Two weeks ago I made an appointment to meet with the gorgeous stylist Maria Afonso in Hoboken. After a recommendation from the owner of AaRaa, a fashion and food aficionado we know we can trust, we decided to try the restaurant Grand Vin that opened earlier this year. I don't eat out that often, because I love to cook at home and so often find that the prices some restaurants charge are so much higher than the wonderful meals I can make on my own. When I do choose a restaurant, I am very picky about everything, and although I can have a good time just about anywhere, I don't go back to some places because I find the prices too high or the service not exceptional, or I just feel like it's something I could do myself. Grand Vin was such an amazing experience the evening that I spent with Maria that I went back the next week to spend some time with another fashion and food maven, the blogger and owner of Be The Difference Clothing, LLC. Between both visits I had a chance to try several of the items on the menu, and I think I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed with any selection. Everything was fresh and so delicious that I was tempted to keep ordering, but knowing I can go back again kept me in line. The staff are knowledgeable and friendly, suggesting items to pair together and wines that would compliment a variety of selections. The first night I was there, our server was so outstanding that I asked to speak to the owner, Dan Grey, who is such a humble and kind person it was a pleasure to meet him, and the second night I was there, our server Nelson recommended a wine that I wasn't planning on that made the meal even more amazing. My budget and taste buds and heart were so happy that I know I'll be visiting again and again.
There was a place in Cambridge, Massachusetts called The Blacksmith Bakery that my mother discovered when I was a teenager. I'd go there with her and with friends, I had dates with my first love there, and asked for my birthday cakes and holiday cakes to be sent from there for years after I moved to New York. It was a bakery and cafe that specialized in traditional German cakes and pastries, but they also had a lunch menu of healthy and hearty sandwiches, hot and cold soups, quiche and salads. Their breads were always hand made and home made and their ingredients fresh and as natural and non-processed as possible. At a time when people were not talking about sustainability the way they do today, The Blacksmith Bakery made things the old fashioned way. I loved everything on their menu - even the coffee and tea were divine - and when I'd go there it was always such a challenge to just pick one thing that I'd confer with my company that day and we'd choose a selection of just about everything and share it. After years of seemingly endless enjoyment, The Blacksmith Bakery closed one day, and I've never been able to find a place that matched them in the relaxed and comfortable, homelike environment, and the quality and pure deliciousness of the foods they served. There have been places that have opened over the years and places that I have tried in many cities, but nothing has ever replaced The Blacksmith until I walked into Choc O Pain French Bakery and Cafe and had a lunch served to me that brought back the sweetest and most refreshing memories of years gone by.
Owner Clemence Danko has created a space for savoring the flavors - you can take the food to go and it will still be transporting, but if you can, take a moment to stop and sit at one of the open tables and enjoy the comfortable and peaceful atmosphere that brings you to a wholesome and healthy state of mind. The ingredients are the freshest, the menu innovative and enticing, and the combination of flavors will leave you satisfied in a way that only the healthiest and most delightful of foods can do. Go with a friend or two and share a variety of tastes from the menu, or stop by for a delightful coffee or tea with the most exquisite of deserts. You'll find yourself dreaming of other lovely times and places and looking forward with renewed vision to good times to come.