I wish we’d been more deliberate about a food diary on the blog, since at one time or another, we’ve had some terrific food on this trip. I’m going to try to summarize some of the highlights from the Europe leg and provide some of my notes and perceptions. I may do another blog later about meals in the US, though I suspect we will be eating out much less. One note before I start: restaurants on the continent tend to be less likely to have websites, but I’ve entered the ones I could find.
England has a reputation for food not being so great, but we had some great meals, including a lovely salmon dinner that my sister Susan made for us one evening, and a dinner brother Stephen and his wife Ella made that was complete overkill (in a nice way). They roast some lamb because they know I love it, but since Angie doesn’t eat red meat, they also roast a chicken! The lamb was spectacular. And there was so much other wonderful food that I can’t even remember, other than a very tasty Polish dish Ella made (she is Polish). Stephen kept offering us something else and in the end we had to make him stop.
The breakfasts at ChristChurch College in Oxford were excellent: traditional English breakfast with all the trimmings, the experience enhanced by eating it at high table. My other favorite breakfast in England was at the B&B before we raced off to try to get Angie to a dentist in Nottingham. The owner made me kippers, which I love and which I haven’t had in years. Kippers are smoked herrings and this is the only way I like herring. They are salty and stinky and I LOVE them, but they are not for everyone.
Other England highlights
Fish ‘n’ chips in London, especially the ones Susan and Melvyn picked up one night from a place in Stanmore (I wish I knew the name and will ask my sister and update this if I can get it). Some of the best plaice I remember having (an English flatfish not often found in the US).
The Parcel Yard. It is indeed the part of the station where parcels were historically distributed, but now it’s been repurposed, with lots of relevant artifacts, into a spacious restaurant with several different eating areas and gen-u-ine Thomas Crapper privies. The newly remodeled King’s Cross gives you lots of great options, but I’m glad we went with Sara’s suggestion. We were able to sit uninterrupted for two hours and catch up, while having a spectacular breakfast. I had Eggs Royale, pretty good, but rich, while Angie and Sara had the vegetarian English breakfast, which was a great spread and would be my choice if I went back.
The Inn at Troway. This was clearly a place that caters to people who love good food and the menu was so expansive I could hardly decide what to eat. I settled on a set menu of fried whitebait for the first course and chicken for the main, though Nicola gave me a bite of her delicious steak and ale pie and introduced me to the delights of Henderson’s Relish. Angie had leek and potato soup and fish and chips. She seemed to enjoy it and definitely had her appetite back despite still having a swollen face. The views of the Peak District were also wonderful.
The Maynard Lunch second day in Sheffield at the hotel where Nicola and Philip were married. Don’t recall what I ate but I liked it and enjoyed our chat with the hotel’s owner who was the only other customer there while we were eating.
The restaurant we ate at on our return to London for the continent was called handmade burger co. and it was really good. Handcut fries for one thing. And a lot of their sourcing is of the Portlandia-I-practically-know-the-name-of-the-cow type of thing. I ordered a pepper beef burger that included onion rings, peppercorn sauce, carmelized onions, and mushroom. Angie had noticed that they offered homemade coleslaw as a substitute for a bun, so I ordered that and it was tasty. The entire meal was very flavorful and plenty of food (but not too much). Angie had a sweet potato and bean veggie burger and was satisfied with it too, though we get a bit frustrated that so many restaurants feel that the poultry equivalent of a hamburger (or beef burger as they call it in England) should be a chicken breast rather than ground chicken or turkey. One reason we like Larkburger so much in Colorado is that they do a turkey burger with ground meat. Our only mild disappointment with the meal in London was that we shared a cider and found the Rekorderlig on offer a bit sweeter than we generally care for. It did grow on me but I’d even pick a Strongbow over that if given the choice. Finally, I do have to say the service was super friendly and helpful.
Great meals in France
http://lilleoperabrasserie.com. A bit higher budget than we hoped for but a really fine meal with an old friend and former colleague.
L’As Du Fallafel, in the Marais (the traditional Jewish neighborhood of central Paris). This is a kosher falafel joint that is so awesome it has a Wikipedia entry. It’s got a typical kosher restaurant vibe and one has to wait for a table on weekends but it’s worth it. Angie and I have made a point of visiting on both our trips to Paris. On our visit this time, we kind of shared a table with a lovely Moroccan guy who left us his fries. He had been on line ahead of us and was explaining to us some of the things that were going on with the door man who managed the people waiting on line (and the people who tried to skirt the rules and buy takeout and then sit down indoors).
Dame Tartine. We went to this place because it was close to the Pompidou and we needed to eat something before we visited the museum. Highlight of the meal was the duck parmentier. Delicious. No website.
The Cidrerie is actually a creperie (served folded into a square rather than rolled) with both savory and sweet offerings and a good formule and menu offering. However, they are also known for their Breton cider, which is served in teacups and is very tasty.
We went to La Cagouille with an old work friend from my days working for a Belgian firm. She and her husband treated us to a great meal at this place in the Montparnasse area that serves only food from the sea, so to speak. I think I had the bream but all of us really enjoyed our meals
Friterie 1900. Historic chip shop with lines out the door in Markt, one of the major squares in Bruges.
Mokabon: an old coffee bar dating back to the 1930s. Angie had her first Belgian waffle in Belgium here.
De Frietketel: famous for its fries, which are presented in massive servings. The burgers are very meh.
Voorhuis. I can’t find anything about this place online but here’s what I wrote about it:
It was further to the south of the city. This is described as a beautiful building that was established for the people, but only one side of it was interesting from the architectural standpoint of us traveling neophytes. However, the space has been revived for various uses, including a cafe with an amazing terrace. It only opened a year or so ago but apparently has already become a go-to destination (oh, and free wifi that actually works). We got there a little before noon, got some pretty good food, and thought, yeah, this is ok. Then suddenly, the terrace bar opened and the place completely filled up, mainly with young people enjoying a lovely day.
Orientali: Thai food. This was a long walk from our hostel but was totally worth it. It was a meal of familiar flavors and one of the best value meals we had on the continent.
We stayed with friends in this Czech city. They made us some fantastic homemade meals that gave us a really good flavor for local cuisine in central and Eastern Europe. They also took us to Café Savoy, which first opened in 1929 and has a really cool design including a cool double staircase up to the upper floor. Apparently it’s not as great as it was when it was first built because of Soviet-style reconstruction, but we liked the place and it’s openness.
Dinitz Kosher Restaurant: In the old Jewish quarter. Not busy (though that may have been our timing) and not cheap but good, simple kosher food.
Clear Head: A vegetarian restaurant recommended by my sister and totally worth the challenging effort to find it down a side alley.
Our time in Stoupa, without one single dinner out, was pretty outstanding. We are so thrilled to be eating home cooked food, and tried to contribute with vegetable prep, wine purchases and so on while my sister and her husband treated us like royalty.
Here is a quick inventory of some of the delicious meals to which we’ve treated at Pam and Dermot’s house.
Gilt head bream, one of several new fish that I tried on this trip.
Pasta with garlic and olive oil
Tofu veggie stir fry
Chicken pot pie
Home made Falafels and tadziki
Pam also opened and served a beloved tête de moins that is a rare Swiss cheese she loves and has a special serving system. It wasn’t to my taste but Angie enjoyed it. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tête_de_Moine
The best meal in Athens was at a place described by Rick Steves as a hole in wall place. It was called To Kati Ali, and is close to the Acropolis museum. I had some great lamb off the spit. Absolutely delicious. Angie had one of the prepared dishes.
We loved the tadziki we had pretty much everywhere in Greece.
Naoussa In Santorini (October 13). This was a surprisingly good meal in a town where restaurants are mainly talked about in terms of how good a view of the sunset it has. Sardines for me, the first time I’d had grilled sardines, and I loved them. Angie had a chicken dish that she was quite happy with.
Tre Pupazzi (Italian-only website) for Angie’s birthday in Rome. Angie had pasta with clams. The restaurant was close to the Vatican and the service was an absolute delight. We had a wonderful time.
Pizza Meditteranea in Perugia, best pizza in we had in Italy. We got there late enough that we didn’t have to wait too long for a table. It’s almost as far up the hill as you can go in the town, so you have to not mind walking (UP), since you can’t always drive all the way up in these hill towns. No website.
The best gelato on the trip other than Italy was an Italian geletaria in Nafplia, Antica Gelateria di Roma. This was by far the winner (and we tried quite a few), until Giolitti in Rome, which was amazing. I had coffee gelato most places, because it’s my favorite and that way one can compare. But it was beyond compare and also a great experience due to the crazy ordering systems and the madness at the actual serving space. We also had a gelato dessert at some Chinese place in Paris that also surprised with some outstanding coffee and chocolate for me and coffee and coconut for Angie. I didn’t make a note of the name of the place because the Chinese food itself was unremarkable (though a decent deal for €12).
Moschi Sushi. We wanted Asian food but didn’t want to go far on a miserable rainy night. We tracked down this tiny sushi place two blocks from the hotel. It was very good and the owner gave us some salmon sushi while we were waiting. It was tasty. I ate it since Angie doesn’t like raw salmon. We particularly liked the chicken yakitori and sauce. They were also very nice people, Japanese owner and French server. It was one of the most austere restaurant layouts I’ve ever been to. Seating maybe for 10. The sushi is prepared behind a counter but you can’t watch like in the US.