Category Archives: Travel
In the past few months I have had quite a few “wow” food moments. Here are a some of my most memorable, starting with:
Category 1: “Wow, how did they make this?”
L’ail Doux: At one of my favorite restaurants, Da Rosa, they serve this amazing garlic that they call l’ail doux (soft garlic). “Soft garlic” makes you think that it will be roasted and “soft” in texture, but it’s actually the exact opposite, it’s crunchy. “Soft” refers to the soft flavor, but regardless, the crunchy texture can be daunting. The first time I tried it I was pretty scared. You put it in your mouth and it crunches like raw garlic (well, I don’t think I have ever really put a whole clove of garlic in my mouth and chewed it, but I imagine that it would have this texture). It crunches like a radish, which makes you instantly worry that you are going to reek of garlic for days. But then you realize that it has a very mild, almost sweet garlic flavor. I have no idea how it’s made. It tastes as though it’s pickled in a vinegary brine, rather than confit-ed in oil, but how long it’s soaked or what exactly it’s soaked in is still a mystery to me. However because it’s so addictive, I’m hoping to figure out the secret recipe soon. Don’t be surprised if you see a future post about my garlic pickling adventures.
Octopus Salad at La Mora Bianca: I’ve had some great octopus in past trips to Italy, so when I was in Sardinia earlier this summer I was really looking forward to enjoying some. After a few nights with no octopus on the menu I was getting discouraged, that is until we went to a restaurant, La Mora Bianca, suggested by our hotel. It was a little off the beaten path so we were skeptical at first, but one look at the local crowd seated in the restaurant and we were a little more confident; and after one bite of the octopus salad, I was sold. The menu didn’t have any description of the dish besides the name, so we didn’t know what to expect. Thus I was pleasantly surprised when the beautiful dish above appeared. As you can see from the picture, the octopus is served thinly sliced like carpaccio, piled up, and topped with a tomato-caper-onion relish and vinaigrette. The mystery to me is how they create the carpaccio like slices. The slices are solid making me think that the octopus is pressed into a loaf like shape, then perhaps frozen to firm up and make slicing possible, and then finally sliced to order on a deli/meat slicer. I really have no idea, but the resulting dish is fantastic. The octopus is ridiculously tender. It’s like nothing I’ve ever had.
(to be continued)
I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last posting, I have had a very busy June. My mom came to visit in the beginning and I had a wonderful time showing her around my Paris and then the two of us took off for a long weekend in Portugal, which was amazing. The landscape, the people, the architecture (see the picture above), the food, and of course the wine and port were better than we imagined. I really have no idea why the Douro Valley isn’t more of a travel hot spot.
As trite as it sounds, words really can’t explain the beauty of the Douro Valley. As we drove down the winding (car-sick-inducing) road into the valley the view literally took my breath away. To help you visualize, below are two shots I took from our balcony at the pousada where we stayed and the third is a view of the pool just to make you extra jealous.
Pousadas (in case you were wondering) are a network of old castles, monasteries, manors and convents that have been restored and converted into hotels. The pousada where we stayed, Pousada Solar da Rede, was an 18th century manor house that made me feel like I was living in a fairytale.
I used to say that Costa Ricans were the kindest people out of all the places I have visited, but the Portuguese gave them a run for their money. And I’m not just saying this because they all looked like relatives, because they really did. No joke, they all looked like my mom’s side of the family (aka my Portuguese 50%) and all expected us to speak fluent Portuguese since we looked so native. Everywhere we went the people we encountered, be it the 5 random patrons at a gas station who all piped in when I asked the attendant for directions when we were lost for the millionth time and they all had to agree which was the easiest way before they would let me leave the store or the countless old ladies selling cherries on the sides of the road, were kind and seemed genuinely interested in making sure our time in Portugal was perfect.
Oh and the wine and food! The wine and port were cheap, cheap, cheap and tasted good too. We found ourselves met with wine lists where the full bottle prices could have easily been confused with a by the glass price list in the US, I’m talking bottles of wine for the equivalent of $12 to $15. I found that I prefer white and ruby ports to tawny and much prefer Portuguese white wines to their red counterparts.
In terms of the food, well I guess the food overall wasn’t that spectacular except for three specific things: 1) a truly delicious meal we had a DOC on the Douro River, which my mom declared was the best meal she had on her entire trip, including Paris; 2) the ridiculously addictive bread, broa, which is served everywhere and I would describe as a cross between cornbread and a dense Irish soda bread…I know that doesn’t sounds like a very enticing description, but trust me it was TAAASTY; 3) alheira sausage, a “poultry” sausage with bread in it, once again I know the description doesn’t make your mouth water, but it’s hard to describe. It’s very smoky and the texture is soft and smooth due to the bread, and I use the term poultry lightly, as all the menus translated the sausage as poultry based, but it tasted like there had to be a pork product in their too. I had it a few times, but one of the most memorable was at the aforementioned DOC when it was wrapped in brick pastry (very similar to phyllo) and served over a bed of caramelized mushrooms.
Upon returning to Paris, all in one day I said goodbye to my mom and hello to Benjamin who had survived his 3 month trip throughout Asia and his train ride across Siberia and Russia to end up in Paris to visit moi. We moseyed around Paris for two days and then headed off for a relaxing vacation in Villasimus in southeastern Sardinia. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures from Sardinia as they are all on Benjamin’s camera, but it was gorgeous. Cove after cove of white sand beaches and crystal clear aqua waters. We had a wonderful time laying on the beaches, swimming in the sea, snacking on pane carasau, eating lots of pizza and drinking copious amounts of cheap house wine. One day we rented a scooter and drove up and down the coast stopping at beaches along the way. All in all a lovely trip, but like all vacations it came to an end and I then returned to Paris to start Intermediate Cuisine and Patisserie. So far, Intermediate has been pretty different from Basic…but I’ll save the details for another post.