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Pork Belly

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  1. It is not entirely true that the best desserts are in shops rather than in restaurants. Most shops can do pastries but for composed desserts, have to be in restaurants. For great designer pastries and chocolate, go to Oriol Balaguer in Pl. Sant Gregori Taumaturg.
  2. If Alkimia is within your price range, why not just dine there? It is probably as 'creative' but still excellent as there is in Barcelona. Comerc24 is about the same price range, lively and fun. My current favorite is Sauc but a little more conservative, similiar to Abac. The chef was the chef de cuisine there before opening this restaurant a few years ago. Cinc Sentits is consistently good though the experience is very low key. Other good and a little less expensive: Coure, L'Olive, Hisop. These are all good restaurants and will give one a good idea about modern Catalan cooking, but don't expect the "El Bulli" experience.
  3. For Barcelona, Alkimia is good; also Comerc24, Moo, Arola. If I were to have one meal, I would take the train from Barcelona to Girona and dine at El Celler de Can Roca.
  4. Linda Dannenberg's "Paris Boulangerie-Patisserie" has measurements only in volume such as teaspoons and cups.
  5. Thank you for reporting back on Chocolateria San Gines. The large deli off Sol that has tons of jamon hanging from the rafter, counters and take out must be Museo del Jamon. It is a popular chain of cafeteria style places throughout Madrid.
  6. Chocolateria San Gines certainly has the reputation but I don't think their hot chocolate or churro are very special. They don't use high quality chocolate and adding cornstarch does not help with the texture. As for the churro, they fried them too far in advance and allow them to sit in the warmer. I'll be very interested in your experience.
  7. If you are interested in jamon iberico, head straight to Jamonisimo. Go to Cafe Viena only if you are hungry and on the Rambla. There is no comparison.
  8. That is a good list of places. Comment on Quimet y Quimet: it is a small bar that serves excellent simple tapas made mostly from canned/preserved seafood; also a few cheeses and cured meats but no hot items because they do not having a cooking kitchen. Dued it's small size, it gets very crowded during the evening (as well as midday); no tables, mostly standup with a couple of stools. If you've already had a large midday meal, it would be a good place for the evening, otherwise, I would go there for lunch.
  9. Old time favorites where I’ve dined at the past 30 years: Moissonier: good Lyonnais food and lots of drinkable fairly priced red wines; favorite place with our friends. Au Moulin a Vent: solid traditional bistro food, simple Burgundies. Au Trou Gascon: still serve the best food from the Landes in Paris; presided over by the charming Nicole Dutournier. Chez Denise: good solid food, open when most of Paris is closed. More recent favorites: Casa Olympe: ate at her first restaurant in the early 80’s. Sadly, she disappeared from the scene then reopened at the current address with the same creativity. Interestingly, one can eat cheaper now than at her first restaurant in the early 80s. La Cagouille: the only good seafood restaurant in Paris that I can afford to eat regularly. Another plus: just a few blocks from our apartment. Willi Wine Bar: a place where I can dine myself at the bar; great and reasonably priced wines by the glass. Always happy and bustling. Chez L’Ami Jean: too bad it is so cramped and noisy; another place that I prefer to dine alone, especially when I want to eat late. Beurre Noisette: more creative than L’Ami Jean and La Regalade and just as good. And a little more elbow room makes a big difference. In a class by itself: Pierre Gagnaire: the only high-end restaurant in Paris where I am already planning my return visit before I am finished with his symphony of desserts
  10. Pierre Gagnaire takes reservation one month in advance. If you are going in May, it is still too early.
  11. You definitely need to make a reservation. Make it as soon as possible. Given the current economy, it is easier than before to obtain a table but there is no guarantee on short notice. The restaurant seats about 45 with only one seating. Given the location, they do a certain amount of business lunches.
  12. If you are interested in Pierre Gagnaire and do not want to spend the 500E for two (probably more like 800E if you add the wine, etc), I would recommend the 90E prix-fixed lunch. The lunch usually consists of couple of small amuse, then a set about of 5 small tastings on individual plates/cups/bowls presented together; two main plate, usually first one is cold or room temperature, a second of fish of some sort; then a set of 5 or 6 tastings of his desserts. This comes to amuse, plus four courses. There will be plenty of food and different food to taste. I've eaten at PG numerous times: taking the prix-fixe lunch, the tasting menu as well a la carte. My experiences are that the two main plates at the lunch prix-fixed, though still very good, are not the best that he can do. Of course , one will not find luxury ingredients such as lobster, turbot, caviar, etc. but the ingredients will still be top notch. The other two set tastings are generally excellent. At at 90E(sometimes 95E), I think it represents great value and a chance to taste his food at Gaya's prices. Pierre Gagnaire's cooking is unique and somewhat different from Can Roca or El Bulli. Can Roca Roca and El Bulli are more into de-construction and transformation of food where PG are more into playing with different taste combinations and textures.
  13. If you are on schedule in Bilbao and assuming you are staying in San Sebastian, I would go for it. The drive to San Sebastian is not difficult and the traffic at that time would be light. You should not get lost because there are signs pointing to SB every few miles. Finding your hotel/parking in SB might be a little more difficult. Crowd builds in eating places as the week progresses and there should still be some action in the Parte Vieja on Thursday around 11:00-11:30pm. Of course, you are eating what ever is left at the end of the night but it is still worth it and the walk around the old city and La Concha at that time of the night is wonderful.
  14. Thank you for the detail posts and wonderful photos of Venice. Beautifully sauteed duck breast; did it smoke up your kitchen? Looking forward to the write up on the rest of your trip. Every year, we spend April in our apartment in San Polo. Can't wait.
  15. For Rome: I had a terrific dinner at Rosetta last September but it was terribly expensive. Glad that we were guests and not paying. Matricianella is solid Roman cooking and is always packed in the evenings so reserve when you get to Rome. Good fried artichokes, pastas and coda. There are many good bakeries off the Campo dei Fiore: Antico Forno, Bernasconi, Roscioli, Forno del Ghetto, Il Fornaio. Alle Testiere is probably my favorite restaurant in Venice. Some complaint about the rude service and the small packed room. I've have never encountered bad service and for Venice, that could be plain luck. There is no printed menu but a recitation of what is available..all seafood and no meat. The creative antipasti and desserts are uniformly excellent. I've never eaten any primi there. For secondi, the simple grilled seafood are all excellent and comes with a side of grilled vegetables. I prefer those over the overly creative sauteed items. Alla Madonna is a large bustling old-fashioned trattoria. I found the both the waitstaff and the food to be rather tired. As for price it is very moderate by Venice standards.
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