Thursday, August 25, 2016

Malta is crazy busy and crowded but the food and the ruins are what we remember

Malta is a place best looked at in retrospect.  It is crowded and too busy BUT the history is complicated and diverse and contribute to food, wine and architecture that are very good.
Honey Bun
We spent some time in Valletta and found a perfect coffee at the beautiful Caffe Cordina, founded in 1837.  I love these old coffee shops, that run like well oiled machines. It was very busy but we never felt rushed.  We tried the Honey Ring, a traditional Maltese treat made with black treacle, marmalade, orange peel, spices and honey.  I could see how they would become addictive.  They aren't nearly as sweet as they sound and are really perfect with coffee. 
Legligin Wine Ba

David ready for a great lunch

We had lunch at Legligin, a wine bar with a tasting menu.  They asked about food restrictions and we were impressed when they understood our pescatarian preference.  We asked about local wine choices and the owner brought us a selection that he then described in detail and had us quite excited to try the Celsius Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was so good we found some to bring home.  
Maltese Wine Celsius
Lunch was a long lovely affair with mostly local ingredients that were fresh, well prepared and lovingly served.
Gozo Cheese, Olives, Peppers and Eggplant, Tomato Tapenade

Mushroom Lentil Soup
The Octopus and Fish were very fresh and simply prepared.

Sea Bream

I recommend Legligin.  It was memorable, good value and the food highlight of Malta. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

I count on @Scoutmagazine for restaurant advice in Vancouver but Herzog was a great tip for Munich

I love Scout Magazine so much that when I saw Herzog Munich in Restaurant Porn and was planning a couple of nights in Munich I booked dinner there.  Thank you Scout, you never lead me astray.  Munich in July was all about outdoor dining and Herzog was no exception.  The patio was sexy and comfortable at the same time.

A beautiful restaurant full of beautiful people I was a little worried that the food might not be quite as good.  The proof is in the pudding as they say and the food made the grade.  

Perhaps a little pretentious in a serious foodie kind of way, the olive oil was served with an eye dropper.  Didn't hold us back a bit. Great bread, great olive oil.  
Bread olive oil and salt
Baked avocado salad wasn't a great start but the only misstep.  Ho hum boring.

Baked avocado salad
I haven't had a spider crab worth eating in years but David wanted this one and I'm a fan again.  3 Yums UP!

Spider Crab
No one could translate the fish Zahnbrasse, but with yam gnocci on top we wanted it anyway and it was delicious.  Since learned it is sea bream.

We even tried dessert.  Mostly because again, no one could quite tell us what is was.  Tagesdessert is dessert of the day.  A traditional dessert that wasn't like anything else I've had. Like a cross between a donut and a cake with fruit and ice cream.  Tasty  and pretty, David finished every bit.  I prefer wine for dessert. 

I enjoyed Herzog.  The food was good, the comfortable garden table was excellent and the people watching even better.  

One interesting thing was how many large format bottles of wine I saw circulating the room.  The Wine Guy told me he believed that large formats age faster and allow him to have exceptional wines by the glass.  I didn't argue, just ordered another glass.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Augustiner Keller beer garden was a great introduction to Munich

Pretzels and beer are a staple in Munich

Our European adventure ended with a couple of nights in Munich. On good advice we checked into our hotel and headed out to the Augustiner Farden and it was better than I had imagined.  It is the 3rd largest beer garden in Munich and can seat 5,000 people. We sat near the front entrance and it didn't feel so big.  Perhaps all the trees helped keep it intimate. 
Augustiner Garden Munich
A basket of pretzels was delivered to the table as soon as we sat down. Some fresh Munich lager followed quickly and we settled in for a nice lunch.

The vegetarian option was a dumpling with mushroom cream sauce.  Absolute heaven.  I'd get on a plane right now to have it again.  
Dumpling Love
The small green salad looked like nothing special until you dug in a little to discover a crave-able potato salad and some sauerkraut in the bottom.  I've been trying to reproduce the potato salad ever since. 
Simple salad with hidden goodies and Perch in background
David had perch, his favourite fish, it was simple and perfect.

Good food and beer and a great atmosphere.  I will always include a visit to Augustiner Keller Farden when I'm in Munich and I hope it's soon.
An inviting entrance

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Taormina, Sicily is the port we'd most like to return to

Taormina Gate, Sicily

Taormina is perched on a hilltop looking down on the port and like many Italian towns it has a gate leading into the old town and the main pedestrian street, Corso Umberto.  It is charming with some very nice shopping and lots of restaurants.  We stopped for granita and did some hunting for olive oil but eventually it became crowded and hot amd we started looking for a place to cool off and have lunch.

David's nose for beer served us well yet again and we found Re di Bastoni or King of Clubs, a charming name for a lovely little pub serving up great food and drink. Check out the crazy room.
Re di Bastoni, Taormina

I started with a real deal Bellini made with fresh peach juice and prosecco.  So refreshing.
Fresh Peach Bellini

The bartender was passionate and informative about local food and drink. David tried the Ulysses Pale Lager from Sicily's own Birrificio dell'Etna and called it the perfect for the hot day. He also tried the Nazionale from Baladin, a brewery near Genoa.  It came highly recommended and was a good hoppy beer.
David happy at the Pub

We decided to stay for lunch and were surprised by farm fresh vegetables and fruity fresh olive oil.  Since I'd been on a quest for some sensational Sicilian olive oil I asked about the source.  Sadly only sold locally.  Everything on our plates was local.
Farm fresh food at Re di Bastoni
At the end of our cruise we decided that Sicily is the place we'd most like to go back to.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

With better than a dozen cruises under my belt I say Oceania Cruises has the Finest Cuisine at Sea

We cruised from Barcelona to Malta on Oceania Cruises newest ship the Sirena and from beginning to end it was foodie heaven.

I learned early on to temper my expectations from galleys that serve hundreds of people but Jacques Pepin has lead the Oceania culinary team since inception in 2003 and they have changed dining for all cruisers by raising the bar to a high level.  No midnight buffets here and “lobster night” doesn't exist, instead my favourite crustacean is a daily part of the menu in a variety of dishes.

The Grand Dining Room is grand indeed, with over-sized arm chairs, crisp clean linen and lots of shine. It serves consistently good food from a thoughtful menu.  There is something for everyone  and the esteemed Canyon Ranch manages the healthy menu.

Grand Dining Room Turbot with stuffed clams and champagne foam

Grand Dining Room Beet Carpaccio

Grand Dining Room Bouillabaisse with Pastry

Italian food is one of the worlds most loved and Toscana restaurant delivers.   The crab cakes were outstanding with no filler masking the sweet crab and a nicely spiced aioli to round it out. Bistecca Florentine got rave reviews and sole meunière, one of my favourite dishes, was as good as any I've eaten. Our waiter was a young woman born and raised in Florence and embodied the warmth and sophistication of that great city. The room was comfortable with banquets and back cushions thoughtfully offered. 

Toscana Crab Cake

Toscana Lobster Risotto

Toscana The humble Sole Meunier was my favourite 

Red Ginger had the over the top service only an Asian restaurant can pull off, and the food was pretty great there too. Lobster Pad Thai was one of the great Oceania lobster dishes.  A tea menu and choice of chopstick styles were interesting.
Red Ginger Lobster Pad Thai

A final nod to the Terrace Cafe, the nicely served buffet and the many Americanos they delivered to me al fresco. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

3 Yums Up for El Quim de la Boqueria the food highlight of our Europe trip

After a great 1st night in Barcelona we spent the morning sightseeing and working up an appetite for El Quim de la Boqueria.  The Boqueria market is right on La Rambla  near the Joan Miro mosaic.  Full of fresh food stalls catering to the chefs of Barcelona, there are also occasional vendors preparing and serving outstanding food at bars with stools. 
La Boqueria

Near the centre is El Quim, star of the show and rumored to be the breakfast choice for chefs.   We had lunch and it was great fun with some of the best food we ate in a couple of weeks of gastronomic indulgence.  
Scallops with Littleneck Clams and Pea Puree

The scallops stood out as the best of the best in a series of perfect dishes.
El Quim Menu
The tapas menu has all the standard fare but at a hightened level of excellence.  I will definitely try the breakfast next time.  Add 2 fried eggs to anything and it's better,  Right?

Patatas Bravas
I love potatoes and order this dish whenever I see it. El Quim made the best I've ever had.  Perfect potatoes in a just right spicy sauce. Yum! Yum! Yum!
Prawns and garlic
Last but not least.  I'm sure these prawns were in the sea less than 24 hrs ago.  

El Quim is a great experience that is fun, easy on your wallet and doesn't need reservations 3 months in advance.  I highly recommend it.

Back outside on La Rambla be sure to notice the Joan Miro Mosaic under your feet and the funky seed packages at the flower stalls.
Hot Seeds on La Rambla

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Our 3rd time in Barcelona wins our hearts and we can't wait to go again

Our recent trip to Europe started in Barcelona  with 2 nights at the H10 Montcada on Via Laietana.  We really enjoyed this hotel, from check in with a glass of cava; the comfortable room with a view of the cathedral and Nespresso machine; the rooftop bar with city view to the great breakfast with 2 double commercial Nespresso machines.  Combined with the great location a block from the cathedral and we have a new favourite hotel.
David enjoying a Filo Munich at El Vaso de Oro
After a drink on the rooftop to get our bearings we headed out to explore the Gothic Quarter while following David’s beer nose to Cerveceria El Vaso do Oro, a tapas bar on the edge of La Barceloneta specializing in beer.

Vaso Vino - very drinkable for only 2.50 EUR 
Tuna salad on a Grande scale

Salted Tuna was new for us.  Really great with beer.

We loved El Vaso with the long polished bar, beautiful beer steins and great food well prepared and presented.   Full of happy people, both sides of the bar.