Tag Archives: Trip Report

2016 New Orleans Trip Report – Part 2

New Orleans Trip Report

Decatur Street from the Washington Artillery Park & Moonwalk

I have a secret weapon when it comes to recommendations for great New Orleans eats.  A high school classmate went to LSU, fell in love with the city, and decided to stay in the greater NOLA area.  He keeps a Facebook page chronicling his lunch outings: the New Orleans Lunch Journal.  When I asked Beto for lunch suggestions, the first place on his list was Cochon Butcher.  It was the first place we visited the minute we dropped our bags in our downtown hotel.

Mid-Day Eats

Coming straight from Puerto Rico and being greeted by a traditional vejigante mask in this renowned butchery, deli and sandwich shop? Priceless! Read More…

2016 New Orleans Trip Report – Part 1

New Orleans Trip Report

Latrobe Park on Decatur and Ursulines

I didn’t realize how much I missed New Orleans until I footed my way through St. Charles Avenue for the first time in almost eight years.  Literally footed – I ran my first marathon two weeks ago.  From Lee Circle up to Calhoun Street and back downtown, my eyes were peeled for old landmarks from my college years in the late nineties. My ears open for the sounds of the bands and DJs, and for those spectators that dotted the first half of the race course.   My mind raced to all those times I took the streetcar from Audubon down through Carondelet and back. To all the nooks and crannies I didn’t take the chance to know back then.  That longing to get reacquainted with the city grew stronger as we made our way into the French Quarter through Decatur Street.  The tree lined Esplanade miles through the Marigny and City Park up to Mid City were dotted with regret for not exploring as much as I should have.  And the Lakefront portion made me grateful for a sunny, mild day that could have not gone any better, throbbing right knee notwithstanding.

New Orleans Trip Report

St. Charles Avenue streetcar at ‘my’ stop

The race recap portion of this show is over. On to the first part of this New Orleans trip report, the love letter to my college town and to the great food that enjoyed over five beautiful days.  I knew the city would be packed between the race (over 25,000 runners) and other conventions and events.  The minute we booked our airfare in December I made most of our meal reservations.  If traveling to New Orleans for an event, it’s always better to reserve and then modify reservations than try to walk in to the more popular restaurants. Read More…

Seattle Trip Report 2013: Seafood and Sips

2013 Seattle Trip Report: View from the Space Needle

Has a full month really gone by already?  Four weeks ago, I was eating, mingling, and seeing my way through Seattle, WA.    I am missing the delightful company of my fellow food bloggers, the comfortable fall temperatures, and yes, the seafood.  Seattle and the Pacific Northwest are brimming with fresh, delicious seafood caught locally and mostly sustainably. Read More…

The Herbfarm in Woodinville, WA

A section of the Herb Farm's edible garden

“What was Paradise? But a garden, an orchard of trees, and herbs, full of pleasure, and nothing there but delights”
-William Lawson

Eduardo and I capped our trip to the US Pacific Northwest/Canadian Southwest with a meal for the ages.  We visited The Herbfarm in Woodinville, WA on our last night in the greater Seattle area.  The Herbfarm is considered one of the US premiere “destination restaurants”. While wine tasting in Woodinville after IFBC 2013 wrapped up, we stopped to check out the restaurant and the grounds of the adjoining Willows Lodge.  We were already curious about the restaurant based on the multiple accolades we had read about: AAA five diamond rating, National Geographic Traveler, and multiple ‘best in Seattle’ lists.  After sleeping on our decision for a day, we called and made our reservations/deposit for the Indian Summer nine-course dinner.  The menu for this meal was inspired by the shoulder/harvest season between summer and fall.
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2012 US Southeast Road Trip – Fried Green Tomatoes

Green (unripe) tomatoes are considered an end-of-summer or early fall crop in most of the Northern hemisphere.  Late season tomatoes are picked while green because otherwise the changing weather conditions would spoil them.  In the American South, however, they are so popular they are harvested while green all through the summer. Read More…

2012 US Southeast Road Trip – Introduction

There are few things I enjoy more than putting together a trip. I geek out and prepare Excel spreadsheets for everything, from schedules, transportation minutiae, to outfits. On my first road trip with E back in 2006, I compiled a whole binder filled with Google Maps printouts, winery maps, reservation confirmations, and had to stop myself from bringing a hole puncher to add every brochure we grabbed (I got to that after returning home). Thankfully we live in the age of smartphones and applications like TripIt, Yelp, and Waze that allow for a little more spontaneity and a much lighter carry-on bag. Read More…

2011 New York Trip Report (Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of my New York trip report!  This time around, I’m sharing our dinner recommendations and experiences, some other fun things we did around the city, and an account of the lovely evening we shared with Norma of Platanos, Mangoes, and Me and her family.  I’ve spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve in New York twice, so it seems fitting to wrap up my summary today.  The city is truly magical during the holidays. Read More…

2011 New York Trip Report (Part 1)

In New York freedom looks like too many choices
-U2

New York Trip Report - Midtown New York Skyline

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L’Estacade

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Out of order alert!  This post is the follow up to our Bolognese adventures.  After arriving into the Boardeaux area from Bologna via Ryanair and resting for a bit (the maximum amount of rest I would allow DH, had all the calls been up to me), we set out to explore the city and find L’Estacade, one of the recommendations from the Fodors France 2010 guidebook.  We would come to rely on many Fodors restaurant recommendations for dining in France.  With a sense of “phew, we made it”, we walked into L’Estacade after a long, leisurely walk in the Garonne riverfront area.  It was quite the trek after a long day of travel – literally a “trains, planes, and automobiles” day – but a gorgeous one.  Bordeaux’s architecture owes a lot to Paris.  They wanted to be just as glamorous, but right by the water and it worked out just fine for them.  It is a gorgeous, compact urban center that was declared part of the world heritage by UNESCO. 

When we walked into the restaurant, we were marveled at the view.  The whole restaurant has glass panes that provide an unobstructed view of the city.  Had we made reservations, we might have gotten a better view, but it was fantastic just as it was.  We started out with a celebratory aperitif of Sauternes wine.  Sauternes is a French dessert wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section in Bordeaux. Sauternes is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. This causes the grapes to become partially raisined, resulting in concentrated and distinctively flavored wines. 

To continue varying from our Italian wine experience, we ordered a white Bordeaux blend, the 2007 Clanderelle.  Straight out of the Clanderelle website, the blend was made of

 

  • The Semillon is dominated by a white floral and lemon fragrance with hints of beeswax and honey. It provides a fairly full body and tends to be low in acidity. The Semillon possesses an extraordinary richness and a succulent texture.
  • The Sauvignon is characterised by its grapefruit, mineral, lemon lime and melon-like fragrance. It shows a great intensity of flavour. The Sauvignon contributes “freshness”, as well as a balanced acidity and a dry citrus finish to the wine.

As for dinner, per se, we started out with a goat cheese in phyllo entreé (in the French sense – starter/appetizer), which I am trying hard to remember but cannot remember much other than the fact that there were two, served with some microgreens, and that it was probably delicious.  The main course, a seafood platter, was much more memorable.  It had several types of fish, including salmon and shrimp, and was served with a corn souffle/mousse.  Bordeaux is a seafood town, and we could appreciate the fresh catch.  The piece de resistance was dessert – a gorgeous tarte tatin served with a gingerbread and apple sorbet.  I remember vividly the caramel sticking to my teeth.  I had not had anything like that apple sorbet before.  It was just the fuel we needed to walk out to the bridge to catch the ‘streetcar’ back to the hotel and definitely the most memorable dessert in a Bordelaise meal. 

Semillon Sauvignon Blanc

 

 

Lunch at Siena’s Piazza di Campo

Sent from my iPhone

La bistecca fiorentina

Tuscan R&R

It’s not always about food and wine. Give me a villa garden, books, low 70s weather, oh – and a glass of Chianti – and there’s a moment I’ll be dreaming about when clobbered at work.

Cul de Sac – Rome

Cul de Sac Rome Wine Bar

Given that this was a wine bar, the wine list was by far the most extensive.  Extensive is putting it mildly: we got one mind-boggingly huge binder for Italian wines and a considerably smaller one for other regions.  I got to pick the wine and selected Madreselva, a blend from Lazio.  I figured our last Roman night deserved a local wine.  The wine was delicious and we could tell it was good just from the waiter’s reaction to it.  He opened the cork, and then took a huge sniff out of it.  “I take it that you like this one”, I had to say.  We were not disappointed and it was not too expensive at 22 euros.

Madreselva Lazio Wine Cul de Sac Bar

Madreselva Lazio Cul de Sac Rome Bar

Taleggio Cul de Sac Rome

We started with a Taleggio cheese to share.  I had not had this particular cheese before, but had recalled some recipes I’ve seen that ask for it.  Taleggio, quoting ArtisanalCheese.com, “is a semi-soft, washed-rind cheese from the Valtaleggio region in northern Italy, near Lombardy. It is characteristically aromatic yet mild in flavor and features tangy, meaty notes with a fruity finish. The texture of the cheese is moist-to-oozy with a very pleasant melt-in-your-mouth feel. The combination of the soft texture, pungent aroma, and buttery flavors has proven to be addictive especially when spread on fresh crusty bread”.  I can’t put it better myself.  From there, we moved on to the primi.  To date, we had not had any lasagna and Eduardo ordered it.  It was very light – lasagna in Italy is another of those dishes that vary significantly from their Americanized counterparts.  The layers of pasta were thin, barely schmeared with meat sauce and cheese.  I went with spaghetti with pesto sauce.  After participating in STV’s CSA for a season, I came to appreciate a good homemade pesto and this one was very fresh.

For the secondi, I forgot what Eduardo originally ordered but they were out of, but he went for a meat and potatoes dish that looked like rolled up churrascos.  I don’t remember if I tried it, but it disappeared off the plate.  I forgot I was in Italy and ordered the Escargot Bourguignon and a side of scalloped potatoes.  The potatoes reminded me very much of my Mama’s – rich, but not overbearingly so.  The escargot proved to be a first for me – snails in the shell.  I was given a wooden skewer to facilitate the poking/snail extraction process.  The garlic parsley butter was good, but nothing that stood out from other escargot dishes I’ve had.  It served as a good ‘palate cleanser’ from Italian food – I still had four more days to go of pizzas and pastas.  I was stuffed by the end of the meal, so we ordered a chocolate mousse to share.

While we were working on dessert, since it was close to closing time, someone from the pizzeria next door came in and delivered a cheese pizza.  Out from the back of the bar, we see cured meats being sliced and thrown on the pie that was to be shared between the staff. That must be part of the perks of the job.  We took off just as the guys started to dig into the pizza.  We did not walk the meal off this time (took a cab back to the hotel), but I couldn’t care less.  I came to appreciate Rome the more I hung out in its crooked streets, talked to the people in my stunted EspaItaliano, and witnessed little moments like those that speak volumes on the food culture, the service industry, and the vibe of the Eternal City.  I might have said at a later time in the vacation something akin to “Forget Rome, give me Paris”, but I didn’t really mean it.

Matricianella – Rome

Based on the recommendations posted online in Chowhound and Giada de Laurentiis’ blog, Eduardo and I made our way to Matricianella, close to the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps).  The clientele consisted mostly of local/Italian customers, with a few foreign tourist tables.  Given that we had a late lunch of pizza in Campo di Fiori (Pizzeria del Mercato), we stuck to a fritto misto, two primi, and two desserts.  Funny note, we were originally looking for Pizzeria del Antico Forno, another Chowhound recommendation, for lunch and it turned out to be closed by the Italy’s health department.  I guess we know now why that pizza was so tasty.  At Del Mercato we went for a white anchovy/squash flower and a red ‘diavola’ – spicy sausage.  Pizza in Rome was thin crusted, and the toppings were added sparingly, but they were very good quality.

Back to Matricianella… . They had one binder just for Italian wines.  We went again for a Tuscan selection, a Morellino di Scansano, the picture of the label is in the previous blog entry.  The fritto misto consisted of tempura battered green beans, coliflower, mozzarella, onions, and two potato croquettes that stood out.  The croquettes were good, but quite contrasting to the other lighter items.  Eduardo had the traditional pasta carbonara (the best of the trip), completing our quest for the three traditional Roman pastas.  I had homemade fetuccine with chicory and porcini mushrooms, which was wonderful.  The chicory is a bitter herb, like an arugula, and a great match to the rich pasta.  When I say rich pasta, I mean that the fettuccine was prepared with egg – not the sauce.  Sauces are minimal in this type of pasta, unlike the prior day’s bucattini and the carbonara.

Since we had done some serious walking that day (and every other after that) and skipped the second course, we dove into a rich chocolate mousse and my only tiramisu in Italy. Both were really good.  The meal at Matricianella was the epitome of comfort food – fried appetizers, pasta, and gooey desserts.  If only we could eat like that every day without consequence!

 

Pappardelle with porcini mushrooms at Matricianella
Chocolate Mousse at Matricianella
Tiramisu at Matricianella

La Pace del Palato

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I missed posting the details of our first dinner in Rome, which was absolutely wonderful. Pierfrancesco from the hotel directed us to a delightful restaurant behind Piazza Navona, La Pace del Palato (with a note to Renato, the owner). In no small way I credit that note for the superb treatment we received.

We started with an amouse-bouche of arancini con tartufo (a fried risotto with truffle dumpling). We were then served a white bean, clams, and pasta soup. It was an unexpected combination; I am not a bean person and I loved the salty brine the clams brought to the potage. To cap off the antipasti, we received gorgonzola/grape/speck layered crostini (think of a tiny club sandwich), an apple cheese concoction wrapped in wax paper (I could barely tell there was apple; it was gorgeously gooey), and probably the best eggplant caponata I’ve ever had.

For the primi plato, we chose to try two of Rome’s signature pasta dishes: the buccattini all’amatriciana (thick spaghetti with a tomato pancetta sauce) and pasta caccio e peppe (cheese and black pepper) with scampi. Both were delicious. After all the starters and the decadent pastas, we were stuffed but couldn’t pass up the house polpette (meatballs). We split the secondi and called it a night.

As for wine, I did not look at the list but judging by the size of it, I see why it was hard to choose. We went for a classic Chianti to open the trip. Chianti is made primarily from Sangiovese grapes, an easy pairing with the different dishes we had. The picture attached to this post was from tonight’s dinner.

It was not a cheap meal, but we were more than satisfied with the food and attentiveness of Renato and the waitress (I wish I remembered her name). The bar was set high for the meals in this awesome trip.

Ciao!

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