Prague, the best city of all (besides Barcelona, obviously…)

4th STOP: PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

Budget was tight, skipped Bologna. These things happen.

Prague was hands-down my favorite city during my Eurotrip. It was perfect.

My friend Nica lives there, so I got to stay for free. Hostels get pretty tiring- No privacy, the need to be friendly/outgoing all the time… Being with an old friend was a nice opportunity to relax. She’s also a tour guide, so I got to see the historical parts of Prague as well as the locals’ spots. She’d previously visited me in Barcelona. Clearly we had a good time…

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Speaking of which, bars in Prague are all really spooky and cool. Most are underground and have a cavernous feel to them.

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Spain, France and Italy are HOT. Like, good luck walking across the room without breaking a sweat hot. Prague was cool and breezy which was SO refreshing. At night it was so chilly, I had to borrow a friend’s flannel. I never wore a jacket once in Spain.

Switching from Euros to Crowns was a bit of a pain (and it looks like Monopoly money,) but everything is SO CHEAP in Prague. We went to dinner one night at what Nica described as one of the most expensive places in town. It cost about $15 US per person.

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BEER AND CHEESE EVERYWHERE. No open container law means people just hang out and relax in parks drinking awesome local brews. Popular street food is sausage and fried cheese. You can see why I was so happy here.

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This picture was taken at 11am…We passed through a food market on our way to the metro and thought “Why not?”

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The first place we ate was the “expensive” restaurant I mentioned. Our first course was roasted Camembert set atop a large piece of (still crispy!) toast with tomato slices and pesto. It was creamy, gooey and perfect. I’ve been nagging my chef to put it on our menu ever since. Nica’s other friend, Sam,  recently moved to Kenya to work for a study abroad organization. There’s a very limited variety of food there, so we got to witness him (a cheese-lover) eat cheese for the first time in half a year. It was pretty beautiful.

Look at it ooze.

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Braised duck with potato dumplings and cabbage is a signature Czech dish. The duck is perfectly tender and falls off the bone. Although a little chewy and dense, the dumplings are perfect for sopping up the flavorful sauce. When you start to get a little overwhelmed by how rich everything is, the sweet/sour cabbage breaks things up a bit.

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 Must visits while in Prague are: The castle, old town square, the TV tower (the one with the giant creepy babies on it), the Lennon wall, and the beer gardens. Nica did a really great job of showing us Prague’s weird/quirky/unique history.

Those little black things are actually 6 foot tall babies.

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View from TV Tower

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This is the [John] Lennon wall. Since the 1980’s it’s been painted over countless times with Beatles inspired artwork which is pretty cool because that means it’s constantly changing.

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The last thing I ate was pretty similar to the first. Please just trust me on this, get the fried Camembert when you go to Prague. I’d show you exactly what I have written down in my notes, but there are way too many profanities for this blog. It was something along the lines of…””omg SO F@%#*$& GOOD creamy and stringy and gooey and stupid f*&^%$# delicious”

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When I got back to the states, I tried making it for myself and my parents. Came out pretty damn good.

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I’m serious. Go to Prague. Eat the fried cheese. Drink the beer. Report back to me.

Next stop: Amsterdam! I think I’m still hungover…

*If you’re looking for a great free walking tour of Prague, Nica can take you! She works for Prague Tours Experience and they’re located right next to the astronomical clock in Old Town Square. They’re the ones with the white umbrella.

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250 mile long human chain for Catalan Independence!

Here’s a great article about the huge demonstration Catalans made on Wednesday (National Day of Catalunya) pushing for independence from Spain!

¡Visca Catalunya!

Rome (and the best pasta of my entire life)

3rd STOP: ROME, ITALY

Rome, a must-go-to city for anyone who truly cares about food. I cannot emphasize enough how much better pasta really is in Italy. To be honest, I’ve always said Italian cuisine was a little boring and simple. I’d clearly never eaten real Italian food when I said that…

First of all, Italian was a welcome change from French because although they’re both romance languages, as a Spanish speaker, Italian is a breeze to understand compared to all the nuances of French pronunciation.

My golden rule while traveling Europe= When in doubt, speak Spanish.

It usually worked.

Tren Italia, though notorious for their slow service and constant delays, treated me pretty well. With my first class ticket I got complimentary wine, water, snacks, breakfast, and even a little sink with a lit up mirror in my compartment for the long overnight journey. Also, I got this whole thing to myself:

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When you’re backpacking (even solo) you rarely get any time when you’re truly alone. So I was pretty thrilled to have some privacy which I took advantage of by dancing around to Beyonce and eating my fried brie from McDonald’s. Yep, fried brie from McDonald’s. I’m not ashamed.

Rome has been around for 2762 years. 2762 YEARS! That’s pretty crazy to think about. Modern architecture is pretty cool, but there’s something really humbling about knowing that the structure you’re standing in front of was touched by human hands thousands of years ago.

The Vatican, of course.

The Vatican, of course.

Ceiling of the Pantheon, a temple dedicated to all the Pagan gods of Rome which was converted into a church in 609.

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The Colosseum, where 55,000 spectators could go watch gladiators get their fight on.

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An average city street in Rome, about a block away from my hostel.

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Trevi Fountain. According to legend, if you toss a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder, you will return to Rome. Each day an estimated 3000 euros are thrown into the fountain. Money was tight, so I only threw in a 1 cent coin…Maybe the gods will only allow me a day trip to Rome after this as punishment for being stingy.

Trevy Fountain

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I walked to all these places, but Rome has a really great easy to use metro system- I just didn’t feel like spending money on it.

Now…onto the food.

My budget allowed one decent lunch and one decent dinner for the two days I’d be there. I got lunch at Obika Mozzarella Bar.

3 types of proscuitto and burrata:

From left to right, proscuitto di Parma, Mortadella di Prato, and proscuitto Cotto alla Brace. Proscuitto di Parma has been a favorite of mine since I was little when my mom would buy some for special occasions.  As always, it was moist, stringy, salty and wonderful. The Mortadella was kind of like your typical salami, just with a more velvety texture and slightly weaker taste. The Cotto kind of reminded me of deli turkey meat..I didn’t care for it much.

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Burrata, the star of the show. It’s a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and heavy cream. The name means “buttered” in Italian. This particular burrata very loose and liquidy. It was lacking a little salt, so it went perfectly with the proscuitto di Parma which of course, is cured with salt.

Now I know a lot of Italians might want to shoot me for saying this, but the best burrata I’ve ever had was not in Rome, it was in Boston. If you ever want to taste really amazingly flavorful burrata, go to Il Casale in Belmont. Aside from adding olive oil and pistachios, I’m not sure what they do to it over there that makes it so flavorful and seductive. Definitely worth a visit.

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For my one nice dinner I could afford, I went to La Fata Ignorante.

Funny story: While I was walking to the restaurant, I almost got into a fight because some kid threw his ice cream at me. I was just walking by this fat little probably 12 year old kid and he takes his cone and throws it straight at me. Since I was furious and couldn’t speak Italian, I just slowly turned around and gave him a long, searing glare. It was probably one of the dirtiest looks I’ve ever given in my life. Then his mom starts walking towards me and screaming at me in Italian! What?! I didn’t do anything! So I just turned around and walked away. One of my Italian-American friends joked that I was wise not to take on an angry Italian woman, or I would’ve been “swimming with the fishes.”

ANYWAY, La Fata Ignorante has a nice, romantic atmosphere- The walls are lined with wine bottles, the tables and chairs are all dark colors and the place has a very sophisticated feel to it.

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Despite the romantic vibe, I had just arrived in Rome and hadn’t really talked to anybody yet. Check out my hot date-

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No worries, I was there for what really matters in life- The food.

This cheese plate consisted of black pepper + red pepper provolone with buffalo mozzarella.That mozzarella was so good- It was really squishy with a rough outer texture. When I broke into it with my fork, it released some of its water and revealed a lovely soft, spongey texture on the inside. It was perfectly salty and chewy. The provolone was mild and pleasant but not particularly remarkable.

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The waiter was very friendly- He went over the entire menu with me in English to make sure I understood everything and suggested a nice beer (I drank Franzishaner Weiss, very light and citrusy) to go with my meal. While describing their pasta dishes, he recommended that I go with the Carbonara which many ladies like. I pointed to a dish with red wine sauce and he said “No, no, that is much more for big boxer-type men.” So naturally, I ordered it.

It was the best pasta I have ever eaten in my life.

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Spaghetti with red wine sauce and sweet Italian sausage. Oh my god. I don’t think I ever truly understood what al dente meant until that moment. Usually when someone hands me a plate of pasta saying its al dente, it’s just chewy and undercooked. Not this. This was perfect. The noodles had just the perfect amount of resistance to each bite. That absolutely perfect amount of done-ness struck me so hard. I have never, ever been wowed by how well a noodle itself was cooked. This was phenomenal.

The sauce was rich and almost (but not quite!) overwhelming. It stuck to the noodles so perfectly (notice there’s no pool of sauce on the bottom) that each bite delivered big flavor. Crumbled sausage interjected the deep flavor of the sauce nicely. It’s flavor was bright, fatty and salty. The meat was dense and had a nice snappy texture, which are characteristics of a well made sausage. I will seriously never forget this plate of pasta.

The server was right about one thing- I did have a little trouble finishing it. However, due to my lack of $$$ (or should I say €€€?), I barely ate anything all day in anticipation of this big expensive meal, so I got it done.

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Yep, €20. That’s it.  And I’m pretty sure they all felt bad for me because I was the only person eating alone amongst all the couples, so I got a free Limoncello. I suppose that’s kind of a perk of solo traveling…Pity drinks?      Oh well, I’ll take it.

Later that night, I went out with everyone from my hostel, Ivanhoe. If you’re a backpacker in your twenties looking to meet people and see some nightlife, this hostel is definitely for you. They alternate free pasta and free cocktail nights throughout the week and take everyone out to local bars and clubs. That place was an absolute blast. Only a ten minute walk from Termini station too!

IMG_2447From left to right, Australia, Maryland, Boston, Hawaii, and another Australian. We danced all night and met quite a few interesting Italian characters along the way.

Every step of this trip I kept thinking that the city I was leaving was the overall best one, only to be proven wrong by the next place. That pattern definitely repeated itself with my next stop, Prague….

Nice

2ND STOP: NICE, FRANCE 

Oh Nice, what a beautiful city. It’s got incredible food, beaches and sights.

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This is the view from where I was staying, Altea Hostel. So pretty. I met a few other girls in my room, two Brits and one Bostonian! Unfortunately, none of us speak French so we decided to take the more comfortable route and go out to an Irish pub that night.

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I was drinking a Desperados, a tequila flavored beer. I know it sounds awful, but it was actually pretty good. 

The next night, Boston girl was gone so the Brits and I went out to dinner at an admittedly touristy place called Bistro del Opera.  Surprisingly, it was pretty awesome.

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Here’s my huge crazy Paysanne salad. Tons of baby greens with tomato, endive, Roquefort, croutons, bacon lardons, kalamata olives and hard boiled eggs. There were also overcooked green beans in there, but I didn’t mind too much since everything else was good and the portion was generous.

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Their crème brulee kicked ass. They must have used real vanilla bean in it because it was super fragrant and had those little black specks in it. The bill came out to €26 each.

I was on my own the next day so I decided to spend some time enjoying the French Riviera.

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Not bad.

My chef spent a lot of time in Nice during his youth so I was really excited to ask him for suggestions about places to eat. Sadly, most of his restaurant recommendations were closed for August- A pretty common practice in France. I ended up exploring and choosing a little place that served classic French food with Italian influences. It was called Chat Blanc Chat Noir in the Old Town.

Such a good decision.

I sat outside on a narrow little street and was greeted by a friendly waiter (who is also the pastry chef!) with very good English. He introduced me to two Parisian girls eating at the table next to me, one of whom goes to NYU! We got to chatting for a while until my first course came out- Foie gras torchon. It was a pretty hefty portion, probably about 4oz.

By the way- For those who also don’t speak French, entrée (in French) = appetizer. Confusing, I know.

 The torchon was crazy flavorful. I don’t know what I expected, eating foie gras in France, but it kind of blew me away. Definitely some of the best I’ve ever had. I would’ve snapped a picture, but I got too distracted by the chef who came out to talk to me while I was eating.

When I told him that I cook French food in the US, he invited me into the kitchen to show me how he was going to make my steak tartare!

He showed me around their little restaurant, where on a busy night they will serve 70 customers at most.

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And here’s the chef himself who goes by the name of Giorgio Grilenzoni. He’s a great guy, comes from Italy but has been cooking in Nice for 3 years.

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He gave me tastes of just about everything on the menu, it was awesome:

-Caponata: Eggplant roasted with garlic, onion and celery finished with basil, mint, tomato sauce, capers and olives. He throws some pistachios in right before serving for texture. The caponata goes with their rabbit confit.

–       I really don’t know what this bit of meat is called, he was giving me a lot of food really fast. All I know is that they cure it themselves and it was salty and delicious.

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–       Watermelon, feta, kalamata make up a salad which comes with the swordfish.

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–       Roasted artichoke which I didn’t get a picture of because I was too busy pretending my taste buds weren’t getting singed since it was right out of the oven and I was overeager.

For my steak tartare, he coats the meat in a mixture of parsley, garlic, anchovies and capers. Then instead of a straight up raw yolk, he lightly poaches is so it’s a bit thicker and sticks to the meat more. When he finished plating it I just grabbed it and happily brought it back to my table.

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After I cracked the yolk:

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I should also mention that those fries were way above average. Crispy and delicious.

Explaining to me how and why he’s preparing and plating dishes for other customers.

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What an awesome dinner. Getting to hang out in the kitchen was totally unexpected and was probably the coolest part of my trip to Nice.

My last morning in Nice I got up early to visit the market my chef used to go to every day when he lived there, Marche su Fleurs. There was produce, cheese, meat, flowers, herbs, oils, etc. It was gorgeous and had that lively bustling feel that make markets so fun and unique.

Finally, I visited the museum of contemporary art. Here’s the view from the rooftop terrace:

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Definitely doesn’t suck.

Nice kicked so much ass. If you ever get the chance, please go there. The food is awesome, the people were friendly(-er than Marseille) and it’s the prettiest town I’ve seen so far.

 We exchanged contact info before I left because hey- you never know! Maybe one day I’ll need a job in France 🙂

Next stop: Roma!

Marseille

FIRST STOP: MARSEILLE

Alright, I’m going to be blunt here- Marseille is…not that great. I should’ve listened to my dad and chosen a different city in France to start my trip, but oh well. I’m not saying it was AWFUL, but I probably won’t visit again.

So in Spain, you can only make reservations for trains going in or out of Spain. You know what the problem with that is? By the time you get to France and rush to make your mandatory reservation for your next train leaving in 20 minutes, of course it’s already full…ugh.

So I killed a little time in Narbonne, France.

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It reminded me a lot of Portugal. The adobe, sparse gardens, random cats running around. I was pretty amused to see that the classic French stereotype held up- In a half hour I passed about 5 people walking down the street with their arms full of baguettes:)

Many hours later, I finally arrived in Marseille! My hostel, Vertigo Vieux-Port was actually really nice. Spacious, clean, social, friendly…Everything you want in a hostel.

However, wandering around town was not so great. The harbor was pretty and all, but especially in the evening I got approached by a lot of not so savory characters. The streets were kind of dirty and the people in general weren’t wildly friendly.

The best part of Marseille was definitely the food. I know you’re supposed to get Bouillabaisse there, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pay €30 for it.

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 I went to a restaurant right near the water called L’Entrecôte du Port. It was in a pretty little courtyard with a fountain, guitarist, and twinkling lights. Probably the most romantic date I’ve ever taken myself on.

For €18 I got a basic baby greens, walnut and grainy mustard vinaigrette salad followed by steak frites. I’ll tell you what- The French know their steak. It reminded me of a steak I had when I was about 9 years old in Montreal. Garlicky and flavorful and best of all, when you ask for rare, they listen. That thing was still bleeding when it got to me, I loved it.

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This meal would have been perfect if not for the waiter. He was flirty which was fine- Many servers are- but while I was paying he handed me a card with his number, told me to call him so he had mine, and stood there staring at me until I did. That night, he literally called 9 times… So since I was alone and Marseille’s nightlife consists of only a few bars pretty close together, I decided to stay in that night. Eh, I guess that’s the risk you run traveling alone.

The next day I did get to see some beautiful sights, like the Notre Dame de a Garde overlooking the city and the harbor at night.

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All in all, it was a pretty “meh” trip. If you’re thinking about a vacation in southern France, I would advise you to probably skip over Marseille. Go for Aix-en-Provence to Nice instead. Speaking of which, next stop: Nice!

L’Entrecôte du Port

6, Quai de Rive Neuve | Vieux Port, 13001 Marseille, France (Saint-Victor)

EUROTRIP

My study abroad program in Barcelona is now complete, so I’m currently traveling through Europe for 3 weeks before I head back to the US! (Although that doesn’t mean I’m done sharing the Spain adventures…!)

Here’s the route:

  • Marseille
  • Nice
  • Rome
  • Prague
  • Amsterdam
  • Paris
  • Barcelona

I feel pretty ridiculously lucky and thankful that I get to do this. It’s also kind of hard to put into words how amazing my time in Spain was. I literally could not have asked for anything more. Everything about that trip- The people, food, sights, city, culture- was totally above and beyond what I expected.

…I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy in my life as I am right now.

Here’s where we were sitting when we saw FCB play Santos on our last night in Spain. Barca won 8-0. 🙂

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And a corny album cover-like shot of my roommates and I walking home for the last time together.

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Gracias por todo, España. Siempre tendrás mi corazón.

La Champañería, Barcelona

Another highly recommended restaurant from my list! La Champañería is only a block away from El Vaso de Oro in Barceloneta. It is known for it’s cheap but high quality tapas and affordable cava.

 I read a Yelp review saying that this is not a place to go for a quiet, romantic dinner and they were not lying. I thought El Vaso de Oro was crowded…This place reminded me of the most tightly packed shows I’ve been to- Constantly rubbing against others, dodging hands holding glasses of cava, yelling to be heard by the employees…But don’t let that turn you off. Despite its unique ordering and eating experience (standing and shouting), the food at La Champañería is well worth it.

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   So crowded.

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This picture shows about half the crowd there, but I wanted to post it more to show you guys that one crazy looking dude on the left hahah.

When you finally manage to get your order in, it’ll all be worth it. Their food and cava are delicious and seriously cheap.

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Cava is a traditional Spanish sparkling wine. Theirs was so good- Light and fruity but not so sweet that you have a headache after your first glass.

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Butifarra, blood sausage and chorizo. The blood sausage was pretty oily but in a strangely pleasant way. It also wasn’t quite as mealy in texture as other blood sausage I’ve had before.  The chorizo (on the right) was the best though- Crispy, fatty, chewy and had a great snap. Loved it.

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We also got some pretty standard Serrano and Manchego. I can’t lie, Manchego isn’t really my favorite cheese. It’s definitely good, but I’m just more partial to softer cheeses.

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At this point in the meal the room had become considerably more crowded and poor Rachel got pushed back behind 5’10” Jaslyn, resulting in this hilarious picture.

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This is my Roquefort and foie sandwich. These two ingredients seem like they would be too much together, but it was pretty good. The Roquefort wasn’t too biting and both the cheese and foie were nice and creamy.

My only complaint about the food were the croquettes (which didn’t really deserve a picture.) They were tiny and really sticky. When you tried to chew them it felt like your mouth was glued shut, yuck.

All in all though, I would totally recommend this restaurant to anybody in Barcelona willing to put up with a kind of crazy atmosphere.

Remember when I said it was cheap before? We each had three glasses of cava and ate til our stomachs hurt- 36 euro for 4 people. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

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By the way- As I write this I’m on a train to Rome. Look at this view. My train rides through the south of France and into Italy have been stunning. I’m so excited to eat in all the different countries I’ll be visiting. Look out for a lot more posts about it within the next few days!

La Champañería

Carreer de la Reina Christina 7, Barcelona, Spain

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Inside the Kitchen at Cera 23

Before I left Boston, I looked up the best restaurants in Barcelona and emailed a couple chefs asking for a stage.

Stage: Basically a hands-on interview. For cooks, this entails sitting down and having a formal interview with the chef, then being shown around the kitchen and introduced to other cooks who will probably ask you to complete a couple tasks from their prep list. This helps you figure out if the restaurant feels right for you, and the chef to see if you’d be a good fit.

Last night I finally got to hang out at Cera 23! Since I have no visa, I wasn’t interested in getting hired for a job. This was just a really cool opportunity to get in the kitchen again and learn from the best!

It was awesome and made me really really miss my job at the bistro back home.

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This place is only two years old. It’s tiny, seats maybe 30 at one time.

4 cooks in the kitchen at a time. One oven, one broiler. All they have are their low boys and one modestly sized typical household refrigerator in the room beyond that window in the back. On my right when I took this picture is their sole sink, where all of the dishes and equipment in the restaurant are washed. Note the prep lists written on the tile wall. It’s a pretty intimate space!

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The crew was very warm and kind to me. They did their best with communicating, but most of the cooks didn’t speak much English. That resulted with me acting much more shy and quiet than I am- I can understand much more Spanish than I can speak, so lots of nodding and smiling.

My first task was dicing peppers and onion for ceviche, pretty much so they could see if I knew how to use a knife or not. The final product consisted of cod (which I had previously cleaned and portioned), lime juice, ginger, cilantro, and tabasco. It was pleasantly sour and spicy. Served atop fried yuca. The drizzle around the plate is balsamic, and ajada -> repeatedly dunk garlic into hot oil and finish with cayenne pepper.

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Throughout prep time they had me do some pretty standard tasks- Julienne and blanch leeks, clean and portion octopus, cut chives, etc etc.

Here are some of the dishes I was able to snap pics of during service:

Warm chicken salad with raisins, almonds and pine-nuts. Sandwiched between store-bought wafers. Watercress and cherry tomato salad.

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I wish I had a picture, but I got to try Tetilla, a Galician cheese. Ohh my god. Perfect melting cheese. It has a lot in common with Monterey because of it’s soft texture and rich but definitely still on the mild side taste. However, it’s less rubbery than Monterey and melts way more beautifully. They actually served it melted over some kind of salad, I forget. But it was awesome.

Spanish black rice, which is pretty much squid ink risotto.  I’ve never had squid ink before! Totally thought it was going to be metallic-y and gross, but it was so shockingly buttery and flavorful. SO good. When I come in to eat, that’s what I’ll order.

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Finally, beer battered tempura shrimp, which I was frying during service. That sauce is mango, rice wine vinegar, tabasco and ginger. Delicious.

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Me and the crew! On the left are Ruben and Roberto. They (along with Guillermo) are the owners and have been friends since they grew up together in Galicia. The rest are the very funny and talented line cooks. I’m the short, pale, American one in the middle..

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I tell you, Spanish people are kind of tough. They’re reserved and stand offish in public, but once you manage to crack them, they are the friendliest people in the world. A group of Canadians came in and started talking to me (mostly because I spoke the best English) and were shocked I hadn’t already been working there for years, the way everyone was treating me/eachother. The same goes for plain old friends I’ve met during my time here. I’ve been here such a short time, but I feel like I’ve known them forever.

Anyway, Guillermo invited me to accompany him to La Boqueria to pick up some food for the restaurant the next morning. We got hake, cod, shrimp, and a bunch of produce…mostly berries. Then we discussed the differences between American and Spanish kitchens over coffee.

DIFFERENCES:

  • Spanish restaurants tend to be a little smaller than what we’re used to in the US.
  • Servers make a full hourly wage and do not rely on tips like US servers do.
  • So, they share their tips with the back of the house, which at least in this kitchen seemed to result in…
  • A better sense of camaraderie between FOH and BOH.

SIMILARITIES

  • A kitchen is a kitchen- The words may be different, but the language is the same. We all understand how to get around eachother and communicate in kitchen-speak, regardless of whether we’re speaking English or Spanish.
  • Some things are so good you gotta go get them yourself- Much like how we make frequent trips to Formaggio for special cheese and meat back home, at Cera 23 they make runs to La Boquería.
  • Same unconventional, morally lacking line cook sense of humor.
  • Same unabashed, passionate love for the food we get to work with and eat.

This visit was probably one of my top three favorite memories from Spain. They were so kind to me and the food was phenomenal. I will definitely be coming in for dinner before I leave for the US.

Thank you Cera 23!

Cera 23

Carrer de la Cera, 23 | El Raval, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
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DUBLIN

There is no place in the world quite like the city of Dublin. The sheer amount of Guinness I drank that weekend is staggering. Did the math and it was about 7,5 liters…..I regret nothing. I’m half Irish and my BAC while in the mother land should reflect that.

First, the city!

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These are some buildings which line the River Liffey in the center of town. On one side you’ve got the Millenium Spire and on the other you’ve got Grafton St. and the Temple Bar area, which has amazing nightlife.

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^ Millenium Spire

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Someone once told me that when traveling, your pictures will be of much greater value to you if there are people in them. So, here’s me obnoxiously obstructing the Millenium Spire. It ain’t easy being beautiful, folks.

IMG_1972I can’t lie, I didn’t arrive in Ireland with extremely high expectations for the food. My mother’s Irish and I grew up on beef stew and mashed potatoes. But I gotta say, when executed well, the no-frill meat and potatoes (ha-ha, literally…) basis of Irish cooking impressed me. Of course, if we were able to eat at some fine dining places I might have been able to get a better perspective of the culinary scene, but that city is expensive as hell. Had to stick to mid-range restaurants.

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My first Guinness in Ireland! DEFINITELY notably different than any other pint of Guinness I’ve had. Much more creamy and malty.

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This is coddle. I know it’s not the most photogenic food, but it’s a classic Irish meal and it’s damned good. It’s stew with house made pork sausage, onion, potato, carrot, and rashers (thinly sliced fatty bacon.) It’s usually made with veg stock (although this tasted more like chicken stock) with a healthy splash of Guinness during cooking. Traditionally, coddle was usually eaten on Thursdays to use up the remaining sausage from the week since the Catholics couldn’t eat meat on Fridays.

IMG_2013This beauty is a Guinness beef pie from Murray’s. The food there was really hardy and reasonably priced. Service was friendly too. Out back they have a big outdoor area for drinking. But beware of creepy old Irish guys on the prowl there at night. The pie was a loosely bound mixture of tender braised beef, peas and carrots on the inside topped with piped mashed potatoes. The best part was the jus they served on the side. Came with a side of carrots and peas, cost about 8 euro.

Finally…The Guinness Brewery!!!

We learned about the basic steps that go into brewing beer:

  1. Ingredients (Barley, hops, water, yeast)
  2. Milling: Barley is crushed into “grist”
  3. Mashing: Grist is mixed with hot water and then mashed
  4. Separating: Removing grain and keeping the sweet wort
  5. Boiling: With the addition of hops and roasted barley
  6. Fermentation: Mixture is cooled, yeast is added, and left to ferment for days
  7. Maturation
  8. Packaging
  9. Drinking 🙂

IMG_1996I think hops are one of the prettiest plants ever.

IMG_2008This is the picture I snapped of myself enjoying my complimentary pint while in the Gravity Bar way atop Dublin and sent to some friends back home to make them jealous and bitter. It worked 😉

Dubliners are awesome. Almost everybody is welcoming, wants to tell you where to get the cheapest pint, the heartiest food and the prettiest women (but really, it’s true!)

When you go to Dublin, if you go out with friends and have a couple pints, you will dance with groups of people you’ve never met before, you will sing to Irish songs you don’t know the words to, you’ll buy strangers pints Guinness and have pints bought for you, and you will take a page from the Irish and loosen up a bit.

Cheers!

“I often use th…

This trip has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life and has really cemented my desire to find a job where I can frequently travel. While reading Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential tonight, I came across a passage which really resonated with me that I wanted to share.

“I often use the hypothetical out-of-control ice-cream truck. What would happen if you were walking across the street and were suddenly hit by a careening Mister Softee truck? As you lie there, in your last few moments of consciousness, what kind of final regrets flash through your mind? “I should have had a last cigarette!” might be one. Or, “I should have dropped acid with everybody else back in ’74!” Maybe: “I should have done that hostess after all!” Something along the lines of: “I should have had more fun in my life! I should have relaxed a little more, enjoyed myself a little more…”

That was never my problem. When they’re yanking a fender out of my chest cavity, I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted and advantages squandered.

I’m still here. And I’m surprised by that. Every day.”

-Anthony Bourdain