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Category Archives: Restaurants

(Non) Rev’ed Up: A Trip Recap

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Paris Light

Paris Light

Despite almost not making the CDG–JFK flight last night (overselling is such an attractive practice), I’m back in the states and already down in Florida. JetBlue didn’t waste any time assigning me a trip. I landed and had a 5:00 a.m. report. Oh well, I commuted in from Paris for work; things could be worse.

Paris was like an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. With no real agenda to speak of while I was there, I kind of just walked around and did whatever I fancied. While I never got around to taking any cooking classes, I did manage to eat my way through the city and visit some restaurants that have been on my list for some time, and one that is just a perennial favorite. Take note: Verjus, Reed, and Fish La Boissonerie are three restaurants you shouldn’t miss in Paris. Just don’t. Take the time to make a reservation and find them, and then sit back for a culinary fireworks show. And yes, if you read my last diatribe, I did make it to Fish on my last day for lunch.

Tuesday, I spent the day in Strasbourg, which was an easy and excellent day trip from Paris. The TGV whisks you there in two hours, and it was this amazing collaboration of French and German influences, almost like they had a child together. I had lunch in an Alsatian restaurant (Le Gruber) that was outfitted in what looked like Bavarian décor, yet, I was ordering my food in French. It was great. I also managed to locate the historic wine cave under the hospital, which was something I had read about prior to arriving. While I wasn’t able to taste any wine that day, they do have a wine shop, so I procured three Alsatian wines (a rosé, a pinot noir, and a Chateauneuf du Pape) that I lugged back on the train to Paris, and then on the plane to the U.S. Despite carting my flight attendant costume with me, I wasn’t permitted to bring the wine through security with me. So, I checked the bag and prayed I wouldn’t be met with a soggy suitcase tumbling down the luggage belt like it was on a water slide. Lucked out there.

Cave Historique Hospices Strasbourg

Cave Historique Hospices Strasbourg

So, what’s up with this whole non-rev business? Well, for one, I now get why people tolerate the measly flight attendant salary. I paid $92 for my ticket over (JFK–LHR) and was put in first class on American. No, not business. First class. Pajamas, champagne and all. On the way back, the ticket was more expensive (maybe $150), but Air France was gracious enough to give me Premium Economy, which is almost like a junior business cabin. Yes, flying standby is not for the faint of heart, but if you are flexible like every good flight attendant is meant to be, you can see the world for pennies on the dollar and giggle about how much the person sitting next to you spent. I did that.

I don’t have any plans for my next trip (yet), but doubt it will be long before there’s something on the books. Any suggestions?

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Lessons Learned

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Fish La Boissonerie Paris

Fish La Boissonerie, Paris

Paris is: so far, superb. I found the new apartment easy as pie, my French flooded back to me, and the weather is perfect. Could the winning streak continue?

The day started with me eating lunch at a café around the corner from Fish La Boissonerie because I believed the internet that said it was closed on Sundays. Mistake #1. And instead of walking the 10 extra feet to investigate it firsthand, I gave into my craving for a croque and the cute overalls the servers wear. Mistake #2. After lunch, I walked by to snap that photo on the left and saw people coming out the door. There are people dining inside as I’m simultaneously taking the photo and kicking myself. The internet lied. Lesson learned.

Full from Bar du Marché, I stopped in for a glass of wine at a restaurant that was recommended by a friend on another trip. It gave me the chance to decide if I should brave the cold for the night time bike tour or go back to Fish for dinner? I picked up the phone and called them to be sure they were open, and yes, they were. Settled: dinner at Fish. If you’ve eaten there before, you know why the decision was simple. But here comes mistake #3: not bothering to inquire about their hours and just assuming they would be open when I was ready for my early supper. I walked back past the restaurant at 5pm, and they didn’t open back up until 7pm. Oy!

After hoofing it back to my apartment in the 2nd, I couldn’t bring myself to walk all the way back down there. I was exhausted from catching the early Eurostar this morning and going to bed late in London (this morning). And I really did walk quite a bit today. Now, in a cruel twist of fate, I’m up writing this at nine minutes to midnight because I can’t sleep. I could have doubled back to Fish four times over by this point. I guess inter-Europe jetlag does exist.

What I did discover is that my apartment is a pitching wedge away from Rue Montorgeuil, so I mustered up enough energy to go to dinner at Little Italy Caffe. Italian food served by a guy from Brooklyn in Paris. It was good, but it wasn’t Fish. And now I feel like I squandered the only chance I had to eat at there on this trip, which is exactly the case (my eating trail is already paved). If you think you can’t plan an entire trip to Paris around eating, well, then you obviously have never been to Paris.

Looks like I better start planning a follow-up trip for the feeding frenzy!

Portland Visitor’s Map

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It’s literally been forever since I posted on here. I’m still overdue on my Portland, ME food walking tour, which I did do, but the summer got away from me. Seriously. It’s hard to believe I was just bidding for my October work schedule, and that we’re already talking about Thanksgiving and Christmas. Where do the years go?

I’m back in Left Coast Portland for about two weeks, and in between working and walking Henri, I’m trying to get organized for my parents’ impending visit. They’re headed up to house- and creature-sit for about 10 days at the end of the month while the mister and I head to the Florida Keys. Between doing copious amounts of laundry and enjoying the NFL season starting, I just realized it would be nice to hand them a map of our favorite restaurants, where they can find the grocery store, and also where the vet and emergency animal hospital are located (although I really hope they don’t need that last bit).

I started looking online for a map I could print out, but it’s actually easier to just create a Google map and pin all of the locations there. So here’s a little overview of all the places we think they should frequent as they live life as Portlanders. While it looks like a jumbled up mess, it’s actually a pretty handy map. It’s interactive, so just click on the pins to see details about the places.

Legend: 

  • Fork/Knife: Restaurant
  • Coffee Cup: Coffee/Breakfast
  • Martini Glass: Bar
  • Shopping Bag: Market/Store
  • Cross: Vet/Animal Hospital
  • Dollar Sign: Bank

<iframe width=”600″ height=”700″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ src=”https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=206017250814233052645.0004c961d43ed315211a7&hl=en&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=45.530102,-122.693295&spn=0.021045,0.025792&z=15&output=embed”&gt;
View Portland Visitor’s Map in a larger map

What’s for Lunch in Warsaw?

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In the words of my friend and former Warsaw-dweller “PK,” ‘Polish food is usually fried and made with pork or cream.’ You might be thinking, ‘Yum! What’s the big deal?’ But I have to agree with PK on this one. Polish cuisine leaves a lot to be desired from a health perspective. But it is cold. Colder than a well-digger’s ass, in fact, so I understand their obsession with insulating ingredients.
After getting my fix of pierogis yesterday, however, I was looking for something lighter today. I’m currently sitting at A. Blikle for lunch, a cafe that dates back to 1869. It’s a Warsaw institution, and the only cafe on Nowy Swiat to survive the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 when the street was reduced to rubble. You’d think that would be an accomplishment in and of itself, but the cafe was actually forced to close when communism reared its ugly head. Lucky for us, when communism became a thing of the past in 1989, A. Blikle reopened to its former glory.

Allow me to set the scene: the background jazz music is at a perfect acoustic level, and the dark wood molding that creeps midway up the wall meets a panel of jade green that’s decorated with black and white photos of days gone by. The granite and brass tables are regal, and every one is inhabited by pairs of chatting people. The waiters, dressed in vests and bow ties, bounce from room to room bringing liquid and gustatory treats to those waiting with baited breath. It is no accident this place survived the times.

I ducked in for the Żurek staropolski (old Polish sour soup) and the Tort “Generalski,” reportedly named after General Charles de Gaulle, a former patron of A. Blikle. The soup was light, but incredibly flavorful with slivers of kielbasa and hard-boiled eggs. The cake, on the other hand, was anything but light. A thin pastry crust laid the foundation for layers of chocolate pastry cream and cherry-soaked chocolate cake. The pale pastry dough blushed each time I pierced it with my fork from the oozing cherry juice. It was sinful, and I’m of the opinion that it was this cake that got them into trouble all those years back with the communists. It’s against the law for something to taste that good. The jury’s still out on whether or not my lunch fit into the “light” category, but that aside, I love finding places that combine classic cuisine with nostalgia and do it well. A. Blikle definitely satisfies both.

Over cups of tea and coffee, patrons licked their lips from the savory and sweet delicacies they ordered, and I looked on thinking about what this place must have been like in its true hayday. In my imagination, men were dressed in coats with tails and smoked tobacco pipes under their tophats. And the women wore furs, and had wind-swept hairstyles with red lipstick. You could sense that element of yesteryear glam. You definitely don’t need to be dressed for the opera to enjoy A. Blikle, so if you find yourself in Warsaw, and invariably on Nowy Swiat, head to #33 for an unrivaled slice of cake. You’ll be in for a little slice of history too.

A. Blikle
http://www.blikle.pl/

Next Stop: Dublin

Practicing Polish

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When a Pole flicks his/her neck, it means they want to have a drink of vodka with you. When a Pole hands you a map of Krakow and directs you to their favorite “milk bar” for pierogis, you go. I like Poland. It’s forceful from an F & B perspective, and I can get behind that.

I showed up at Pod Filarkiem on the advice of Agnieszka and Lukesz, my unbelievable hosts. This place doesn’t look like much from the outside (or inside for that matter), but with the throngs of patrons lined up, it becomes immediately obvious that’s not the point. It’s 100%, bonafide Polish, and that’s all they speak here. Some of you are likely thinking, “Kyle, you don’t speak Polish.” But for those of you who know my obsession with foreign languages, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Who cares, self. I’m sure Kyle waltzed right up and knew what to say.” If you thought the latter, well, then you’ve already earned your first demerit badge of the post.

Lucky for me, I was sent with a cheat sheet, and Agnieszka, Lukesz and I had a rather comical phonetic discussion over breakfast so I’d know how to pronounce things. I had my notes, but I was nervous. Thinking to myself, ‘This woman will never see me again,’ I took a deep breath, glanced at my pronunciations, and gave it the old college try. She seemed to know what I was saying, but as these things go, my Polish was far from perfect. I ended up with an order each of pierogi ruskie and pierogi z mięsem, and there are probably 20 in each order. Alas, my call for a “po porczi” (half order) of each fell on deaf ears, and I’m currently sitting across the table from a woman (it’s all common seating) who is staring at me like I’m Kobayashi.

The good news is, I think I finally found a place where they don’t immediately know I’m foreign, with the exception of the people at the counter. Numerous people have (presumably) asked to share my table in Polish, and I just nod with an “I don’t have a clue what the $@!# you’re talking about” look, smile, and nod, and they sit down with me to stare at my gluttonous feast.

So, pierogis…what are they? I guess the best way to describe them are like tortellonis or gyoza. It’s a fairly delicate layer of dough wrapped around fillings, in my case cheese and meat. Both orders came topped with a small pile of grilled onions, and they seem to be relaxing in a butter bath. But not too much. They’re fantastic, fresh, and affordable little dough purses that will help me shove on in Krakow until I head to the train station tonight…with my second container of pierogis. Luckily, I also misunderstood the “for here or to-go” question, and mine showed up in takeaway boxes.

I’m quickly (and thankfully) learning that native foods are the reigning champs when traveling, especially if you can get directed to a locals-only joint. If pierogis are as easy as they look to make, don’t be surprised if you find a Polish plate in front of you at my house. I’ll spare you the leftover Communist stoicism that the counter servers here have perfected, and if you’re lucky, I won’t even make you order in Polish. Na zdrowie!

Next Stop: Warsaw

Not Going Hungry in Hungary

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This post is a bit of an anomaly. It’s a restaurant review, and perhaps you’ve noticed that I haven’t wasted space on my blog waxing poetically about restaurants (and yes, I have been eating in them). That’s because I’ve yet to find one worthy of a ringing endorsement, until today…

I’m currently stuffing my face full of three courses at Stand Bistro. And including a glass of wine, the entire meal is setting me back less than 2000 HUF (roughly $10). I’m not sacrificing ambiance (in fact I’m staring directly at DIO, another Budapest institution), and the food is fresh, tasty, and most certainly, affordable. My pumpkin soup with chickpeas was silky and warm, a perfect insulator on this bitter day. And the papardelle affumicata was a bed of delicate noodles with the perfect amount of light red sauce and pancetta. On deck: an almond mascarpone mousse.

So, while I’m sorry your other two restaurants closed, thank you Chef Viktor Segal for this cataclismic and cost-effective addition to my culinary crusade. Stand Bistro is brilliant, and was well worth tracking down on Google Maps for Blackberry. This just further verifies my point that with a bit of research, you can dine substantially well for pennies on the dollar. Or Forint. Whatever I’m paying with today.

Živoli in Zagreb!

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Živoli means “cheers” in Croatian, and it’s a fitting title after the day I had today. It was bookended with libations, starting with champagne in the morning and a visit to a winery in the afternoon. And let’s not forget about the grappa breaks we took in the middle of cooking. It’s a wonder I made it out of the kitchen and into bed alive.
I set-up this adventure with the help of Alan Manic from Secret Dalmatia. He specializes in gastronomy and tours in the Dalmatia region of Croatia. However, upon asking him for help in locating something in Zagreb, he took on the challenge and provided me with a fantastic chance to cook in an amazing restaurant.
Today was busy. BU-SY. It was an absolute taste test about what it would be like to own a restaurant or work as a chef. I arrived at Restoran Klub Gastronomada at 8:00 a.m. to find Chef Sime and Chef Grger waiting for me upstairs. As we drank said glasses of champagne, they told me a bit more about their restaurant and consulting company. The restaurant only uses organic ingredients, and everything is shopped for daily (we would do this later on at the nearby market). They make their food to order (including the risottos), and only serve Croatian wines in-house. The restaurant space is quite small, but they also have three banquet rooms where they can seat more people and hold special events. And on the wall of the dining room was a place for artists to display their work, which they change periodically. It was warm, imaginative and inviting, and I was happy I’d be having my lunch in such a classy place.
So, what did we have for lunch? Well, we started by making the dough for our bread so it could proof while we visited the market. It was really simple, and Chef Sime was happy I’d taken a pasta making class because the kneading techniques were exactly the same and I didn’t even need to be supervised. Homemade bread dough was completed in 10 minutes or less. Bread aside, we headed to the market where we picked-up seven types of fish for our soup (I dubbed the soup “The Seven Seas”), produce, paprika cheese, veal, and a few other things. Chef Sime seemed to know everyone there, presumably because they visit the market everyday, and as he was explaining things to me, the purveyors would hand over a sample for each of us to try. I had some amazing corn bread, a delicious piece of sausage, and a piece crispy bacon fat that’s used for flavor in recipes.
We carted our loot back to the kitchen, checked our dough and got our bread into the oven, and then went straight to work on the fish soup. He showed me how to properly clean the fish, and I took over de-scaling them and ripping out their innards with my bare hands. It was fun! As I worked on that, he created the base for the soup with a mirepoix of sorts, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, orange peel, bay leaves, and a bit of Croatian olive oil. From there, we added in the fish (heads and all), a bit of white wine, and covered it with vegetable stock to simmer away in the background.
In the foreground, we grated the paprika cheese and coated it with flour, beat up some eggs, and trimmed the veal into chops. These would later be breaded and cooked. We trimmed up the amazing Croatian greens we purchased, and put those into a giant pan with a bit of garlic and olive oil, and then sprinkled them with nutmeg. They cooked down like spinach, and made a bed for our veal chops and a neighbor for our boiled red potatoes.
We started lunch by sampling four Croatian olive oils with our homemade bread. We were both really proud of what came out of the oven, and everyone agreed that it was fantastic with the olive oils! Alan and his friend Igor joined us for lunch in the main dining room, and our menu was magnificent. It was so simple and relaxed with reflections of the Mediterranean, and there’s no arguing that what we made was healthy. We had a different wine with each course that was expertly paired, including a port-like wine and an aperatif at the end.
For dessert, we enjoyed a pie made from olives. I’m sure this sounds bizarre, but if you have the chance, take a page from the writers at The Boston Globe and visit Klub Gastronomada for the opportunity to taste it. Sweet and savory collided in this dessert in a way that I plan to replicate when I get home. I’m hoping if I beg and plead, they will give me the recipe. It was THAT good.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, we finished up lunch and drinks, and Chef Sime, Alan and I headed to Korak Winery in Samobor, about 20 minutes outside the city center. High up on a breezy hill, we sat with the winemaker in the most charming little tasting room. The fireplace blazed on in the corner as we made our way through about five bottles of wine, and sampled his wife’s homemade cornbread and cheese. We chatted about food, blogging, cookbooks, and we each gave our opinions about what we tasted in each wine. I think my palette is improving because I was tasting all sorts of notes that were evidently spot-on (or maybe they were just saying that).
I learned an incredible amount about Croatian food and wine over the course of the day thanks to Alan, Chef Sime, and Chef Grger. Croatia is a place I will no doubt be back to, possibly even on this trip. I wasn’t able to make it to Dalmatia or Istria in the south, and according to all of them, they are must-see parts of this relatively small country. Hospitality seems to be a way of life here, and the people…well…the people are the most welcoming of hosts.
Secret Dalmatia
www.secretdalmatia.com
Restoran Klub Gastronomoda
www.gastronomadi.hr
Next Stop: Budapest