Epernay’s executive chef Jayson Grossberg trained under legendary French chef Jean-Louis Palladin before attending New York’s Culinary Institute of America. Grossberg has used his pabulum-preparing powers for good and not evil, recently redesigning Epernay’s menu to add flavorful new dishes, such as the summer gazpacho with crab meat and lime ($10.95). Fresh-caught mussels come in three broths, such as the “a la Linda” with saffron and tomato ($15.95 single serving, $19.95 shared platter). If you'd like to keep your meal as light at a globetrotting eccentric's hot-air balloon, try a juicy beet salad with summer melon, arugula, and feta cheese ($10.95). Reward your stomach for keeping quiet during last night’s visit to the opera with an entree such as caramelized sea scallops with sweet corn, bacon, and tomato ($26.95). Or delve into the crispy duck breast with wild mushrooms, pistachios, and asparagus soaking in a sundried blueberry jus ($26.95) to enjoy a culinary harmony unseen since the California Raisins dominated the airwaves.
Red Hen Bistro's made-from-scratch menu revolves around the fresh, seasonal meats, fish, and produce in French and Californian cuisine. Francophiles will feel conflicted in trying to select only one dish, be it the croque madame, an upscale ham-and-cheese sandwich topped with a sunny-side-up egg ($10.95), or the salad nicoise, a hearty helping of organic greens crowned with roasted potatoes and hard-boiled eggs ($8.95). California dreamers can sample West Coast–inspired temptations such as tamales with braised pork ($8.95) and fish tacos served in crisp tortillas ($9.95). Simplicity seekers can opt for the tomato soup and grilled cheese ($9.95) while enjoying the restaurant’s attention to detail—evident in both the food and front-of-house service. With rich-red walls, large windows boasting street views, and touches of French country charm, Red Hen Bistro exudes an air of casual intimacy, though lacy nightclothes are discouraged.
Tucked onto the second floor of a boutique hotel that was once a printer house, InkSpa invites clients to relax amid eco-friendly surroundings. It’s no wonder that New York Magazine highly praised the spa, noting it “exceeds one’s expectations.” Inside, clients gaze upon bronze-accented decor and photographs from local artist Michael Palladino as they make their way to private locker rooms where plush bathrobes and sandals await. From there, pairs can retreat to the couple’s suite for a rejuvenating massage—perhaps with foot reflexology or a hot stone treatment—as they enjoy each other’s company or enjoy treatments despite each other’s company. In the spa’s other private treatment rooms, aestheticians exfoliate bodies with Turkish body scrubs and brighten complexions with organic aromatherapy and Kerstin Florian products.
Snuggled behind a red-trimmed Parisian façade, Alouette French Bistro presents generous portions of contemporary French cuisine. The menu boasts a diverse selection of traditional Gallic proteins peppered with freshly sourced ingredients and unexpected flourishes, exemplified by the Maplecrest free-range chicken and chive pomme purée, slathered in a basting of shiitake and truffle oil. A bumper crop of all-organic fruits and veggies garnishes plates of diver sea scallops and roasted lamb with saffron-spiced fingerling potatoes and savory tomato confit. The wine list overflows with reds, whites, and bubbles from Europe and the New World, while desserts and cordials cap off dinners with dulcet notes of sweetness.
Alouette’s intimacy is enhanced by flowing red curtains, vintage hardwood flooring, and an elegant antique chandelier. Owner Jon Michael Pardo cultivates a high-class, yet low-key atmosphere, plying patrons with elegant meals prepared by a native French chef and delivered by a friendly wait staff. The two-tiered space allows for romantic dining as well as weekly musical performances by local jazz, classical, and washboard-percussion performers.
Chef and owner Jean Luc Kieffer has built a menu that draws upon the traditional while adding a twist, spin, and triple salchow. For dinner, starters include calamari with chorizo, tomato, and cilantro ($11), Alsatian tarte flambé ($13), and organic poached egg with prosciutto and frisee in a green sauce ($14). Entrees are $15–$26 and include options such as the grass-fed beef burger on a homemade brioche bun ($15), coq au vin with mushrooms, bacon and mashed potatoes ($24), and the vegetarian-friendly cheese soufflé with comté and gruyere ($22). Because of the seasonality of the cuisine, the lineup can deviate a bit depending on time of year. For lunch or brunch, diners can feast upon smaller bites such as a beer-battered fish sandwich ($13), goat-cheese salad with roasted beets ($13), or specialty quiche and salad ($12).
Chez Lucienne greets diners with a quietly refined meal in a space that's at once welcoming and intimate. Moving between the restaurant's quaint interior and beautiful outdoor terrace, a friendly and accommodating staff circles about white-linen tabletops and powder-blue banquettes while patrons mull over the inspired fare of Head Chef Thomas Obaton, whose affinity for innovative simplicity goes into every dish. Brunch crowds can indulge in the uncommon post-noon sensibilities of Tartare de Thon, a tuna tartare with wasabi caviar and sesame oil ($11.95), and savory crêpes de poulet au sauce champagne, a blanket of crêpe wrapped about chicken, sautéed spinach, mushrooms, roasted peppers, toasted peanuts, and gooey brie ($14.95).