Saturday, May 8, 2010

Chocolate and Other Stuff...

You will not gain any weight from this post.

What a better way to end the posts on our vacation then to end it with chocolate. The last day that Mr. Broad and I were in town, he had the GENIUS! idea of doing a self-guided chocolate tour. (Did I find a catch or what?) A great way to get off the beaten path and just explore more areas. And Chocolate.
PS- Thank you David Lebovitz for all the suggestions.
PPS- Salted Caramels: you rock.

We walked around to a lot of recommended chocolate stores mainly to see their window fronts or to take in the smells. The windows were all decked for Easter with each store outdoing the next. I took some pictures to share because I'm sure you care.

To be frank, it may be my Jewish roots but I don't get the connection of Easter to some of the chocolate displays (beavers?) Regardless it was impressive all the same.



These eggs were filled with chocolate. Not sure how they did it but you could buy them for $30. Wait, it's now occurring to me that the shell is also chocolate. OOH...
Okay, they looked pretty real but I'm not sure...




Little bunnies, ducks, and chicks inside one of the stores.

There were larger turtles than this one, but this chocolate turtle would set you back over $100...

Would you like a sample?
The answer is yes.

Okay, this wasn't chocolate store, but check out the pastries. And note the large macaroons which are pretty wonderful.



Paris and Spain were wonderful. A beautiful vacation that was heightened by the scenery, the food, and the culture. Oh and the wine. Right. Speaking of- I thought I'd include some pictures from La Rioja region that didn't make any of the blog posts.
Breathtaking.




This winery was designed by Frank Gehry. The same guy that did the Guggenheim in Bilboa and lots of other famous buildings. It is also one of these world class hotels that we tried to get into but there was some Peugeot car conference. We still enjoyed the wine tour.


Aah what a vacation.
We're already brainstorming for our next vacation. All recommendations welcome- we're thinking beaches.
Mr. Broad wants to go with Colombia. Yes, the coffee, kidnapping South America capital. It's supposed to be the new Caribbean hotspot.
I'm taking other suggestions.
Anyone??

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You know that Scene in Indiana Jones where they eat Monkey Brains...

Welcome to Fear Factor: Paris Edition

Well first we went wine touring in La Rioja region and spent the night in Laguardia, Spain which was pretty freaking awesome.
I'll post pictures later. But first up, Paris.


So meal 1 in Europe, Mr. Broad and I were super timid to ask the waitress for some help on the menu, we wanted to be *cool* Americans that didn't need the waitress's help. Hell, I whipped out my English-French dictionary even.
Come the end of the trip, however, we had no problem asking a little Parlez-vous Anglais?

And we happened to get the nicest waiter ever who translated the. Entire. Menu.
Merci Beaucoup Monsieur.

Of course I didn't write anything down so it doesn't help you at all but it was damn good.

Pork Belly with Chorizio and other yummy stuff. And foam. Ooh fancy.
Heavenly.


And here it is. The garcon (I'm SOO french! Now if only I knew how to do that little squiggly below the c...) went down the menu in English and stopped on the last appetizer.
He looked at Mr. Broad and I. Nervous.
Garcon: Do you know what this is?
Mr. Broad and I: No...
Garcon: Ehh... This is brain and... tongue (pause waiting for Americans to freak out).
Us: What? (I swear we thought he said lungs instead of tongue. Cause thaat would have been gross.)
Garcon: Ehh... It's brain. And. Tongue. A cow's tongue.
Me: A brain?? (He said BRAIN?!)
Garcon: Oui, people like it. It's very popular (of course it is)
Mr. Broad: I'll take it.
Garcon: Oui? You're sure.
Mr. Broad: Oh yes, I'm sure.

Oh boy.

And then it came out. Just like it looks. Now I'm familiar with the Jewish variety deli meat tongue (Mr. Broad and Brother's favorite) but even this was a little different. The tongue was smooth and well, pretty awesome. With your average lamb's brain is the centerpiece of this dish. No idea on the preparation. We're hoping it wasn't raw.
Yes, even I had the tiniest little sliver. Because how often can you pass up brain!? Surprisingly not bad. If you just close your eyes and think of chicken.

You know that halloween prank where you put your hand in the bowl full of peeled grapes and they tell you it's eyeballs?...
Yeah, this was the real thing. With your eyes wide open. And you eat it.
It deserves a close up.
The waiter stopped by several times to make sure we were okay.
Oh Mr. Broad was. There was no leftover brain in case you wanted to take some home with you.
Main courses here.
What was this?! UGH. It was good! Tender, juicy and awesome. I think it was the actual lamb.


Mr. Broad got the squid.
I guess with the brain adventure Mr. Broad decided to play it safe and stick with the fish. How about those grill marks!? Perfectly cooked.


Pistachio and Chocolate Pot de Creme
I must have seen 4 of these come out of the kitchen, so it was a no brainer what I was getting.
Oh Paris, how I love thee.


Cheese platter
We had picked up cheese at a fromagerie but we had yet to try the popular French dessert cheese course. Mr. Broad who was really on a roll here, decided to go for it.
A large offering of cheese, it was a different ending for two Americans so used to ending on a sweet note.
I mean, Mr. Broad had a salad.
As he exclaimed. "My last bite and it's going to be salad? Pass me that pot de creme... "


Review:
This place was fabulous. Hell, we're even ahead of the trend as it got written up in the New York Time last week. Not presumptuous, it had a New York feel located in a small restaurant. Mr. Broad proclaimed this was his favorite meal in Paris. I can't decide anymore. But if I ever want brain, I know where to go.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tapas: From Pig's Ear to Potatoes

Hold up. Give it up for my 100th post. Holler!
--------------------
Okay now onto San Sebastian.

San Sebastian is known for it's tapas or pinchos (in Basque it's pintxo). These small plates line the bar or if you're lucky they might serve hot food at the bar.

Here are some samples:

Potato omelet
A popular tapas, I've had it in the States- however this one was quite possibly the most moist and cheesiest.



Shrimp on toast
Even the simple ones were wonderful.


Pan Fried Foie Gras over Apple Sauce and other things
Hands down the best tapas I had. Just beautiful.


A trio of tapas (Left to Right)
Crab salad wrapped in tuna
Marmalade over goat cheese on a cracker
Sardines (or maybe anchovies?)


A wagu beef burger in a tomato bun with banana chips
See they can be fancy too.


Okay, this wasn't in San Sebastian but in a small town, Laguardia- in La Rioja region (a different post)
The worst tapas that Mr. Broad had.
Here is Fried Pigs Ear.
It looked as bad as it tasted. Mr. Broad said it was because it was fried. Sure and not because of the cartilage??


Take 2.
And then because g-d forbid Mr. Broad should say he hates a food item, he had to give it a second shot. It wasn't fried but I passed on trying it. Yes, I missed out on not one, but two opportunities to try pig's foot. I'm okay with that. Pig's ear second time around, Mr. Broad enjoyed it a lot more thoroughly.


Brought to you by the website, This is why you're fat...
A hot dog surrounded by cheese surrounded by ham and then fried.
Glorious.


Have no fear, it wasn't all fried.

This guy eventually bought Mr. Broad and I several rounds of drinks and enjoyed practicing his English on us.


We have tapas in the States but they just aren't the same as San Sebastian. Most aren't on a menu here, you point at the bar and they heat them up if necessary. The freshness and simplicity is paramount. And due to small portions, it gives you the opportunity to try lots of different plates at different bars. Even if it's two pig's ear.

Now for some scenes around San Sebastian. Because aside from the food, it is also a pretty awesome and beautiful city.





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Monday, April 19, 2010

The Best Lunch Ever. We've now reached International Foodie Status


Apxe, Spain

THE Lunch.

The lunch which kicks all other lunches asses- and dinners for that matter. When you can't find any adjectives that work so you bring our the curse words.

We drove from Biarritz to the countryside in Spain for two hours away to what felt like the middle of nowhere. (where ARE we??) Seriously, thank you Mrs. GPS for somehow figuring out where we were even though the streets weren't named with your British accent pronouncing Spanish/Basque like it was English. You really are a hoot. And Spain for all your roundabouts which forced us to reenact National Lampoons European Vacation. (Look kids, Big Ben)

Etxebarri is rated amongst the top 50 restaurants in the world. The head chef is known for grilling everything. He has created a custom grill in his kitchen and changes the coals for each order-- and each COURSE. Intense. They only serve lunch there and we were lucky we got a reservation. I'm sure we were dining amongst other foodie greats but my celeb sightings doesn't yet venture into the international chef sector yet. (Score for seeing Spike Lee at Starbucks today- again!)

Okay. The restaurant is set in the cutest little countryside. You start to think, HOW is there good food here? And how did anyone find it? Perhaps the fact that the chef is friends with the Ferran Adria of the world's best El Bulli has something to do with it. (Sidenote: REALLY? El Bulli is closing?!).



We sat down to a beautiful table- in a barn-like cottage. An Australian, which we later learned was the Sous-Chef, came out (why had I not googled him earlier??) because the front of the house told him Americans were here! Of all meals to have explained to us in English- I mean I get it we're in your country but I'm now about to drop a lot of money so thanks for sending the Aussie over to help us. The menu was confusing but mainly because of it's minimalist approach. The menu had maybe 25 items on it but only had items like: Chicken. Octopus. Beef. Was that it for the price? We later learned it came with several courses but you really just trust the chef. We could do that.

We asked our new favorite sous-chef if they have a tasting menu- and he said tell me some things you like/dislikes are and they create it individually for their customers.

So let's begin.

Vegetable Soup
It was good and non controversial but really the palate cleaner.


Butter with Truffles and Sea Salt
The sous-chef told us he hand churns the butter. (And it's SMOKED!) How does he DO that?! It was heavenly. Dear Truffles, while I HATE your fungi counterpart I welcome you with open arms to my palette.

Check out the butter thickness..

Prawns
Grilled of course. Time to get down and dirty- totally succulent (For the record, I hate that adjective but it totally applies)

Cockles with grapefruit
Who knew I liked cockles? I've had them before (Thailand 2007) but man this just can't compare. Even the dish was a special "cockel" dish and had divets for them to lay.


Baby Octopus with Vegetables
Hands down our favorite dish. Smooth and tender the grill really brought out the octopus flavor. I still think about this dish.
Grilled Grouper? Bass?
Ugh I don't remember which is a shame... Flaky, and all other things good fish should be.
Chorizo
Fresh with slighty grilled favor. It wasn't dried like your charcuterie plate may be used to- it had a slight steak tartare quality to it and rocked. Came with breadsticks that helped to enhance the taste.

Chuleta
Best. Steak. Ever. Cut like a strip steak but it tasted like we could have licked the grill. We were utterly stuffed by this course but sneaked a couple bites in.
Perfectly medium rare quality

Smoked ice cream with blueberry sauce
That's right I said smoked. I've never experienced such a wonderful flavor like this (except for the courses before.)

Flan.
Okay. It's called flan, but truth be told it was a cross between a cheesecake and just plain out custard. Because flan definitely isn't this good. It was perfect, somewhat light and the best ending to a gluttonous meal.

Mr. Broad couldn't believe the quality of this dessert- and this from a flan hater! One guess who was a member of the clean plate club on dessert?


Review:
I mean what's to say about this restaurant that hasn't already been said. The food was "simple" and the grilled flavor only complimented it and heightened the taste. Anthony Bourdain went there in No Reservations: Spain and said- "You can be assured that no one is eating anything quite as amazing as you are at this present time." Or something like that. This meal goes in the ever changing top 5 meals Mr. Broad and I have had of all time. But this one is staying on the list cause how many have scenery to match the food.

Gorgeous.

Enjoy the video.

video

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