as double insurance that you’re getting a Bresse bird. When you buy one of these guys, you know you’re in for an insanely great dinner.

The heads of the rabbits are left on as well. Why, you may ask? So that the customers know they are indeed buying rabbits and not cats. Yes. You heard me correctly. (I’ll wait here for a moment for your gag-reflex to settle down.) Evidently, during World War II, butchers in Europe were low on meat, and it was difficult to get wild game brought into the city, so some butchers decided to try to fool customers into thinking the neighborhood cats were rabbits — as they both looked the same without their clothes on. Yikes! Fortunately, the government intervened, forcing butchers to leave the heads attached, so that customers could look at the teeth in order to make sure that they were buying actual rabbit. THAT is why butchers leave the heads on their rabbits still today. After that rather macabre lesson, we went on to the boulanger, the fromagerie, and the produce market to learn about each of them in turn.

Armed with all our new information, we began discussing options for dinner. Patrick gave us a few choices based on what he thought was best at the market that day. After each person chimed in with their likes and dislikes, he then quickly settled on a menu. He purchased the ingredients for the gorgeous dinner to come, and we all headed to the “Cook’n With Class” kitchens. It was a lovely space: a cozy kitchen with a large center island, complete with a separate work space for each guest. Each work station came with an apron, a cutting board and an individual sets of knives. It looked like it was set up for a cooking party — and that’s EXACTLY what it turned out to be!

Before we got there, I had been a bit worried that the evening would be kind of like being the slave labor for some scary chef, barking orders at us the entire evening: “You! Chop these onions! YOU! Wash those vegetables!” I couldn’t have been more wrong, thank goodness.

From the moment we settled in, we felt at home. Our chef, Patrick was funny, charming, entertaining and made each person feel special and capable, no matter how much of a beginner they were. When we arrived, he showed us into the lounge where we could help ourselves to fresh coffee while he unpacked the groceries. Then we all took a seat around the large kitchen island, ready to work.

The entire evening went something like this. A one to two-minute lesson from Patrick on how to do each step, followed by each of us being given a small amount of the same ingredient, so we could get the chance to mimic his example. By the time we’d each had our chance, that step of the preparation was complete, and we would move on to the next one. In our group there were people who lived in Paris, Russia and the United States. Within a very few minutes, we were all laughing and telling jokes, feeling like family in no time at all. After we had prepped the dinner, Patrick again ushered us into the lounge to taste the wines for the evening while the island was cleared and reset for our beautiful four-course gourmet dinner.

We learned a lot in this wonderful cooking lesson, but what I remember most of all was the laughter and the fun, the free-flowing wine and the family-feel of the entire evening. At first, when Patrick taught us how to sharpen a knife properly, we were all intimidated…afraid we’d cut off a finger. But slowly, we grew more confident. And we laughed as we sped up the process, giggling at our own bravery. We learned how to prepare a chocolate soufflé and then all the girls ate the leftovers right out of the bowl until it was all gone. We learned how to cut and sauté scallops while we told each other stories from our favorite vacations. And when Patrick taught us how make a delicious candied orange peel, we snuck bites out of the pot all evening — because they were just too good to resist.

We all watched Patrick like little kids at a magic show, while he whipped a bunch of eggs into a perfect creamy hollandaise sauce. Then, as each of us tasted it, we freaked over how amazing it was. We learned a few great tricks for seasoning & roasting cherry tomatoes while the heady aroma of sautéed duck filled the little kitchen.

The best part of the evening for me — was watching my adorable husband as he got to flambé the pears. When the flames shot over three feet into the air, the expression on his face was priceless. I’ll never forget it.

We tasted everything as we went along which made every step of the process more fun. Of course, dinner was served with all the wine we could drink — It is France, after all! We ate beuatiful food, we laughed, we told stories, and we watched in fascination as we learned French cooking techniques. Most importantly though, we made new friends and great memories. It wasn’t just dinner. It was theater, and it was great theater at that.

Our menu for the evening follows:
I. Pan-seared scallops atop a zucchini flan, served with orange-hollandaise and warmed orange segments, topped with candied orange peel. I’ll tell you, we all had a heavenly moment when we tasted that hollandaise.

II. Sautéed duck magret au jus, served with haricot vert, roasted cherry tomatoes and duck fat-sautéed potatoes.

III. A cheese course as French as it gets — seven beautiful cheeses from which to choose: washed rind, goat cheese, cow’s milk, roquefort. They had them all.

IV. Finally, in honor of my husband’s birthday, individual chocolate soufflés, his topped with a single candle to mark the day.

The evening course that we took lasts about 6-7 hours from start to finish. And by the time you leave, you feel deliciously full, wonderfully pampered and completely entertained.

If I could suggest one thing for any visitor to Paris, this would be it. This class is a wonderful, completely French experience without the stress of actually having to speak French. It is a memory to last a lifetime. Bon appetit!

Valentine’s Day — Ten Years Later


Our move to Paris got put off so many times, we thought it might never happen. After 18 months of negotiations, the deal finally came through. I knew our moving to Paris was a “God-thing” when it turned out that just by chance — the day we finally moved here to live as man and wife, was ten years to the day after Leon proposed to me on the Champs Élysées. In fact, our new apartment was just an 8-minute walk from the very spot where he popped the question way back on Valentine’s Day in 2005.

Now, this isn’t going to be a big, over-the-top Valentine story like the day we got engaged, but to me at least, it’s just as beautiful and every bit as romantic — in a different way.

We should probably start this story on the afternoon of February 13, at about 3 o’clock. That was when we left our home in Dallas to make the big move to France. We loaded up the car with six large suitcases, six carry-on bags, two coats and, of course, our two little furbabies, GizMo & Molly, and we headed off to the airport. Then the flight got delayed…and delayed…and delayed. About three and a half hours later, the plane finally took off, winging its way to Paris. Thank goodness we had the dogs to cuddle with because I was a nervous wreck at that point. I didn’t speak French at all at that point, and we were headed to a new apartment which I had not yet seen — a place where we hadn’t signed the lease, or even been given a key. The realtor was going to meet us there once we landed to handle all of that. If she didn’t show up, we were going to have a very bad day.

But all turned out well. Leon phoned the realtor when we landed at around noon. She was waiting at a café around the corner from the new place, (huge sigh of relief.) When we pulled up to the building, she met us and helped get all of our bags upstairs. (We must have looked like the Beverly Hillbillies hauling all of that luggage, I swear.)

Leon was proud of having landed us such a great apartment, so he wanted to be the one to walk me through it for the very first time. Wow, did he ever hit a home run. It is ENORMOUS…at least by Parisian standards. There’s a foyer with a walk-in closet, a huge salon and dining room with a marble fireplace, two bedrooms (both on a quiet little courtyard) and an adorable and totally tricked-out, little red kitchen. Every room has those beautiful floor to ceiling windows so common in French architecture, and the apartment is completely furnished, with basic, but very comfortable things. The best bit? It has eight closets with custom built-ins. I have to admit, when I saw those closets, I swooned. My husband really knows how to nurture my inner organizational goddess. Like I said earlier, total home run.

We signed the papers, got our keys and started unpacking — for five and a half hours straight. We even went to the grocery store and stocked the pantry and the fridge with everything we needed to start cooking together. After that was done, we took a walk with the babies to get them used to their new neighborhood (which we all fell in love with immediately).

Then Leon told me about his surprise. He knew we couldn’t leave the dogs alone in a strange apartment all night after they’d been trapped on an airplane for 14 hours, so he had arranged a Valentine’s dinner for us AND the dogs, at our favorite Parisian hideaway, Mon Bistrot.

When we walked into the restaurant, the kissing started. First Yann, the chef and owner; then Julien, our favorite waiter; and finally, Martial, the sommelier who always demands four kisses from me whenever I go there. By the way, they even kissed the dogs. That’s how sweet they are. Then they walked us to our table, and I laughed out loud — It was a table for FOUR. How adorable is that? After Julien pulled out my chair for me, he ran back and got a bowl of water for the dogs because he thought they would be thirsty after their long trip. (Didn’t I tell you he was the best?!?) The dogs laid right down and slept all through dinner –never even moved a muscle. (I suppose jet lag is just as tough on dogs as it is on people.)

I felt like I was in a romantic comedy. We were so exhausted we were giddy. I couldn’t believe it. We were finally here. We actually lived in Paris! (Only for about six hours at that point, but still.) It was a wonderful night: funny and fun, and romantic and well, in a word, perfect.

Now, Mon Bistrot’s dining room is always beautiful. The walls are painted this dreamy, robin’s egg blue. There are massive, gilt-framed, art gallery originals lining the walls — vintage ads for liqueurs and absinthe; I lust after them every time we have dinner there. As if that weren’t enough, in one corner, there is a huge crystal vase simply packed with cherry blossoms. The flowers float across the ceiling in the corner of the dining room like a giant canopy of pink butterflies. And every table was awash in candlelight. (I think that’s a requirement for any restaurant on Valentine’s Day, but Mon Bistrot does it especially well.)

That night, we had one of the most beautiful meals I’ve ever eaten in my entire life: champagne, truffles, duck breast with balsamic reduction, and a chocolate dessert that I still have dreams about to this day. Then we went home…to our perfect little apartment in Paris. Best day ever. It’s still one of my favorite memories of Paris — or anywhere else for that matter. Life is good.