Category Archives: Europe

Food, Food & More Food Part I

By Beth Friedman
@FoodTravelrBeth

I am obsessed with food. In a former life I must have been a chef, a Jewish Grandmother or an Italian Mama because I love to cook, I LOVE to eat and I love to feed people. It’s a wonder that I don’t weigh 300 pounds because I wake up every morning wondering what my next meal will be. This is no different, and actually gets worse when I travel because to me, one of the key ingredients (forgive the pun) to a great trip is to experience the cuisine of wherever I am. Whether it be a perfect goulash in Budapest, garlicky and tender escargot with some creamy Camembert in Paris, steak or grill in Buenos Aires, pastry in Vienna, pasta in Italy, BBQ in Texas or bagels in New York City, I B-line to all of it!

My most recent trip was to Paris with my boyfriend Joe, where eating our way around the city and drinking our fair share of Sancerre was at the top of our priority list. Each day started with buttery, flakey, freshly baked croissants from a local boulangerie and eaten on the go.

While most think of fine dining, perfect plating and complex sauces in French cuisine, I learned the lesson of simplicity in food again on this trip. And it could not have been demonstrated better than at a wonderful spot called Cafe Allard, an old school bistro located in the 6th arrondissement (St. Germain). A friend who lives in Paris 50% of the time recommended it to us, and we found it appealing because it’s frequented by locals. Crowded and loud, with tables packed together, you are instantly and tightly integrated into Paris life here. When we were seated, we noticed that at the table next to us they were digging into a whole roasted and carved chicken with potatoes that smelled so good that we almost didn’t need to see the menu. But it seemed so unexciting that we tried our hand at taking a look even though we were struggling with our French. When the waiter came to take our order and we pointed at our neighbors dish to ask what it was (duh), he looked at us like we were crazy, and with a good-natured, funny expression on his face and a shrug, just said “chicken”. It was a good laugh, so we ended up going with the chicken for fear butchering the language by trying to order from the menu. This turned out to be a great decision because that simple roasted chicken was one of the best things either of us had every eaten. We were blown away by how delicious something so seemingly ordinary could be. The meat was so tender, juicy and ‘chickeny’ (is that a word?), with skin that was so perfectly crispy! I was so distracted from the very first bite, that I forgot to take a picture of it. What you see below was taken a little to late to do it justice, but those potatoes you see? Well they were unbelievable as well!

I could write all day about eating our way through Paris but instead, let’s go to Germany. On another memorable journey, this one along the Danube River with AMA Waterways (my top pick for river cruising throughout Europe), we stopped in Regansburg where we were introduced to the world’s oldest sausage stand called Wurschtla (Wurstküche ). It is said to be over 500 years old and was built to feed the workers building the original ‘Old Stone Bridge”. You can’t travel throughout this part of the world without being bombarded with each region’s variation of sausage. Sitting here at picnic tables (in December mind you), this historic food establishment serves open fire-grilled sausages that are simple, salty, fatty and crispy and placed on a bed of sauerkraut with bread. Don’t be embarrassed to order 5 all for yourself! YUM.

To take a turn to the lighter, sunnier side of food, when traveling to Tahiti and the islands of the South Pacific, you’ll find that their national dish of Poisson Cru is on almost every menu, and every household has their own recipe. It’s a ceviche of sorts, made with the freshest tuna, chopped cucumber, tomato, onion, lemon juice and freshly squeezed coconut juice. I had a lot of fun at the Four Seasons Bora Bora (a magnificent resort by the way!), where the chef held a Poisson Cru demonstration at one of their lovely restaurants, Arii Moana. Then challenged us (a group of travel agents) to compete against one another to come up with our own version. They provided some great ingredients for us to choose from and I decided to go with the fresh tuna ( a must), chopped green apple, chopped green onion, thinly sliced kumquat, a drizzle of tangerine infused olive oil, lime juice and coconut milk.

I am proud to say that I won this little competition!

When traveling it’s always fun to challenge one’s palette, so I’ll never forget my re-introduction to the anchovy. I am usually a pretty ambitious and adventurous eater, so in the past I had tried my hand at this salty little fish and HATED it. But it was a true revelation when I was coaxed into another tasting while in Ravello Italy at a hosted luncheon by the Hotel Caruso at their lovely terrace restaurant, Caruso. I wrote about this in a previous blog posting, but since it was a true culinary “a-ha” moment in my life (credit to Oprah!), I thought it was worth another mention.

My anchovy turnaround came from an interesting little ingredient called colutura, which is anchovy juice. To me anchovy juice sounds just plain gross and when the dish of spaghetti was placed in front of me and proudly described by the chef, I wanted to push it away and skip to the next course. But I didn’t want to insult our hosts, and dug in. The spaghetti was cooked perfectly, and the flavors were salty, but fresh and bright! The colutura is mixed with lemon and fruity olive oil with a touch of hot chili flakes, and it’s flavors were so different and simple that just writing about it now has me transported back to Italy. It was truly an eye-opener and a perfect example of how going outside your comfort zone in food can truly expand your horizons.

I can’t complete this posting without spending some time closer to home, so let’s go to New Orleans which is the epitome of a food lover’s fantasy. You’ve heard all of the hoopla about things like Po’ Boys, jambalaya, blackened fish, gumbo, begniets and so much more, so I’ll keep it simple here and focus on one stand out dish. I’m talking about the grilled oysters at Acme Oyster House, which is a much loved New Orleans institution that is frequented by both tourists and locals (be prepared to wait on line to get it!). Large gulf oysters, shucked and topped with melted garlic butter, lots of herbs, white wine, a dash of worcestershire sauce and Romano cheese are lined up onto the grill and cooked just until bubbly. They are completely addictive with a salty, briny, garlicky yumminess that leaves you aching for just one more. It’s another example of simplicity in food with huge flavor, texture and personality. To me they scream New Orleans on a plate.

I could write forever about all of the fun and interesting food I’ve eaten while traveling, so I’m going to keep going with another Your Journey By Beth posting about it soon. I hope that in writing about it I can encourage a few picky eaters to go outside of their culinary comfort zone. To be honest, I’m perplexed by folks who spend a lot of money and time to travel and experience far away places, then seek out Starbucks, McDonald’s and only order dishes that seem familiar to them. Traveling can be a thrill in so many ways and can appeal to all of your senses. Your taste buds are a wonderful and delicious way to learn about how other cultures nourish their bodies, their souls, their family and friends.

Stay tuned for more on food! And if you’re looking for travel tips, ideas and recommendations, you can reach me at:

Journey By Beth
310-804-6767
journeybybeth@gmail.com

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, Europe, food, Foodie, Fun, Getaway, Italy, New Orleans, travel

A Valentine to Vienna

By Beth Friedman

I had a brief but passionate winter fling with the city of Vienna. It was a whirlwind romance lasting less than 36 hours, but like most relationships that burn quickly, it left a lasting impression on me. Since it’s Valentine’s day, I’ll describe my time in this romantic city like a speed-date that included a long walk, a little something sweet (spiked of course), intelligent conversation about books and art, window shopping and of course some extremely romantic and moving music.

Our ambitious day began at the gothic and grand St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which is a good place to start in Vienna because of it’s central location in the city. Next, we headed to Mozart’s House to see where and how this iconic music legend lived. Followed by a quick visit to MUMOK – Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (with incredible exhibitions that included pieces from artists like Rothko to Jackson Pollack to Monet to a variety of collections in a variety of mediums). We would’ve like to have seen more at MUMOK, but we chose to move on. So much to do, so little time!!

As you can imagine, we were merely scratching the surface with regard to getting to know Vienna, but there was something about the vibe, the people, the culture, the architecture and it’s overall sophistication that really excited me.

In a desperate attempt to hold on to this romance a little longer, and learn as much as possible in one afternoon, we also toured the National Library of Austria. I’m so glad that we included it in our day, because it is truly one of the most remarkable buildings I’ve ever seen. The photo below is of the interior. I only wish it began to capture the scope, the color and the overall grandeur of this room.

We continued with a stroll around Kärtner Strasse – the main pedestrian shopping area, which is fantastic. The photo of Joe is on Kohlmarkt, a short but exclusive street that leads to Michaelerplatz and Hofburg Palace.

At this point it was time for a much needed rest, so we stopped into a random coffee shop and had a gorgeous and decadent treat of coffee with Grand Marnier topped with hand-whipped cream. Yum.

Vienna is the “Music Capitol of the World'” and when ‘they’ say music, ‘they’ mean classical music, which didn’t really turn me on at first. I’m more of “classic” rock n roll girl, yet that evening, we were going to the Wiener Hofburg Orchestra. I went into the experience with an open heart and mind, and low and behold…..classical music truly moved me! I quickly found out that it can make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up and bring a girl to tears. Literally. A true testament to the theory about how when you travel somewhere new, you always return just a little bit different.

We were visiting Vienna as part of a Christmas-time Danube River cruise itinerary on AMA Waterways, so after the concert we went back to the ship to get into bed after such a busy day. Fortunately we had some more time to spend in Vienna the following morning, so we couldn’t miss seeing Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site and it’s Christmas Market, which was filled with local artists and artisans displaying and selling hand-made trinkets like x-mas tree ornaments and nut-crackers, glass blowers, of course Christmas tree ornaments sausages, pretzels, roasted chestnuts and of course Mulled wine, games and obviously pastries!

I know it’s hard to believe that such a brief and exhausting courtship would result in true love, so maybe it was just an infatuation. But there was something special and unexpected about Vienna that stuck with me. Maybe it’s because you always want more of what you can’t have; who knows? But it was sad to leave, and I can only hope that someday we’ll meet again.

Wishing you all a sweet Valentine’s Day! Instead of giving chocolates in a box, try Viennese Pastry 🙂

If you have any questions about travel to Vienna, AMA Waterways (I’m friends with the owners!!) and holiday river-cruising (or travel anywhere else for that matter) connect with me, your friendly neighborhood travel consultant at:
@FoodTravelrBeth
facebook.com/beth.friedman1
journeybybeth@gmail.com
310-804-6767

3 Comments

Filed under Culture, Europe, Holiday, Romantic, travel, Valentine's Day

A Romantic Getaway in Amsterdam

@FoodTravelrBeth
Facebook.com/beth.friedman1

Amsterdam is one of my favorite European cities and I highly recommend it as the perfect place to visit with somebody you are establishing your ‘travel legs’ with. It was the first international trip that Joe (my ‘partner in life’/boyfriend) and I took together, so there’s a special place in my heart for it.

There are so many great things about this city and you can really begin to get a sense of it in just a few days. Amsterdam oozes character, it’s very romantic, the people are great and it’s culturally exciting with plenty of ways to have fun! Getting around can be a little confusing, but hey – I think that getting lost in a new city is a good thing – especially with somebody special! And wandering around the cobblestone streets, canals and narrow walkways is an experience in and of itself.

If you’re in tourist-mode like we were, there is no shortage of ideas for your to-do list. We walked endlessly, peeked into the red-light district, took a canal tour, scoured the the Riks and Van Gogh Museums, visited the Ann Frank Museum, Rembrandt House and last but not least, we did the Heineken Experience Tour (hokey, but necessary). As you can see in the photo below, Joe was really into learning the ins and outs of brewing beer.

It’s not surprising that some of the best times we had revolved around eating, and one of our favorite food experiences – even to this day – was at the Supper Club. This is not your typical restaurant. It is many things wrapped into one very memorable night. I’d describe it as performance art meets fine dining while lounging comfortably on a bed (yes, I said bed), slash nightclub. Believe me when I tell you that you’ve got to experience it to believe it.

Another fantastic meal, albeit much more low-key than the Supper Club was breakfast at the Pancake Bakery where instead of describing the food, I’ll let the photo below speak for itself!! I’ll just chime in with YUM! Click here to see the menu filled with endless ways to have your traditional thin Dutch pancakes or poffertjes, which are like small puffy pancakes.

Throughout this trip, we meandered into tons of pubs – there are about 1200 of them throughout the city. And as you can imagine, there’s a huge beer culture here (beyond the biggies like Grolsh, Heineken and Amstel). For meals we were able to satisfy any craving we had including Italian at a great little place called Ristorante Savini and Chinese food we liked so much we had it twice at Restaurant Si-Chuan!

Another quintessential must-do in Amsterdam is the coffee house experience. Even if you don’t ‘partake’, it’s fun to wander in and out of a few since they are something most won’t see at home. Each has its own vibe, many even have a theme.

On this trip, we hung our hats at the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky which is a nice four star-ish hotel that is centrally located directly on Dam Square. It was perfect for us and I’d recommend it to anybody looking for location and great value.

A few of the finer hotels in Amsterdam (where today I have connections that I wish I had back when we were there!!!) are the Hotel Pulitzer, the Intercontinental Amstel and the Hotel de l’Europe.

It’s been several years since our trip to Amsterdam, so when I pulled out my journal and our pictures to write this blog I was transported back to one of the best times I’ve ever had. Joe and I learned that we traveled well together – which was VERY important and in March we’ll be together for 7 years. To celebrate our anniversary, we’ll be traveling to our 8th country together! Stay tuned with Your Journey By Beth to find out where!

Another fun travel blog to check out is:
http://www.vagabondquest.com/
Dina and Ryan have been traveling around the world since April 2009 and are still going. It’s their dream to be permanent travelers.

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, Europe, food, Fun, honeymoon, Romantic, travel