Monday, July 23, 2012

Europe, Destination 6: Rome, Italy AND my recreation of oxtail stew

Rome was one of the places I was extremely excited to visit - I've been intrigued by antiquity for many years. With that said, I expected the trip to be more hectic, with food on the go instead of sit down restaurants. Boy, was I wrong. Rome was the place where I drank the most cappuccinos and marrochinos, the place where I had my favorite pasta dish in Italy - rigatoni with oxtail stew in tomato sauce, the place where I cherished my last bite of gelato, and the place where I had my all time favorite tiramisu. I stayed in Trastavere, which made it extremely easy to find amazing and comparatively cheap restaurants that served amazing food. So, when all said and done, I think I did Rome proud - I ate lavishly (while still on a budget, of course), I pondered the meaning of life as I immersed myself in ancient architecture, and looked at the city with a childlike wonder.
One of my cappuccinos, after I added 1/2 a packet of sugar and mixed it.

I was a bit curious as to how art was made with froth, so I used the butt of my spoon to make a fat bear... here's to hoping attempt 2 gets better.

Marrochino. My addiction.

The Oxtail Stew Rigatoni dish... not so pretty, sorry, I ate about 3/4 of the plate before I realized I would regret it for a long time if I didn't take a picture.

Fortunately, the full dish (oxtail stew rigatoni) is pictured and hung on the left. OM NOM.

My last gelato in Italy. Pistachio and Mint. It was a great way to end my last night in Rome.

You knew M and I couldn't go more than a week or two without Asian food... M's Katsu Don.

In my crazed stage of wanting to eat coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew), I knew I had to make it for myself. VOILA! Recipe I followed is here: but instead of straining the vegetables out, I followed the restaurant's dish and kept the carrots and celery in. It was DELISH dipped with bread.

Sadly, I did not bring any Rigatoni iback with me. I did, however, bring back an assortment of other dried handmade pastas. The one used here is pappardelle cooked al dente with the oxtail stew sauce.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Europe, Destination 5: Bologna, Italy

Bologna. Pretty much the place where I gained all my volume… I had an amazing time eating all the food, touring the city for its artisanal shops and meeting amazing people who, for reasons I still don’t really understand but am grateful for, were nice enough to teach me part of their trade. The city itself was small – it took me about 45 minutes to leisurely walk from one end to the other, a bit more if I actually stop to stare at all the dried pasta shops, the shoe stores, the leather shops, and of course, the restaurants and cafes. I had amazing aperitifs… Go to Gamberini for aperitifs and delicious sweets. I still think about that marsala-rum cream puff… yum. Do buy their thick tart balsamic glace and eat their dried meats – I don’t think I will ever be able to stomach American made bologna again, not that I enjoyed it when I did eat it before the trip. Get their tagliatelle al bolognese. Actually, just get their pastas, made al dente, it was perfect for me. DEFINITELY DRINK ALL THEIR COFFEE DRINKS - my all time favorite was the amazing marrochino…mmmmmm… now to make one for myself once I find good coffee (regrettably, I did not buy coffee in Italy to bring back).

Europe, Destination 4: Milan, Italy

I admittedly did not eat as much in Milan - too much to do, too excited over ancient ruins, and too little time spent on figuring out where the good restaurants were. I did have some phenomenal pizzas, great cappuccinos, and some delicious desserts while I was at it, though. I did not know that when I ordered pizza (my first was a margherita) it would be a whole pizza. That was an extremely full first meal. My friends and I learned since then. Also, I loved the delicious foccaccia I had in Milan, but always forgot to take pictures when I did get them. So, in the last picture, I went home and recreated it for breakfast (Fried tomato and anchovy on a toasted foccaccia). The wine in the second to last picture is from a winery I went to in Avignon.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Europe, Destination 3: Avignon, France

Southern France was a blur to me. All the food was great (okay, so the two things that popped to mind are tartines and kebabs…). I don’t think I had a single bad food my whole time there. The restaurants were small and quaint with delicious midi menus. Their rose wines tended to be lighter, but were still good. I went to two wineries – Tavel and Chateaunauf du Pape – both which were magnificent and I learned a lot about different grape varieties and soil types in creating different flavors in wine. Since everything was a blur, it is a bit difficult for me to actually tell you what was where. I took a picture of some of our meals and one of all the artisanal foods I brought back from Southern France. There was a great market called Les Halles literally 5 minutes from where I stayed and my friends and I went to Saint Remy where a lot of small artisanal shops had things I could not resist – like delicious pates, terrines and tapenades, truffles, honeys, and more…

(Above) was our homemade breakfast of chevre cheese, bread, arugula , and tomato from Les Halles

Friday, July 13, 2012

Europe, Destination 2: Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona had an amazing market. That is most of what I remembered. Fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, fruit juices, seafood – you want it, they have it. In both Madrid and Barcelona, I ate kilos of large meaty tart juicy loquats. I even found fresh sapodilla – something I haven’t had since I left Vietnam so many years ago!!

On our last night in Barcelona, we could not help but buy fresh ingredients from the market and cook for ourselves. Getting a pretty decent deal, we bought a crab and a lobster. I fried it with salt and garlic. Accompanying this, my friend MA made a soup with pureed tomato, potatoes, celery, and shrimp and my friend LZ whipped up a salad. 

The one restaurant I did remember was 4Cats. It was very delicious, and the maitre d’ treated us to cava sangria. It was quite delicious for a white wine based drink (considering I’m much more a red person). I had a delicious duck confit with a baked apple and drizzled with a balsamic glace, which gave contrast in both flavor and texture to the duck. My friend ordered a grilled squid and mushroom dish – definitely the best squid we had in Europe.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Europe, Destination 1: Madrid, Spain

My trip in Europe was definitely memorable. I learned a lot about myself, my place and role in the world, and thought deeply about philosophical issues, especially the relationship of location, identity, and competency. Most of this contemplation happened, of course, over food. The food in Europe blew me away. I gained some volume, and I don’t regret a single cubic millimeter of it. I was lucky enough to visit Europe with two friends who stopped me from ravishing my food (and by that, I mean, savor) before taking a picture or two… half the time, at least. So, I present you, the first of my 9 posts on my gastronomic adventures in Europe!

I started my journey in Madrid. I was excited to try their Sangria. With almost every meal, I shared a pitcher of Sangria with my friends. They were all very delicious, but I was not able to choose my favorite Sangria amongst them. Tough competition. Here’s one picture to represent the sangria we drank.

One tapa I thoroughly enjoyed and surprised me was patatas bravas, and in Plaza Mayor of all places. The sauce was some heady combination of a tomato based ragu sauce with a delectable and generous splash of fresh chili sauce. It was the first time I’ve ever had patatas bravas, and I foolishly thought that if Plaza Mayor, a touristy locale, would have such amazing patatas bravas, then the bars in Chueca (where I stayed) would top that multiple times over; I was wrong. If you’re ever in Madrid, you must head over to Plaza Mayor for that pitcher of red sangria and some patatas bravas. Be warned, we ate all but three pieces of potatoes before remembering to take a picture. This will be a common theme through my posts…

My first Menu del Dia was down this alleyway (sorry, I should have been better at record keeping and remembered names of restaurants and streets) and a split second decision because I was so hungry. It was the cheapest Menu del Dia I had and the best. I had Paella Mixta (this paella, in my opinion, topped all the other 4 or 5 paellas I had in both Madrid and Barcelona) and grilled swordfish with some red wine. I was stuffed to the brim and then some – I think I had one tapa with my shared pitcher of sangria that night because I was still too full for anything else.