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Bi-Rite Creamery

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I am such an idiot. I won’t tell you who, but years back, someone with a thriving restaurant on 18th Street in San Francisco alerted me to a great business opportunity nearby. Food-related, of course. I passed, and now the area is the culinary destination in the Bay Area.

(Aside from the taqueria on Church Street across from the Afeway…)

Although I missed the proverbial boat, I’m glad to see the smart folks at Bi-Rite Creamery scooping up some excellent ice cream in that neighborhood. I sampled just about all of them, from the fruity Cherry-Almond to the most curious Soy Chocolate. There’s a seductive Salted Caramel and a Butter Pecan as well. But my absolute, hands-down favorite scoop was the Mint Chip. Flavored with organic mint oil, it’s a big dose of refreshingly cool mint with big, honkin’ chunks of housemade chocolate chards. Think the best kind of Girl Scout cookies all mashed together and piled in a cone. Yum!

There’s plenty of toppings to choose from at Bi-Rite Creamery, but where there are salty little grains of fleur de sel enrobed in dark chocolate from Michael Recchiuti, why order anything else?

Bi-Rite Creamery
3692 18th Street
San Francisco, CA

(For those who can’t make it to Bi-Rite Creamery, their most popular recipes can be found in their book, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones.)

Lisbon

If anyone of you has been planning to go to Portugal, I’d say “Don’t walk…run!” to get there. Except that’s perhaps only possible if you live close by, in Spain. And in which case, you’d probably take the train.

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Here’s some various and sundry impressions and images from my trip. Apologies to any Portuguese folks for mangling their language. And thanks to the readers who offered ideas for places to go and things to eat. I would agree that Lisbon is a terrific place to spend a few days, but if you go, it’s worth either renting a car or taking the train to explore some of the beaches and small towns outside of the city.

And if you don’t learn any other word in Portuguese, the most important word in the language is churrasquiera….or ‘barbeque’.

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What I love most about Lisbon is that there’s still plenty of relics from the decades of the recent past, namely bits and pieces of art nouveau and art deco everywhere. And the tilework, which you can find all around the city is marvelous, constantly surprising and very colorful.

Equally marvelous, and edible to boot, are natas; small custard-based tartlets meant to be consumed en masse. Believe me, if I could’ve fit all three into my mouth at once I would have. No one is shy in Lisbon: you simply belly-up to the counter and order a plateful.

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Although they vary in quality from place to place in Lisbon, some of the best natas and other pastries are at Pastelaria Versailles.

Continue Reading Lisbon…

I’m Gonna Be A Lisbion

I’m heading to Lisbon soon.
Anyone got any must-do tips or casual restaurant suggestions?

If so, please leave ‘em in the comments….

Saúde!

Paris Ice Cream Shops: Les Glaciers de Paris

Here’s my address book for the most popular and some favorite places for ice cream in Paris. I update the list from time to time, and for the most up-to-date information, check out my Paris Pastry app, which lists over 300 of my favorite places in the city for ice cream, chocolate, pastries, and hot chocolate.

Raimo

In addition to these glaciers, some of the pâtisseries make their own exceptionally-good ice cream which they’ll scoop up from freezers parked on the sidewalks outside during the summer. Some of the best include Kayser, La Maison du Chocolat, and A La Mère de Famille.

Many of the places keep curious hours, some of which I’ve noted. Most don’t open until mid-morning, and one, Deliziefollie, simply closed for the winter while Berthillon closes mid-July for the summer. I’ve listed phone numbers so you can call in advance.

Passionfruit sorbet

Berthillon

Little needs to be said about Berthillion that hasn’t already been said. This most-famous of all Parisian glaciers makes what many consider the best ice cream in the world. Go see for yourself! I was a fan of their glace chocolat until I saw the light and switched to the chocolat amer sorbet, which has the deep intensity of chocolate but without the distraction of cream. Their Caramel Ice Cream is excellent, but I think the Caramel-Buerre-Salé doesn’t measure up to it. The fruit sorbets are excellent and the one made with tiny wild strawberries, fraises des bois, is worth the supplement.

Berthillon is served at many cafés in Paris, and other locations near the original also scoop it up, which is helpful when they’re closed. Beware of other storefronts nearby which some people confusing think serve glace Berthillon as well. (They’ll always display a Berthillon logo if they do.)

Berthillon
31, rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile (4th)
Tél: 01 43 54 31 61
Métro: Pont Marie or Sully-Morland
(Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, the second half of July and all of August.)


Amorino

Popular with tourists and locals, Amorino does quite the business, making delicate ‘flowers’ of gelato on cones. Interesting flavors include Bacio, the Italian-style ‘kiss’ of hazelnuts and chocolate and Amarena, candied sour cherries embedded in vanilla custard. Those of you who are lactose-intolerant can find digestive comfort in Amoriso which they say is made with rice and rice milk. Twelve boutiques in Paris.

Amorino
31, rue Vieille du Temple (4th)
Tél: 01 42 78 07 75
Métro: St. Paul or Hôtel de Ville

Pozzetto

More often than not, you’ll find me at Pozzetto, waiting from my scoop of sticky gelato in a cone being handed through the window to me.

Continue Reading Paris Ice Cream Shops: Les Glaciers de Paris…

Delving Deeper Into Coffee

Because I’m out of my mind, once I get something stuck in my craw, I’m not okay until I get it all figured out once and for all. I guess that’s why I’m a baker. Because I’m insane. When I got my new espresso maker, I became obsessed with that too, and I needed to figure out how to pull the best espresso out of it as I could, like they do in Italy.

So what did I do? I went to Italy.
Mais oui.

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Although I got a lot of questions answered there, new ones kept popping up when I got home. And when I posted about my trip there were some enlightening comments, especially from Greg Sherwin of CoffeeRatings.com. I clicked away, delving deeper into his site where there was much top-notch information and we began corresponding.

Continue Reading Delving Deeper Into Coffee…

Trieste Address Book

Trieste is located in the upper corner of Italy, located just at the border of Slovenia. It’s a compact port city and in addition to Slovenian influences, you might be surprised to come across a shop carrying beer steins, since there are residual Hungarian and Austrian influences in the melange as well. But unlike other Italian cities, you’ll find people drinking big glasses of beer, and dining on sauerkraut and dumplings…and I mean, big, hearty ones…not just gnocchi, although you’ll find those too. Which I certainly did.

Along with perhaps a little gelato here and there…

Gelato
My daily dose of heavenly gelato from Zampolli

Since my time was limited, I wasn’t able to explore the areas far out of town, which I’ve been told were where the best food was to be found. The restaurants in the city were a bit uninspiring, although the bars filled up in the early evenings and were great places to have a Gingerino or my favorite aperitivo; an oversized wine glass (God bless the Italians…) with a shot of bitter orange aperitif, chilled prosecco, and a chunk of blood orange served with a handful of ice. I couldn’t catch the name, but it sure tasted good with all the food the Italians pile up at the bars nightly to snack on. The first time I saw an enormous spread of food on a bar a few years back in Italy, free for the taking, I expressed my surprise to an Italian friend, who replied, “Well, it’s so much nicer to have a little something to eat with your drink…don’t you think?”

Why yes, since you asked.

Although I know it’s not a trend that’s going to cross the border into France. But it’s a national custom I’m happy to partake of when in Italy.

After all, I don’t want to be rude. Do I?

Continue Reading Trieste Address Book…

Making Perfect Espresso at Illy

When I told a friend that I was going to Italy to learn how to make coffee, she responded, “You just dump the coffee into a filter and pour water over it. What else do you need to do?”

Well, since you asked, plenty.

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Illy barista Giorgio Milos shows off his skill, and one of my first efforts to match his

First of all, there’s an important distinction between ‘brewing coffee’ and ‘extracting espresso’.

Brewed coffee is steeping ground beans in hot water, which any fool like me can do, whereas making espresso involves a couple of crucial steps and the deft use of a high-pressured machine combined with several specific techniques. It’s not easy to make the perfect espresso, but anyone can make a pretty decent one, even using an inexpensive home machine.

And how do you know what a good espresso is?

It’s a very tiny cup of deep-brown liquid, just a couple of sips, not bitter-tasting, but rich, complex and lingering, which endures on your tastebuds for 10-15 minutes afterward—one singular, perfectly-extracted shot of true Italian espresso.

I was really anxious to visit Illy, since I’ve been having trouble getting just the right little shot to taste good at home. Mine was either too watery, or bitter and virtually undrinkable, even though I was using a very powerful espresso maker. But I was also curious why the espresso in Italy tastes so much better than it does anywhere else, even in the humblest caffè. So when Illy invited me to come to their roasting plant and Università del Caffè in Trieste, I cleared my calendar and jumped on a plane.

So what did I learn at Illy?
I learned that anyone, even me, can pull a great cup of espresso at home.
Here’s the 1, 2 and 3′s of it…

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Moreno Faina shows off a perfect crema while a barista keeps the Illy staff fueled all day long

1. Start with good coffee.

This seems like a no-brainer. But I have a friend who said his vinaigrettes never tasted as good as he’d like them to. When I pointed out that you can’t make a good salad dressing with crappy olive oil from Trader Joe’s, neither can you make a good cup of espresso unless you start with good coffee beans correctly roasted and packed.

Continue Reading Making Perfect Espresso at Illy…

Taillevent, Illy, Chez Dumonet, and O-Chateau Wine Tasting

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Taillevant & Le Cave Taillevent

Last month I had a fabulous lunch at Taillevent, the recently-demoted three-star restaurant, courtesy of some good friends from the states. But if our lunch was any indication, I don’t know who’s plucking the stars. And at 70€ it’s the deal of the decade: Three courses and lots of little extras. Plus they were very pleased to substitute any of the desserts which didn’t appear on the fixed menu for the selection offered. And to make the lunch even more special, another recent guest kindly bought me a bottle of lovely champagne…what’s not to get all starry-eyed over?

But whether or not you can make it to Taillevent, the restaurant, you should definitely visit their wine shop in the main Printemps department store. Run by Alison Vollenwider, with the help of Stéphanie (aka la petite), this wine cave is one of the most interesting in Paris.

Alison trained as a sommelier at Windows On The World with famed wine expert Andrea Immer, then worked in Bordeaux as a sommelier before settling here in Paris. Stop by and say hi—you’ll find plenty of reasonably-priced wines, starting at less than 10€, and lots of good advice from Alison. She’s friendly and knowledgeable…what more could you want from a caviste?

Update: Alison is now a proud mom and no longer working at Le Cave Taillevent.

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Illy

Ever since I got my new espresso machine, I’ve been trying to learn as much about the complex art of making espresso as possible.

Continue Reading Taillevent, Illy, Chez Dumonet, and O-Chateau Wine Tasting…