French Archive



August 2014



Exploring Cleveland: Dinner at L’Albatros

Written by , Posted in Restaurants, Travel

After a busy morning and afternoon exploring Ohio City, both Charity and I were more than ready for a relaxing evening on Saturday. Charity’s recommendation for dinner that night was L’Albatros, a French Brasserie + Bar in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood. I love French cuisine so I was beyond excited to check it out.

University Circle is another gorgeous neighborhood about a 15 minute drive from downtown. It is home to Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and several other impressive cultural and medical institutions. On our way to L’Albatros we drove down Martin Luther King Boulevard so I could catch a glimpse of Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens, a collection of 31 public gardens, each commemorating a different ethnic group whose immigrants have contributed to the heritage of the U.S. and Cleveland. I would have loved to spend more time exploring this beautiful area, but our reservation at L’Albatros was waiting! L'Albatros, Cleveland

When we walked into L’Albatros I immediately fell in love. As soon as we stepped in I was greeted by the intoxicating aromas from the open kitchen immediately to our right. The space is split up into smaller sections, making it the perfect setting for an intimate dinner with friends or loved ones. In fact, my cousin and his wife had their first date AND got engaged here, so I think it’s safe to say that L’Albatros does special occasions very well. They also have an outdoor patio that named one of the top 10 patios in Cleveland this summer and judging by its popularity on this beautiful summer night, it was no wonder why!

L'Albatros, Cleveland

Once Charity and I were settled into our cozy corner table that looked out to the patio, we got straight to business and ordered a bottle of wine and an assortment of cheeses. L’Albatros has a “cheese guy” (fromager? cheesemonger? we just went with “cheese guy”) who brings out the full selection of the restaurant’s cheeses to your table and cuts off your pieces right then and there. We opted for a couple funky, a couple soft, and one hard, and we were off to cheese-lovers’ heaven! Served with sliced bread and a little bit of honey and fig jam, this was the perfect way to start a very memorable meal.

L'Albatros, Cleveland, Wine

L'Albatros, Cleveland, Cheese

L'Albatros, Cleveland, Cheese

After the cheese came the Escargot. I absolutely love escargot and Charity had never tried it before, so this was a no-brainer. L’Albatros’ version is made with toasted garlic and fennel butter (lots and lots of butter) and we both really enjoyed it. The addition of fennel was a twist that I’ve never tried before and it worked very well. Make sure you have a few extra slices of bread to sop up all of that delicious butter, it’s always my favorite part!

We also each ordered a salad to add in a bit of lightness after our first two courses. Charity ordered the popular Radish & Cucumber salad and I ordered their special, mixed greens topped with heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese, and a Meyer lemon vinaigrette. These were both cool, crisp, fresh salads that hit the spot.

L'Albatros, Cleveland, Escargot

L'Albatros, Cleveland, Beet Cucumber salad

L'Albatros, Cleveland, salad

For our main dishes Charity and I both went with fish, Charity with the Roasted Cod, a fixture on the menu, and me with the Amberjack, a special for the evening. The cod was served with spätzle, sauerkraut, crème fraîche, and cornichon aioli – I had a bite and can attest that it is very tasty! My amberjack was served with summer squash and several other great seasonal ingredients. This was my first time eating amberjack and I was very happy with my order. 

L'Albatros, Cleveland, Cod

L'Albatros, Cleveland, Amberjack

We were both happily full but just couldn’t say no to dessert. We shared the dark chocolate tart with Meyer lemon curd, not too rich but just enough sweetness to satisfy; it was a great way to end an already fantastic meal.

L'Albatros, Cleveland, dessert, chocolate

Our dinner at L’Albatros was my favorite meal during my time in Cleveland. I would definitely rank L’Albatros as my #1 recommendation of where to eat in Cleveland based on my experience and all the great things I’ve heard from others. Whether you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate a special occasion or just in the mood for some delicious food, L’Albatros fits the bill!


*My expenses during my time in Cleveland were paid for by Positively Cleveland. As always, all content on Lion + Maven comes from my own, unbiased thoughts and opinions. 




December 2013




Written by , Posted in Chicago, Restaurants

I was already distraught about the fact that it had taken me so long to get myself in here and after dining at Avec for the first time I was really kicking myself for not visiting sooner! From here on out I will definitely be making up for all that missed time without this amazing food in my life!

It was a Tuesday night and as the snow fell outside, this tiny space on Chicago‘s Near West Side was bursting at the seams with energy. Conversation and laughter filled the restaurant as wine flowed and food was savored, all to the soundtrack of Biggie Smalls playing in the background…what’s not to love?!


Being the tiny space that it is, along with their no reservation policy, Avec is usually a fairly crowded spot any night of the week. When we arrived there were a few seats open at the bar, so my two dining partners and I snagged those up and settled in. For a group of 1-3 the bar works fine, I usually prefer the bar if it’s just me or me and one other person because I love chatting with the bartenders and getting their opinion on what to order.


Avec has a variety of small and large plates that are all perfect for sharing-my favorite way to go! Their menu is filled with Mediterranean classics, pulling from regions of France, Portugal, Italy, and the coast of Spain. The twist? A Midwestern interpretation that makes these dishes interesting and comforting at the same time. We perused the menu over a lovely plate of house-marinated olives…the perfect first bites to give us a taste of what was in store.


house-marinated olives

house-marinated olives

Our first dish was the Brandade. No idea what brandade is? Neither did I. Per Wikipedia, Brandade is an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil eaten in winter with bread or potatoes. It was delicious….and now I know that I love brandade! We also ordered their much-loved Chorizo-Stuffed Medjool Dates and as soon as that first bite hit my tastebuds, I knew that this dish was the winner of the night. The spicy kick from the chorizo and pepper sauce combined with the slight sweetness of the dates and the saltiness of the bacon is a PERFECT combination!

whipped brandade with garlic bread and chives

whipped brandade with garlic bread and chives

chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce

chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce

As hard as it was to follow the dates, we thoroughly enjoyed our next few dishes as well-charcuterie and cheese boards and the refreshing brussels sprout panzanella to round out the meal. The brussels sprout salad was really fantastic-if you think you don’t like brussels sprouts…I challenge you to try this salad and see if you feel a little different about these mini cabbages afterwards!

charcuterie board

charcuterie board

cheese board

cheese board

brussels sprout panzanella with calabrian chiles, gold raisins, and fiore sardo cheese

brussels sprout panzanella with calabrian chiles, gold raisins, and fiore sardo cheese

Luckily one of my dining partners was the Epicurean, and he has been to Avec a time or two. Even though we were happily full at this point, he let us know that Avec’s version of the Nutter Butter was not to be missed. After quickly polishing off the four pieces in our first order,  Kit and I exchanged glances and knew that a second order was going to be needed! You definitely do not want to miss these…and I guarantee that you can’t eat just one!

nutter butters

nutter butters

Bottom line: if you haven’t been to Avec, get there! If you’ve been but haven’t tried some of the above items, heck, even if you have….get back!




July 2013



Paris Day 2-Visiting Versailles

Written by , Posted in Travel

Versailles wasn’t originally on my list of things to do during our 3 days in Paris but several friends told me it was worth a day so I squeezed it into our packed itinerary and I am so glad I did! If you are visiting Paris and can find a day for it I would definitely recommend it as I think it may have been my favorite thing we did while there. The Versailles version of this post is written in more of a how-to style as compared to my other travel posts, everything we did worked out pretty well so if anyone reading this plans to visit sometime in the future, I hope this helps!


Outside the gates of Versailles

Château De Versailles is huge and incredibly busy. Plan on spending your entire day there. Bring a backpack with sandwiches, chips, and water and find a seat in the vast gardens to soak in all the beauty.

Versailles Garden

Lounging around the gardens

If at all possible, avoid visiting on days that the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay are closed because that makes it that much busier. Buy your tickets online ahead of time. The ticket line is separate from the line to get into the palace, which is long enough on its own. Waiting an extra hour or so on top of that to buy tickets just makes it that much worse.

Even if you already have tickets, get there early! The palace opens at 9am and there will already be a line forming at 8am. We didn’t arrive until around 10:30am due to breakfast and train times and we waited about an hour to get in (we already had our tickets) and the place was packed!

Versailles Entrance Lines

Line to get into the palace at 10am on a Wednesday

Don’t spend all your time in the palace. It’s crowded and annoying and the beauty of Versailles lies in the gardens and the other places on the property. Cruise through the palace; check out the rooms, get some pictures in the hall of mirrors (with you and the hundreds of other people in the room), maybe stop for some hot chocolate at Angelina if you haven’t already visited them in Paris, then get out of there!

Versailles Bedroom

Marie Antionette’s bedroom

Versailles Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors

Versailles Angelina Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate at Angelina

Versailles Garden

The gardens are waiting!

Rent bikes to get around the gardens and to get to the Grand and Petit Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet. The line for the trams is ridiculously long and it moves slow and just isn’t as cool. When you exit the palace it is not very evident that you can rent bikes-it looks like the tram is your only option. It isn’t. Walk down towards the gardens and the pond and once you get to the bottom you will see the bike rentals to your right. It is inexpensive and it allows you to explore all the remote, quieter places on the property more quickly than walking or riding the tram. This was my absolute favorite part of the day. You leave the crowds of tourists at the Palace for quiet, green trails with nobody else in sight. The paths are generally flat so the ride isn’t very difficult at all. I could spend days here just attempting to take it all in. You can even rent row boats if you feel like getting out into the large pond-just an endless number of things to explore!

Versailles Gardens

Biking around the expansive Versailles grounds and gardens

Versailles Hamlet Peacock

Peacock at the Queen’s Hamlet

Versailles Gardens

My favorite part of Versailles!

We ended up leaving Versailles around 3pm but I definitely could’ve stayed for a few more hours just riding around. After stopping back at our B&B to freshen up, we headed to a tiki-themed bar called Dirty Dick that Mike found on Yelp. I was a little hesitant but the reviews were great so we gave it a shot and it was awesome! It’s owned by an ex-pat who knows how to make some pretty mean cocktails-these aren’t your average sugar and rum tiki drinks. Dirty Dick was voted one of the best cocktail bars in Europe and it’s no wonder why. All of their juices are freshly squeezed and their mixers are all homemade. I had 3 different drinks (I couldn’t help myself!) and I loved every single one of them.

Dirty Dick's Cocktails

Cocktails at Dirty Dick

Not only were the drinks outstanding, the people and decor were great as well. A guy that I’m guessing was some kind of distributor was there while we were there and when he overheard we were on our honeymoon he gave Mike a small glass of the most incredible rum either of us have ever tasted-Santa Teresa Bicentenario-apparently a rare, ultra-pricey bottle…we enjoyed every tiny sip, and we don’t even like rum!

Dirty Dick's

Decor at Dirty Dick

Dirty Dick's

Decor at Dirty Dick

Dirty Dick's Paris

More cocktails at Dirty Dick!

I could’ve stayed all night but that probably would’ve ended badly…so we peeled ourselves away and headed down the street on recommendation of the owner for a 3 course prix fixe dinner at Les Affranchis. Even though we weren’t 100% sure on what exactly it was that we ordered, it was delicious nonetheless and after the 3rd course we were rolling ourselves home to rest up for Day #3 in Paris-the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay!

Les Affranchis menu Paris

Prix fixe at Les Affranchis

Les Affranchis Prix Fixe Paris

Dinner at Les Affranchis

Paris Day 1-The Lay of the Land

Paris Day 3-The Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, and Eiffel Tower

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