food in Marseille

Toinou exterior nite_opt

Toinou – Les Fruits de Mer!


My eating in Marseille was a focused activity, based mainly on seafood. Some of my eating adventures are pictured here, and I have to say that my two favorite restaurants – both researched, in fact, long before my trip – during my 7-day stay were Toinou (4 meals) and La Boîte à Sardine (only 1 meal, regrettably). Toinou is part self-service, part place-your-order-at-the-counter, then you find a place at your table and wait for your order to arrive. My favorite thing there was their anchoïade (anchovy spread) spread on the mini-baguettes that you grab on the way to the order counter. Some of my selections are shown below.





Toinou display_opt

Toinou – the sidewalk fish display





Toinou grilled sea bass_opt

Toinou – sea bass with butter and fried potatoes





Toinou shrimp_opt

Toinou – shrimp with aioli on the side





Toinou demi homard breton sm_opt

Toinou – half a Breton lobster






Toinou oysters_opt

Toinou – assorted oysters





La Boite a Sardine 1_opt

La Boîte à Sardine, funky decor and delicious lunch


At the top of La Canebiere, and across the street from the Eglise des Reformes, is the slightly kitschy but fun La Boîte à Sardine (The Sardine Can), open on most days only for lunch, and serving exceptionally fresh fish. The menu is hand-written on a wooden box carried from table to table by the waiter.






La Boite a Sardine 3_opt

Lunch at La Boîte à Sardine, catfish, potatoes, eggplant






Ghomrassen couscous Marseille_opt

Mutton couscous at Ghomrassen, near St. Charles train station.



The couscous at Ghomrassen was good, but a truly superb couscous was sadly lacking on this trip. I had also misplaced my list of recommended restaurants that served it.

A visit to Marseille also demands a tour of the Noailles district, the market area and center for imported exotic spices and foodstuffs. In one shop I was so bewildered by the array of aromatic ingredients that I went into sensory shock. I settled, however, for possibly the best slice of halvah I’d ever eaten.

My final splurge, after spending some time at a cafe next to the Catalans Beach, was the famous Marseille bouillabaisse, the local fish stew requiring 5 different Mediterranean fish. I’d read that the dish is skyrocketing in price because the required fish are no longer plentiful; I paid 60 Euros (about $60) for my lunch at Chez Fonfon, serving one of the most well-known local renditions.




Fonfon bouillabaisse 1_opt

The famous Marseille bouillabaisse, at Chez Fonfon





Vallon des Auffes 1_opt

Chez Fonfon is on the far left, in the picturesque Vallon des Auffes





Aix Cafe Cintra moules frites_opt

Finally, one of my favorite things in the world, moules-frites (steamed mussels with mariniere sauce, served with fries)


Paris places

Paris Sky_opt

 Paris sky, evening


My internet access has been limited lately. Apart from not yet having wifi in my apartment, I lost my Nokia cell phone during the taxi ride back to my apartmentfrom Suzhou train station my first evening back from France. An unplanned new expense will be an iPhone in the next week.


Aside from that, I’m finishing up my dissertation for the M.A. in Teaching English for Academic Purposes, my title being Teaching English for Art History in a Chinese Context. The due date is September 1.


I will continue over the next couple of weeks to share photos from my trip to France. Below are some of my favorite places during my 8 days in Paris.



Chartier 1_opt

 Restaurant Chartier, the “good value” restaurant I fondly remembered from my student days. I ate my first dinner there after my arrival in Paris.





Metropolitain St_opt

 The Paris Metro – a world unto itself. If you’re in the right mood, the mazes of corridors and “correspondances” can be fun in a dizzying sort of way.





Gare de l est_opt

 I spent a lot of time in the Metro, thanks to my 3-day Paris Visite pass.





Passage Jouffroy 1-2_opt

 The covered passages or shopping arcades of Paris date mostly from the early 19th century. My favorites were the consecutive Passage Verdeau, Passage Jouffroy, and Passage des Panoramas, centered around the Grands Boulevards.





ble sucre 2_opt

 The Blé Sucré bakery on Square Trousseau came highly recommended by David Lebovitz. He didn’t steer me wrong. The brown-sugary, buttery, delectble kouign amann above was my favorite pastry treat.





Astier 3_opt

 One of my two (or three, or four) favorite restaurant meals in Paris was at Restaurant Astier. Pictured is the calve’s liver; I won’t even try to describe the huge terrine of marinated herring for an appetizer, or the all-you-can-eat cheese tray brought to your table after the main course. Yes, all this was followed by dessert.





Le Faubourg_opt

 Le Faubourg, near my hotel and on the Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, became a favorite place for breakfast, not only for the good coffee and fresh, flaky croissants, but for the most friendly and cheerful waiter I’ve ever met.





Orsay Degas_opt

Finally, the rather bewildering but wonderful Musee d’Orsay was filled with too much art to view on one visit.




Paris, Paris




I knew that Paris would be different – no place stays the same, and with the passage of over 30 years I was a different person than I was in my 20s. There are a lot more chains and franchises now, the ubiquitous Starbucks, KFC, and Subway; the seedy areas I remembered from long ago are now upscale and stylish. There was also a heatwave, with temperatures in the 30s (Celsius), and almost as much English and Chinese spoken as French. It was, after all, the height of the tourist season, and not the optimal time for experiencing “typically French” atmosphere – if, in fact, there ever is such a time in the most-visited city on earth.


I was gripped by melancholy a few weeks before my trip; memories and regrets of my youth , a Christmas spent in Paris with my brother and our mother in 1979, worries that I would confront fragments of my lost self at every turn. Instead, I simply enjoyed myself. Yes, Paris is in many ways just another big and indifferent city, but my focus this trip was to see things I had missed before, and to enjoy the first trip of my life not regulated by constant money concerns. Above all, I wanted to eat.



Aux Folies 2_opt


I was actually in Paris twice, for 4 days each time, bookending my visit to Provence and a week in Marseille in between. It’s just the way it worked out. I stayed at the Pavillon Opera Bourse, just across the street from the Folies Bergere, and near two monuments of my youth in the Rue du Faubourg Montmartre: the restaurant Chartier and the theater Le Palace, formerly the famous disco where why brother and I spent New Years Eve 1980, and where we saw Divine in person.




I can’t go into all the details of the trip at the moment; they’re still too fresh in my mind and it will take weeks to sort them out, at about the same pace that I’m editing the photos from my trip taken with my fabulous new Fujifilm X-T1. My days were usually divided in two: a morning walk from about 8 to 12 or 1:00, lunch, then a return to the hotel for a nap, followed by more walking and eating in the evening. It didn’t get dark until 11:00 p.m., which was disorienting, making the days seem endless, and I never really saw Paris by night.



Tea Room Passage Jouffroy_opt

Le petit déjeuner


Some of my favorite things: snacking throughout the day, or what I called my eternal “menu dégustation;” exploring the covered shopping passages, especially the close-by Passages Verdeau, Jouffroy, and Panoramas; visiting epiceries to sample delicacies; and three meals in particular, at Restaurant Astier (I’ll post photos later), Chez Denise for the perfect steak-frites, and at Le Trumilou (see photos below).


I’ll continue to post in the days ahead, with details of my 3 days in Arles, including Les Rencontres de la Photographie, a week in Marseille, and a day in Aix-en-Provence, where I spent 6 months of my scholarship year of study in my 20s.




Trumilou 1_opt

 Le Trumilou, French home cooking


Trumilou 2_opt

Selections of patés as a starter



Trumilou 3_opt

Salmon with spinach and carrots



Trumilou 5_opt

Selection of 3 cheeses

Chicago food

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks basically living out my food fantasies in Chicago, or re-living fondly remembered tastes from my past. Chicago is a food-lover’s city; if you’re in doubt, just check out the Flickr group Chicago Gluttons.

Here’s a photo tour of some of the food highlights, both alone and with my brother Kenton:




sultans market

My first meal in Chicago after getting off the plane at O’Hare: my brother took me to Sultan’s market for inspired middle eastern food – chicken shawarma, hummus, falafel, salads, pita bread. Yummmm.




Vegan Thai

Urban Vegan Thai food




Millers Pub Reuben

Grilled Reuben sandwich on rye, Miller’s Pub; a blast from the past – I adored this sandwich when I was a college student in the 70s.




Native Foods nachos and chicken

Native Foods – vegan nachos and “chicken” appetizers




Karyn Cooked

Karyn Cooked, River North area: vegan falafel sandwich




Mexican restaurant Loop

Mexican lunch in the Chicago Loop, La Cocina Mexican Grill



Rangoli 4

Rangoli Indian restaurant on North Ave., one of the best Indian meals I’ve had; I ate chicken korma.



Rangoli 2

Rangoli appetizer, fried cauliflower



Five Faces

Another blast from the past: Five Faces on Division Street, open till 5 am. In the late 70s my friends and I would come here after the bars closed for the gyros sandwich with fries. The place is still here after all these years.



Five Faces gyros

Gyros sandwich at Five Faces – just as I remembered



ethiopian food

Amazing dinner in Uptown at Demera Ethiopian Restaurant



Ann Sather salmon lunch_opt

Grilled salmon at Ann Sather on Belmont, “Just good food”



Ann Sather breads

The star at Ann Sather is the home-baked bread; each meal comes with cinnamon roll, cranberry bread, or assorted other delights.