Eatsforone is going to Europe, so I won’t be posting again until early November. But I will be eating, and maybe even do a little cooking, and I will be writing about those experiences.
Starting with Virgin Atlantic Airways, the food should be worth commentary at every step of the way. A few Google Blog searches hinted at good food for all of our stops.
The major news about Virgin Atlantic food is that,
“Virgin Atlantic is pleased to announce that it’s now offering Fairtrade tea and coffee to all passengers. The airline served nearly seven million cups of coffee and over five million cups of tea onboard flights in 2006 so a switch to these products will be a significant boost for farmers who are supplying the Fairtrade market.”
Well, not exactly mouth watering news, but it’s not bad news.
Our first night will be spent at Chimneys Inn in Stansted Mountfitchet a few kilometers from London’s Stansted Airport. Probably not the quaint British town, but I’m sure we can find a pub.
Following the British experience we’re flying to Barcelona for much anticipated eats. Barcelona is where I ate my first caracoles. That would be snails in English, escargots, a more recognizable term, in French. They were steeped in a rich tomato sauce, returned to their shells, and went down good and easy. I don’t remember the restaurant or district, but it was on a Med Cruise when I was in the Navy. Carol and two other of the wives followed our ship around Europe from port to port.
This bit was gleaned from the internet in a blog only days old:
“We stayed in a great apartment beautifully located five minutes away from La Boqueria, the great Barcelona food market, and The Ramblas, the walking boulevard both Barcelona-ites and tourists seem to frequent daily.
I was armed with a 22-page fax courtesy of Andy Nusser, the chef-owner of the excellent New York Spanish restaurant Casa Mono, who went on a Barcelona eating expedition with Mario Batali. Batali and Nusser had gone to Spain together on an R & D eating and drinking trip before opening Casa Mono. As a kicker, I had a one-page guide from Jeffrey Steingarten. I figured that, between Batali, Nusser, and Steingarten, we would eat very well in Barcelona. That turned out to be an understatement.
Basically, we walked and ate for seven days straight, with a few forays to museums and Gaudi houses and parks in between. So, without further adieu,”
The writer went on to list nine particular restaurants with details about their food and ambiance. I could copy the list, but prefer serendipity, letting my senses tell me where to go. After all, if someone says go to Chez Hot Dog and I go, I can check that off my list. I’m a good tourist.
If I’m walking down a street that I find interesting and stumble onto Chez Weiner and find it wonderful, I’m a traveler enjoying my travels. And what if Chez Weiner is not so good? It’s still an experience that becomes part of the whole. Besides, I’m traveling with foodies, our food instincts are well honed.
It is worth noting a resident’s description of the ham in Barcelona:
“I live in Barcelona and actually run from there an internet-based shop of jamÃ³n ibérico de bellota. There are quite a few varieties of spanish ham; I’ll try to give you a little advice…
First, if you want nothing but the best, you must look for the term “jamÃ³n ibérico de bellota”. This means: dry cured ham coming from “iberico” (iberian) race pigs that have been raised in the wild in the traditional way (not in farms) in Spain’s south-western pasturelands (Extremadura, Huelva), and that have been fed with acorns (“bellotas”) and grass during their finishing period.
Second, you will have to choose which “ibérico de bellota” you want. The safest bet (to ensure a high consistent quality) is to go for a ham from a producer that is inscribed in a Denomination of Origin (DO). There are 4 “jamÃ³n ibérico” DOs in Spain:
Dehesa de Extremadura (Extremadura region)
Guijuelo (Salamanca region)
Huelva (Huelva region)
Los Pedroches (CÃ³rdoba region)
The one that is regarded for enforcing the strictest quality controls is the D.O. Dehesa de Extremadura.”
After only two days in Barcelona, we’re traveling to son Brian’s house in Montpellier, France by train. That is in the Languedoc region where good food and wine abound. There, we’re meeting up with son Eric and his wife Alison. It’s a 4 1/2 hour trip, so maybe there will be eats on the train.
From Gourmet’s ChopTalk:
“FRANCE’S PLACE IN THE SUN
Ask the French where they dream of living, and the southern town of Montpellier (in Languedoc-Roussillon) always comes out on top. It’s easy to see why, since this ancient city in the sun has turned into one of the most vivacious villes in France during the last 20 years.
A sleek new tramway, with colorful, kicky exteriors (flowers, the dove that’s the symbol of the city, sprays of color) by designer Christian Lacroix, snakes through city; fountains splash everywhere; and a young population crowds the cafe terraces in the heart of the handsome Vieille Ville (Old City), site of the world’s oldest medical school and several of the most beautiful parks in France. Almost the entire downtown area is pedestrians only, and a visionary local program has been restoring the beautiful 18th-century houses built of biscuit-colored limestone that line the city’s medieval lanes.”
On previous visits to Montpellier, each person was assigned a dinner course. We would scour the city for ingredients, sampling its many other delights along the way, reconnoiter back at the house and prepare and serve our food. It is such fun to sample the local, in season fruits, vegetables, meats and fishes, and we all know a thing or two about preparing them simply and wonderfully.
We only have two days in Montpellier, since we have spent time at Brian’s house in the past. We will embark on a driving trip that goes north to Toulouse and through the Pyrenees to the coastal cities of San Sebastian and Bilbao, Spain in the Basque country. Some exploration of La Rioja and Navarro regions will follow before we turn south to Catalunya and end up in Barcelona for another two days.
Forbes Magazine recently listed THE WORLD’S TOP TEN FOOD CITIES.
SAYS WHO? retorts a blogger:
“Perhaps judged by the reputation of their best restaurants rather than by the standards set by the community itself [Forbes Magazine] sees cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York beat out the well-educated, well nourished, well proportioned ‘foodie’ populations of Rome, Toulouse, Budapest, Beijing, Beirut and Nice whose inhabitants bathe daily in the culinary delights of their local produce and the ‘father to son’ techniques of their grandparents and families.”
Looks like Toulouse is in pretty good company. I planned a weekend there on our last trip, but alas, a nasty cold intervened and I was content to spend the weekend conked out on the couch with my box of Kleenex. Bummer.
“The Languedoc is a vast area stretching from the Camargue in the east to the borders of Catalan Spain in the South and in the North to Toulouse and Albi; it covers a great diversity of food and cooking types, all with one common feature – excellent local ingredients – fruit, vegetables, wines and cheeses, all of which express the taste of the sun and the region. Searching for the secrets of le sud profond has taken us to many secret corners of the area and on a remarkable journey across the region.”
Food in San Sebastian ( Donostia )
Undoubtedly one of the great attractions and pleasures of visiting San Sebastian is its fine gastronomy.
The Basque region is well known and respected throughout Spain with arguably some of the best restaurants being found here. Basque cooking ( La Cocina Vasca ) is held in high respect by most Spanish with their best chefs receiving the same treatment as perhaps famous artists and are highly sought after in the countries top establishments.
La Cocina Vasca is influenced by the abundance of produce from the sea on one side and the fertile ebro valley on the other. The mountainous nature of the basque counrty to a difference between coastal cuisine dominated by fish and seafood, and inland cuisine with fresh and cured meats, many vegetables and legumes, and freshwater fish and salt cod.
Through the old city, the beach and surrounding areas of San Sebastian you can enjoy dining out in the most exclusive and luxurious types of Restaurants to the smaller Pintxos bars (Pintxos are small dishes like Tapas) and from sandwich bars to Cider houses (sidrerias).
Another blogger recounted her experiences in the regions we will soon travel.
“Unsurprisingly, this trip was about eating. The region is known for its food, and we discovered just why. We spent the first few days in Barcelona, then making for the Basque region along the northern coast. We spent our few nights among Zaragoza, Bilbao, and San Sebastian, and dined in a handful of picturesque small towns along the way (detailed reviews to come). Zaragoza, where we simply rested the night, was bigger and livelier than expected. Bilbao seemed a fun place to end up to study abroadâ€”a hip town with great museums. San Sebastian is a town for a couple of simple activities: beach going, and pintxo bar-hopping. Pintxos, the local term for tapas, are the force behind the region’s food scene. A late-night visit to one such local bar ran circles around (and was a tiny fraction of the price of) the three-starred restaurant from the night before.”
We will finish our trip with a couple days in London, and have already made reservations for the Indian restaurant where we dined on our last visit. I’m not a lover of Indian food, but London is reputed to have the best. Notes from my journal of that visit summed up the experience.
“It’s still early for dinner, so we found a real bar, DIAL, with excellent, professional service and a generous portion of Macallan Scotch. Ummmmmm good. We watched some semi elegant folks coming and going in the bar and the comings and goings of SOHO folks outside.
Time to go to the Indian place for dinner, Mela. The design of the place has no character and the Maitre d’ wore the most ill fitting suit I’ve ever seen. But the food was excellent and the service professional.”
Perhaps it’s not the Indian food, but London that enthralled me.
I’m eager to share my food experiences when we return from this adventure.