News and notes from around the world
“Oh, you’ve got to check out that hair behind you,” says Sondra Radvanovsky, over sea bass at L’Avenue. The ‘do is indeed a marvel, but it’s not the only dramatic coiffure in this tony lunch spot, attractive both for its proximity to the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées — where Radvanovsky is performing Verdi tonight — and for stylish patrons capable of providing an impromptu lunchtime fashion show.
Radvanovsky certainly gets plenty of opportunity to scope out the locals in fashionable cities. The 43-year-old star of New York’s Metropolitan Opera performed in Cyrano de Bergerac in Madrid last month and will appear in the title role of Puccini’s Tosca in Vienna this month.
Sometimes, however, all Radvanovsky wants is some peace and quiet. “Anytime I feel crazed while I’m here, I go to the Palais-Royal or Jardin du Luxembourg and just stand in the middle of it and not hear any noise. It’s brilliant,” she says, before going on to make a list of her favorite spots in Paris. It includes Versailles, the Hotel de Ville and, last on the list of 17, “opera houses!” — adorned with an exclamation point as if to prove it’s not merely an afterthought. (No. 1 is a bakery on the Left Bank whose name she can’t recall.)
Yet her affection for the City of Light is not unqualified. “You’re walking down the sidewalk, and there’s a group of three people walking toward you. God forbid they move, right?” she says. “I have body-checked so many people in Paris. If they’re not going to move, I’m not going to move either. But then you have this beautiful architecture, so I forgive them.” —LIZ GARRIGAN
Eight dinner guests assembled around a huge petrified-wood table turn their attention to a 65-inch TV. The boyish face of Rodolphe Le Meunier, un affineur de fromage, or expert cheese ager, appears onscreen. “‘Ere we are!” he announces. Le Meunier, who is in Tours, France, smiles at the camera, walks to a shelf stacked with rounds of cheese, picks one and takes a deep sniff. “This one is fantastique. It’s very fruity. Very good.”
This isn’t a private screening of “No Reservations” — it’s Chef’s Pass, a 21st-century chef’s table as envisioned by New York culinary star David Bouley. Where other top toques extract extraordinary sums just to let guests sit near the kitchen, Bouley ups the ante. For $550 a head, Chef’s Pass offers 10 courses (with wine) in a private dining room at Bouley Restaurant and unrestricted access to its namesake. But for hard-core foodies, the real prize is what Bouley calls “rare interactive dialogues” with the world’s finest food artisans via Skype — for an additional $2,000.
With close-cropped white hair, bright eyes and a wry smile, Bouley personally prepares the dishes, including sea urchin bound in dashi terrine and velvety tuna with wild mushrooms and truffles. In between courses, he expounds on subjects as varied as John Rockefeller’s art collection, Lou Reed’s dessert habits and the health properties of kuzuko, a tasteless Japanese starch that sells for $40 a pound.
At midnight, five hours after the meal began, several guests cry uncle, begging Bouley to skip to dessert. He obliges, but before they do eventually file out, he ladles on a final indulgence: a tour of the expanded kitchen. Le Meunier, meanwhile, is off the hook — it’s 6 a.m. where he is. “I’m having a glass of wine and going back to bed,” he says, before signing off. —JANE BLACK