Friday, March 20, 2009

An edible vacation

After technical difficulties in London and Paris, a non-working computer adapter and then a European keyboard...typing a sentence takes an hour, I'm back refreshed and renewed and very, very well-fed. I couldn't have envisioned a better vacation than lots of great food shared with good friends. There were certainly multiple standouts on the trip. The highlight for me surely being the Bastille Market in Paris that my girlfriends and I ventured to last Sunday. It's undoubtedly the most extensive, expansive, jaw-dropping greenmarket I've ever encountered. Uber-fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, cheese, meats, breads and pastries for what seemed like miles. Having rented an awesome apartment in the Marais district, we decided to take advantage of the food and cook dinner at home that night - a full menu of gorgeous sauteed prawns and fresh ravioli with a pistou of sorts (garlic, parsley, olive oil and lemon), beet and blood orange salad, mache with the freshest French goat cheese and strawberries, and of course fresh baguette, some olives and fromage (my French vocab goes about as far as cheese). Certainly a feast, but the flavor and quality of the food was unbelievable.
What amazed me even more, and always amazes me whenever I travel to Europe, is the care, love and pride people put into the food over there. From the tiniest macaroon cookie to the most perfect produce. Oh yeah, we definitely indulged on cheese, bread, wine and of course chocolate, but as I've mentioned countless times before, the quality of food trumps the amount of food consumed. The French really are on to something. Here are a few other food and drink highlights from the trip if you're traveling in the near future.
- Itineraries -- mentioned a few months back in the New York Times, this restaurant is incredible. My 3 friends and I agreed that it was possibly one of the best lunches and dining experiences we've ever had. The menu is constantly changing with the season. Definitely worth stopping by. I'd recommend making a reservation in advance, tables book up fast.
404 -- I'd stumbled on this Moroccan restaurant somehow in doing research online and I'm very glad I did. Awesome decor and chill vibe. The tagines and lamb meatballs were fantastic. Head next door to their sister bar Andy Wahloo for a cocktail to finish your night off.
- Experimental Cocktail Club - Another discreet bar, or rather speakeasy, we stumbled on with a similar feel to the Milk & Honey family here in NYC. Killer cocktails albeit a super-small space.

- Ottolenghi -- Having read about this London chainlet of prepared food shops in Gourmet magazine, I was lucky enough to accidentally walk in while walking around Notting Hill. The dishes and pastries were ridiculously eye-catching, colorful and inventive with an Israeli-Middle Eastern twist.

- Sketch - Super cool tea house in London with a Clockwork Orange/Alice in Wonderland theme. Definitely check out the bathroom if you go, the egg-shaped bathroom pods are hilarious.

- Bumpkin - last on the list, this gastropub in London served up good, hearty, country fare balanced out by a few lighter dishes on the menu (London's not exactly known for light fare...hence my unpleasant experience of ordering shrimp 'cocktail' only to be served up a pile of teeny shrimpies doused in mayo at a high-end department fault for ordering, but sorry, that's just inedible).

Not to worry, we evened out all that eating with a ton of walking, shopping and a little sight-seeing over the course of a week. All in all, a fun, delicious vaca.

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