Lia is my best friend. We met in middle school. She was from Perry Hall, I was a country kid from Kingsville. Beginning in 7th grade, we knew each other, but not well. Then, the summer before ninth grade, we became real friends, but I don’t really remember how. I remember letters were written, she was in the gifted & talented program (which was a hint of things to come) and wrote me from camp. Then field hockey tryouts happened before school started and I guess the rest just fell into place. We fit. Yes, she was smart. But also warm and funny and kind. She still is.

She went onto Yale and MIT, lived all over the world, finally settling into Paris about 20 years ago. She lives there with her (also kind, smart, funny) husband Daniel. All these years later, we are still very close. We are those friends – you know the kind – who can go six months without talking and just pick it right back up. I am so thankful for that.

Also, FYI, her work is amazing: Lia Kiladis.

Over the years, I’ve visited Lia in Paris four times, most recently, last week. The first couple of trips were filled with doing all of the touristy things – you MUST do them, trust me. Then ten years ago the trip was a few touristy things mixed with just hanging, relaxing and visiting their country house in Burgundy. (Yes, they have two houses, they work really hard…) Also, the last trip in 2007 was to celebrate my 40th bday and we had lunch with Ina Garten – Lia designed Ina and Jeffrey’s Paris apartment, which I visited, too. (They are both very, very nice and down to earth.)

After leaving my job to start my consulting business two years and approaching my 50th bday, I thought it was time for a trip. I really couldn’t afford it, but I had just signed a new client, so I thought it’d be okay. I found super cheap tickets and knew we would just stay at Lia’s, so my only other expenses would be food and drinks. Our other bestie Kathleen was in, so here we go. Boom.

Then, something pretty fun happened. I was out with my friend Kate Rowe and she had two phones…and taking some crazy good photos with one of the phones. I was intrigued. I asked her about it and turns out that Verizon had given her the Google Pixel to try out for a few weeks. WAIT, what? So, in true Kate fashion, she connected me with the Verizon folks and they agreed to give me a phone to take to France, I was stoked. (Thanks again, Kate!) Sadly, no, I cannot keep the phone, but it was fun for a while. I joked that I felt like a drug dealer or something, phone #2 was my burner. Too many episodes of SVU, perhaps?

Also, I’ve developed a nice partnership with the folks at Dansko. I’ve written about my love of their clogs (I live in their shoes…and now wear some fashion styles, too…) and they sent me some shoes to help my feet with all of the walking I knew we’d be doing. Very nice of them – thank you, Krystle. You are the best.

While in Burgundy, in addition to a day trip to Beaune, we also decided to have lunch at one of Lia and Daniel’s favorite places, La Table De Chaintre (in Beaujolais, about 40 minutes from Lia’s), which I learned later has a Michelin star. We enjoyed a chef’s tasting menu (a three-component amuse-bouche, five courses, plus three desserts) at lunch that Sunday and it was pretty fabulous. Seasonal, creative and for a four and a half hour lunch, it went by very quickly. The chef/owner visits the market in Lyon every Tuesday and chooses the week’s menu based on what he finds there. It is owned and run by Sebastien and Floriane Grospellier – and, this is the thing that blew my mind – they have three children under four years of age. I mean, come on. They have one employee (who was not there during our visit) and Floriane handles all of the service: waiting tables, suggesting wines, expediting food, everything. Warm, yet polished, my favorite kind of service. She was lovely. As we left, I looked into the kitchen and Chef was cleaning the kitchen and smiled and waved. Lovely people. What gorgeous, thoughtful food.

I asked my chef friends, Francophiles, wine professionals and more for their recs for places to eat and drink – big thanks to Alex & Chris Janian, Tony Foreman, Andrew Carmellini, Jeff Snow, Helmand Karzai and others. I also consulted a few Paris food blogs and Instagrammers. The list included some new (I hate that word, hipster, but it applies here) spots and classics. Some trends I noticed were cocktail bars, coffee shops (vs. classic French cafes), as well as restaurant groups doing multiple concepts (Frenchie, for example) and places that seem to emulate American oyster bars – like Clamato, Le Mary Celeste – and doughnut shops like Boneshaker. Also, you’ll find Bao buns at yam’Tcha, so good, and right around the corner from kitchen tool mecca, E. D’Hellerin.) I thought my head might pop off in that store, I think that was the place I was most excited to visit. (I noticed Chef Chris Cosentino shopping while I was there – no, I did not say hello. I left the guy alone to nerd out, at least I know we have that in common.) Oh, and ps. One more reason for a doughnut at Boneshaker, besides the sweet treats? The truly amazing living wall around the corner – pic below. 

The 2007 visit was when things shifted for me. I was mesmerized by Paris. I’m not sure what happened, but something just clicked on that visit. Maybe it was meeting Ina, maybe it was going to Burgundy. But after that trip, I was obsessed. I cooked and cooked and cooked. Learned to make pasta, cheese, bread, preserving and more. I went out a lot, asked more questions, started writing and learning more about food and drinks. So, fast-forward ten years to now. Eyes wide open this time around. I tried not to overthink it, but I kinda did, at first. But once we settled into Paris and then Burgundy, it became less about my “list” and more about simply enjoying the experience.

Anyway, here are my photos. I hope you enjoy them.