Dinner at Big Bear

Have you eaten dinner at Big Bear yet?  You should,  John is cooking every night. Food is fabulous, lovely spot at the corner of 1st and R...Martin-Lane and I have been dining there often during the last month since he took over the kitchen.

Menu changes everyday based on best available ingredients.  Sourcing from all of our favorites– Path Valley Cooperative, Reid's Orchard, Garner's Produce, Prime Seafood, Potomac Selections... you can make a reservation at, bigbearcafe.reservations@gmail.com.

Last nights menu–


Roasted Almonds with Rosemary   $3

Assorted Marinated Olives   $3


Cauliflower Soup with Sweet Onion Salad   $6

Shiitake and Crimini Mushrooms with Black Walnut Salad on Green Beans   $7

Pee Wee Egg on Kohlrabi and Lamb's Quarters   $8

Roasted Quail with Bull's Blood Beets and Tops   $9


Rockfish with Fennel, Carrot, Bok Choi and Soft Polenta, Preserved Lemon   $19

English Peas, Baby Squash and Lamb's Quarters in Green Tomato Sauce with Salad of Small Mixed Tomatoes, Olives, Barley and Sorrel   $13

Roasted Chicken Leg with Basil Mashed Potatoes, Fava Beans, Spring Onion and Beet Greens   $16

Meat Loaf with Black-Eyed Peas, Broccoli, Snow Peas, Grilled Onions and Roasted Tomato Sauce   $16


Basil Mashed Potatoes   $5

Tomatoes and Basil   $5

Soft Polenta with Fennel, Carrot and Bok Choi   $5

CHEESE COURSE   One/Two/Three   $6/$9/$12

Mrs. Kirkham's Tasty Lancashire, Raw Cow's Milk, Beesley Farm, Preston England

Coolea Gouda, Pasteurized Cow's Milk, Willems' Family Farm, Cork County Ireland

Stichelton Blue, Raw Stilton Style, Collingthwaite Farm, Nottinghamshire England


Chocolate Cake with Fresh Sour Cherries and Sour Cherry Coulis   $6

Gooseberry and Rhubarb Walnut Crumble with Whipped Cream   $6

Buttermilk Cake with Red and Black Currants and Creme Fraiche   $6

Verjus Restaurant, Paris, Vegan Dinner

Martin-Lane and I are vegan vegetarians– we eat very well.  Paris is no exception we have our favorite bakeries, street food, markets, cous cous restaurant, Vietnamese food, falafel... My preference is to eat meals inspired by the freshest seasonal market ingredients, many restaurants in Paris that cook this way are not able to accommodate vegans.  Of course there are exceptions on previous trips we have had memorable meals at Arpege, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and le violin d'Ingres to name a few.  On our trip last week we enjoyed a thoughtful and delicious seven course meal at Verjus.  I cannot recall each dish but the meal included– smoked broccoli, roasted potato with truffle salt and radish sprout, celery root dumplings with dan dan sauce, tofu made by a friend of the chef, cranberry beans, salsify...  Everything we saw at the farmers market and more!

At the end of the meal I asked how often they cook vegan meals and was told this was their first one!  I recommend both the restaurant and wine bar downstairs to both vegetarians and omnivores alike.

Home Restaurant, November 18, 2011





















Photo Kate Headley

Very much enjoyed our lively guests at Friday night Home Restaurant!


Brussel sprouts, pickled ginger

Lamb sausage, fig, carrot

Egg, jowl bacon, toast, sorrel

Rabbit, apple, corncake

Roasted tomato garlic soup

Chicken, sweet potatoes, grainy mustard

Lemon Thyme Vodka Martini


Flat iron steak, parsnip, broccoli greens

(Pierre Gauthier) Bourgeuil "Soif du Jour" 2010

Spaghetti squash, celeriac, chickweed, pickled beets, chanterelle and fried chicken mushrooms

(Thevenet) Macon Pierreclos 2009

Sablefish, stinging nettles, leeks, tiny potatoes, truffle salt, fennel

(Henri Jouan) Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grain 2009

Jasper Hill Harbison cheese with walnut cracker

Huckleberry custard with salty rosemary walnut biscotti

(Eudald) 'Familia' Brut Cava NV

Squash pecan pie chocolate sorbet and cocoa nibs

Cookies: Coconut cashew, chocolate mint, gingersnap

Take home

Seeded bread

Cooked Huckleberries

Hudson New York, Getaway





















Had a couple of days free last week and took a train to Manhattan and then transfered to another train to Hudson NY.  We spent a glorious couple of days hiking, eating, shopping and relaxing.

Stayed at Mount Merino Manor, a five minute taxi ride outside of town–  situated on a 100 acre property, great breakfast, beautiful views of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River, quiet...

Hiked at Olana which is a 250 acre estate within walking distance from Mount Merino Manor.  It was the home of the Hudson River School Painter, Frederic Edwin Church. Church meticulously designed the landscape of his property concentrating on views that one can see from the various paths on the property.

Ate at two fantastic restaurants which were very vegan friendly and focused on local ingredients, Swoon and Daba.  Both restaurants served thoughtfully prepared delicious food and had lovely small wine lists and excellent service.

Drank coffee at Strongtree a small batch roaster located across the street from the train station with memorable coffee and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff.

Shopping is extensive...the only problem with taking the train was there are endless large pieces of old stuff– furniture, planters, garden gates...that we had to leave behind.  There are also very reasonable and well curated vintage clothing shops– a little easier to squeeze a bit of that into our small backpacks. We also found all sorts of small shops where people were making jewelry, painting, churning ice cream...

A few of the favorites we discovered:

Red Chair on Warren- collection of old things from France and Belgium including buttons, plates, fabric, seed packets...

Shana Lee- jeweler who makes the simplest perfect dot stud earrings that happen to be extremely reasonably priced.

Mark's Antiques and Larry's Back Room- great unique unfinished pieces, I hated to leave a very large round cast iron tub that would have made the most fantastic planter.

Look Apparel and Accessories– where I was introduced to and purchased a Didier Ludot little black dress...now I cannot wait to return to Paris to visit his shop!

Wine, "Les Chassis"





















Photo Kate Headley

At Friday nights dinner thanks to Tom, a wine importer we work with, all the wines were stellar.  Tom looks at each Home Restaurant menu and helps us pair wines that complement the food.  He imports wines from small vineyards, lots from France and some from Italy and Spain.  His contribution to our dinners is enormous.  We share the belief that wine should highlight food and food should highlight wine– the combinations should work in concert.

The final savory course on Friday night was lamb shoulder with canellini beans, a sauce of girasol and salsify puree, wilted spinach and shaved black oregon truffles.  We poured Domaine des Hauts Chassis, Crozes Hermitage "Les Chassis" 2007 to go with that and the Winnimere cheese course that followed.  The wine was a stand out.  I asked Tom if he had any additional information to share about the wine, this is what I got from him–

Frank Faugier of Domaine des Hauts Chassis in Crozes Hermitage took over the family's 12 hectare domaine in 1998 and made the decision to leave the local co-operative and go it on his own. His first official vintage was in 2003, and luckily for us, all of his hard work has paid off. On predominantly large galets size stones over coarse sand and red clay, Frank produces 3 deliciously distinct wines. Last spring I was fortunate enough to meet and taste with Frank at the domaine located in the commune of La Roche de Glun. Although I was most impressed by the purity of fruit throughout the range , my hands down favorite was the 2007 "Les Chassis".   This 100% syrah hails from vines that are more than 50 years old. Deep and intense with beautiful structure (i.e. rich fruit, ripe medium tannins and excellent underlying acidity) this is a syrah that in my estimation could only come from the northern Rhone.

Canal Saint Martin, neighborhood Paris

I have been stalking the Canal St. Martin neighborhood for more than a decade now.  The first time I visited I knew that it is where I would choose to live if moving to Paris.  It was a perfect place to wander, we found a coffee shop, a book store and a large Antoine and Lili store but it was not full of shopping, galleries or other commerce that often bring you to visit a neighborhood– it just appealed as an excellent place to live.  On subsequent visits we saw new stores popping up, more cafes and restaurants...today it is both a great place to live and a destination.

When deciding where to stay on our most recent trip I learned that a new small hotel had recently opened right on the canal, I did not hesitate, I made a reservation at Le Citizen.  In addition to the hotel being located in what I consider the perfect spot there were many other advantages it was– small, comfortable, you get an ipad lent to you upon check in, the staff and owner are knowledgeable and helpful, the construction and practices are ecologically aware...in short it was hard to leave and we will stay there on our next trip.

Staying on the canal gave us a chance to explore the neighborhood, on the street (rue de Lancry) between Jacques Bonsergent (our metro stop) and the hotel there is a paper shop, a fabulous flower store, a variety of small specialty food shops– Italian, Lebanese, Greek, fruit...a late night falafel joint that proved invaluable for an after ballet snack one night, intriguing clothing and vintage stores and a fabulous design bookstore.  There are also several spots that beg you to stop for a drink or a glass of wine including Le Verre Vole and Hotel du Nord.

The blocks surrounding Le Citizen were full of food shops, clothing stores, galleries, flower shops, cafes... I am anxious to explore each one on future visits.  We did find two new favorites: a bakery, Du Pain et Des Idees and La Tete Dans Les Olives.

Since "discovering" Du Pain et Des Idees I learned that the excellent bread is not exactly a secret...Alain Ducasse serves bread from this bakery at his Paris 3 star restaurant, Plaza Athenee.  The Pain des Amis is one of the best breads I have ever tasted– slightly fermented, nutty, whole wheat and woodsy.  We also tried a stuffed bread that was kind of like a French version of an empanada filled with olives and thyme– memorable.  I have no doubt that everything from this bakery is worth trying.

La Tete Dans Les Olives is about a 10 minute walk from Le Citizen hotel.  The tiny store is packed with products from Sicily.  The owner travels to Sicily every year for the olive harvest and processing of the oil and returns back to Paris with a variety of oils that he has made.  He does not own property but rather visits friends olive farms and the names of the oils reflect the owners of the various properties.  The processing procedure is the same for each oil but the tastes vary greatly depending on the variety of olive, soil and other growing conditions.  We tasted several oils and wanted to bring home one of each but settled on two, a very grassy tasting Paolo and a rich and intense oil called Francesco.  We also tasted the most delicious capers, sun-dried tomatoes, fig cookies and a dried persimmons.  This store is worth a detour!  They also do a 5 seat restaurant a few times a week, sadly there was no spaces available but it is on the top of my list for my next visit.

Eating Vegan (vegetalien) in Paris

Every time I go to Paris I forget that it is an oddity to be a vegan there.  There are outstanding ingredients– stellar vegetables, the best bread, availability of a huge variety of foods from all over the world...but the French are committed to their meat, fish, eggs, butter and cheese.  Fancy restaurants with kitchen inventories and large kitchen staffs sometimes are willing to accommodate.  However, smaller bistros with one menu and only a person or two in the kitchen are often unable to prepare a vegan meal.  There are exceptions to this, a few I know of are–  Le Clown Bar we had an excellent plate of seasonal vegetables and lentils, we were unable to get a reservation at La Tete dans les Olives or Le Comptoir (next trip!) but they seemed undaunted by our request and the underground restaurant, Soul Kitchen Supper Club said vegan would not be a problem but they were not open any of the nights we were in Paris this time.

Don't get the wrong idea, we ate well in Paris!!

There are several vegetarian restaurants in Paris, I have not been to many but we did end up eating a lovely meal in between two exhibits at the Pompidou Museum at Le Potager du Marais.  I have heard great things about several others as well.  We had a fabulous lunch made up of several small salads and extraordinary multi grain bread at Bread and Roses near the Jardin de Luxembourg.  There are many cous cous restaurants where it is easy to eat vegan throughout Paris, a favorite is Chez Omar.

Street food is plentiful and much of it is vegetarian, favorites include the Thyms Sandwich at the Bastille Market, Falafel from L As du Fallafel, Japanese choices from a stand called Taeko at Marche des Enfants Rouge (great Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Italian choices too)– and there is always the option of bread and fruit available on nearly every corner.

On our recent trip we also ate at Le Violon D'Ingres where we started with a perfectly dressed salad, followed by a plate of spring vegetables that included fava beans peas and morels.  We ended with a cassis sorbet and fruit.  On an earlier trip we they were happy to prepare a memorable vegan meal for us at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

Our last night we splurged and ate at Arpege a Michelin 3 star restaurant that is unique in that it has an emphasis on vegetables.  They were happy to work with us and forgo dairy as well.

Our meal was made up of lots of tiny courses–

Beet on cracker with chocolate

Potato noodles with herb vinaigrette

Spinach with sesame and bitter orange

Salad with hazelnut butter

Beet and chocolate with balsamic vinegar and spring onion

Yellow beet carpaccio with chervil

Black radish carpaccio with lemongrass

Green radish with caramelized radish and green tea

Baby vegetables with cous cous and cumin

Cassis Pates

Orange and apple with mint and argon oil

Apple and pineapple with olive oil lime sauce and candy


Already dreaming of our next visit!