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3 Weeks of Excessive Eating in Europe


BryanZ
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Provence, France - Day 5 cont'd.

Oustau de Baumaniere is a storied inn and restaurant. It's been around for over 40 years, I think, and has seen trends in gastronomy come and go. It carried three stars for some time but then was demoted to two, some say because the restaurant did not innovate as much as a three-star restaurant should.

If this was in fact the case, I wondered if the restaurant was resting on its laurels and had become lazy or if it had cracked some kind of code and put pleasing its customers before pleasing Michelin inspectors.

I admit I was very skeptical about this meal. For one, the restaurant is very expensive; the tasting menu comes in at €175. Thankfully this would be paid for using R&C certificates. Mainly, however, I was worried that I'd be bored by it. It's quite "old-school" to say the least. A good friend of mine, who would be joining me for the second half of the trip, is now the third generation in his family to describe meals at Oustau with near revelatory praise. While I commend the restaurant's staying power, places like that usually leave me lukewarm.

While this was not my favorite meal of the trip, it was perhaps the tastiest. This is relatively classical cooking, but it is undoubtedly delicious.

During the summer it's pretty much required that you eat outside on the terrace. This area sits by the pool and looks out to the cliffs of Les Baux. In the twilight hours it does have something of a magical--two different people used this word to describe the patio--air.

The dining area

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I'm usually not really into open air dining. It's a control thing, I guess. Dining outside leaves too much to chance; there are bugs, wind, weather, animals, etc. Still, I can certainly see the appeal of this setting.

Menus

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Very graphic-y.

Canapes

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A fitting start to the meal. The crab-filled cannoli were my favorite canape of the trip and almost made it on the illustrious Best Dishes of the Trip list.

Amuse

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Roasted apricot, foie gras and truffle ice cream. For the life of me I can't remember what the puree was on the bottom of the plate. At this point I was still on the fence about the meal. This dish was tasty but almost felt disingenuous. It's like they were trying to be overtly, uncharacteristcally daring to open up the meal. Still, this was a success.

I should note that at about this time was when we had a bit of service slip-up that could've been handled a bit better. I ordered a glass of champagne to start which arrived, a bit late, with no incident. My mother, however, prefers off-dry whites to start her meal. When we asked for a glass, using descriptors like "off-dry, some residual sugar, and fruit-forward," the wine steward responded with, "Sweet wine?" Figuring this was a language barrier thing we just acquiesced thinking that they knew what we meant. What we received--the steward did not offer a taste--was a local apertif wine of the vinx doux classification. This wasn't off dry; it was an actual sweet wine, not at all what we ordered. We noted this and got a bit of attitude to the effect of, "So the madame does not like our selection? If so, we will replace it with something more to her liking." It was a bit condescending, and they came back with a bone-dry selection. Not the best service exchange ever.

Anyway...there was plenty of good food to come.

Foie gras terrine with a foie-stuffed cherry

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Classic and delicious.

Langoustine with languoustine-black truffle raviolo

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A light broth was poured tableside. So, this dish was awesome and a definite member of the Best Dishes club. The langoustine was firm yet pillowy. The raviolo had just enough truffle flavor to lend a bit of richness to the dish. The broth brought it all together.

John Dory with crayfish

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Another totally delicious dish. The sauce work at this restaurant--spot on in the last dish, spot on here, and even better with the mains--was exemplary. Nothing groundbreaking here, just a nice piece of fish--maybe a bit overcooked and too firm if I'm going to nitpick--some fresh shellfish and a sauce to make it creamy and delicious.

Pigeon (with foot, aka handle)

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Pigeon is a pretty typical, and admittedly delicious, feature on fine-dining menus in Europe, less so in the States. What made this dish stand out, however, was the incredibly rich sauce. Something about crushed pigeon bodies and maybe a bit of liver was mentioned. The attached foot made for an excellent handle to facilitate gnawing.

Duo of lamb

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My mother received the duo of lamb as her main, a signature dish here. You have a single chop and a piece of slow-cooked breast. Nothing ground breaking (again) besides the sauce (again). This was an excellent lamb dish, but I preferred the pigeon, I think.

Cheese, aka "You got to be kidding me" Redux

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We love our cheese. Really, we do. So when the cheese captain came over and started to load up a full size dinner plate I was a little bit disappointed that we'd have to share from one plate. Surely, I couldn't complain about six ample pieces of different cheese, but maybe I wanted a bit more. Little did I know that this behemoth cheese plate was meant only for my sister. Again, this isn't some little dessert plate you see runneth over but a full dinner plate. There must've been a half-pound of cheese on that plate, easy. When we saw how humongous this first plate we told the server to perhaps dial it down a bit for the next 2. Still, this was freaking absurd.

Chocolate

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A surprisingly nice chocolate composition. Usually I'm not a huge chocolate fan, and as a first dessert it's quite the assertive move. The crisp-thing was really good.

Strawberries

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This was really, really good. Fresh strawberries, a crisp cookie, some stewed berries. Simple yet really well composed.

Millefeuille

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We wanted to try something really classic so this was recommended. It was exactly what I was hoping for but didn't open my mind in any way.

Confit fruit cart, aka "Satan's chariot"

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I saw this from afar and thought it was a confit fruit cart. Not very many tables were getting it so I assumed it was some kind of supplement. As we were waiting to pay--calculating the exchange rate takes some time--I inquired if I might have one piece of fruit since I'd heard about confit fruit before but had never tried it. The server was happy to bring over the entire cart. Little did I know...

Confit fruit, aka "Oh, this is sooo terrible!"

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The contents of this plate are the worst things I have eaten in memory. I am not kidding, not in the slightest. It was actually painful for me to eat them. It's like the point is to take out anything redeeming about the natural fruit and replace it with sugar. Not soft sugar, not crispy sugar but a texture that is at once difficult to chew and makes your teeth stick together. I don't fault the restaurant for this, I just simply now know that I really hate confit fruit in this traditional style. In fact, I just pretend that this wasn't even part of the meal. Hell, I pretend my consumption of these demons masquerading as fruit never even happened.

Other than this slight misstep, this was an excellent meal. It was the most traditional fine-dining meal I'd have on my three week trip but certainly among the best.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Bryan, can you tell me a bit more about that martini? Is there something frozen in the straws, by any chance?

It was gelatinzed gin and vermouth, layered in the straw. You suck it up and let the two combine in your mouth. Again, I like a traditional martini more, but this was nice twist.

Ah, a martini with a twist! :raz::laugh:

Nice job with the photos, Bryan. I have particularly enjoyed your foray into northern Spain, where I have more familiarity. For a discussion of Spanish beef see here. At Madrid Fusión, Andoni Aduriz gave a discussion about his beef dish and also about his cuisine being on the verge of insipid as he tries to show subtlety in his flavor palate in order to bring each and every sense into the dining experience. This does not play equally well to everyone..

Interesting to note that there was little evidence of "sand" on Pedro Subijana's plates at Akelare.

I'm looking forward to the rest. It looks to have been a truly outstanding trip.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Provence, France - Day 6

After breakfast at La Riboto we set off to Marseilles. Really the only point of our going to this city was to eat at the newly three-starred Le Petit Nice. With NYC's Le Bernardin, the two are the only European-style seafood restaurants to carry three stars.

Driving in Marseille is stressful to say the least. By the time we arrived at the restaurant after various errands that needed completion, we needed drinks.

I started off with a glass of champagne. My mother ordered the house cocktail, made with champagne and blueberry and strawberry purees.

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At €25 this sure wasn't cheap, but since we would be using R&C certificates for this meal (cue foreboding music) it wasn't so much a concern.

Menu

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There are three tasting menus available. We chose the middle one for €155.

Like Oustau, this restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating. The dining room, not where we sat, was also being used on this evening and was definitely to my tastes, especially when they opened the big, sliding picture windows toward the end of the evening. We, however, were sat outside, literally on the Mediterranean.

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Canapes

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One would imagine that for a party of three, they would use this serving dish so that each person could try a bite of each. Strangely enough, each square of nine for one person. This gave us three of each of three different items. I wasn't necessarily opposed to this--the items were yummy--but I found it a bit odd. I can't imagine a chef like Grant Achatz would ever do something like this, as it just felt a bit repetitive for no reason.

Oysters with vegetable purees, beefsteak tomato gazpacho with tomato and sardine

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Celery root, carrot, and zucchini with the oysters, I believe. This was simple but very nice. Very pure tasting, sweet oysters and sweet vegetables. The soup with sardine was more assertive, both acidic and salty. A nice start.

Duo of sea anemone, shellfish soup

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I'd never had sea anemone before, so this was a first. I think it tastes just as one might imagine. The little tentacles things are a bit slimy, kind of like short strands of wet pasta. It tastes of the ocean, kind of like seaweed. I liked it, though probably only in small quantities. At the rear is a fried donut filled with sea anemone. On the left is a sea anemone flan topped with an ocean-y foam and caviar. On the right is an assortment of shellfish served with a light herbal soup. A very diverse course, and it was cool to try something new.

Seabass with zucchini, black truffle, and Provençal broth

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In my opinion, the Best Dish of the Trip. This was soooo good; the best fish dish I can recall eating in recent memory. The truffle perfume, thanks to the slice on top and the truffle oil in the broth, was spot on and gave the dish an incredible depth of flavor. The bass held its own and was the perfect foil to the assertive broth of tomatoes and herbs. Seriously, so good. It's a signature dish here for a reason.

Pageot

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I'm not entirely sure what this fish translates into in English, perhaps a small pink snapper. This was really nice and elegant. The sauce behind the fish was applied tableside. At the top of the plate was a condiment that evoked a peanut butter sandwich. Strange but somehow appealing.

Poached oysters, crab salad with radish

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A really soothing dish that was set off by the aggressively bitter crab salad. The salad on its own would've been too much--there was radish puree worked into the crab meat--but the small portion acted as an effective palate cleanser between bites of the silky oyster soup.

Roasted veal, peas, seasonal vegetables

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A really nice meat course. Beautifully roasted veal, topped with sweetbreads, and a nice assortment of vegetables. Kind of like at Oustau, this was just fundamentally tasty.

Cheese

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Three much more manageable cheese plates.

Green apple pre-dessert

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At the back you left you have "powdered meringue" which was pretty damn similar to "powdered sugar."

Red fruit and goat cheese

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This was an incredibly elegant dessert. The cheese was not at all overpowering and was whipped to just the right point of lightness.

I wanted to try the signature chocolate dessert, however.

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As far as chocolate desserts go, this was very nice and light. Good textural contrast.

Petits fours

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A better usage of the nine-compartment plate.

Chocolates

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Cool presentation.

So, when we tried to pay, we were at first told that dollar denominated certificates weren't accepted in Europe. Clearly, this was not true. Then, when they calculated the exchange rate they tried to charge a 25% "tax" as a "policy required throughout all of France." Also not true. I was clearly having none of this and tried to get them to logically and rationally explain where this charge was coming from. We would've been happy to pay something like a 10% processing fee if they were transparent about it, but to say this was a R&C policy was simply not true. When they failed to explain where in fact this charge was coming from they quickly backtracked and charged us the market rate. We weren't screwed or anything, but it did leave us feeling somewhat awkward. Oh well. An excellent meal up until that point.

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Positano and environs - Day 7

We returned from our meal at Le Petit Nice at about 1 am and slept for a few hours. By 4:30 am we were on the road to Genoa, Italy, where we'd catch a flight to Rome, then another flight to Naples, then a bus to Sorrento, then a taxi to our lodging and dining destination for the evening, La Taverna del Capitano.

As might be expected, this did not go as smoothly as we imagined, for our flight from Rome to Naples was canceled after significant delay. We did, however, have some pretty solid pizza from a fast food court in the Rome airport. Naturally, the appropriate response was, "Screw it, we'll drive." So drive, again, we did. Once you get to the coast it gets mighty windy.

We arrived at La Taverna, a two-star restaurant with a few rooms up to, a couple hours before dinner. Just enough time to decompress and sit on our terrace to look out at the Mediterranean.

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Taken from our balcony. The rooms sit right above the restaurant, which sits right above the beach.

La Taverna del Capitano

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Looking back from the beach.

Snack with appertivi

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With our first drink, we received a plate of traditional snacks. Pickled, cured, brined, and fresh veggies. Here, they charge a flat fee for a glass of wine and this plate, about €10.

Bread service

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This was in addition to warm rolls they'd bring in the more traditional service manner.

Here, we chose the middle tasting menu at €85. This meal would be out of pocket, since the property is not a member of R&C.

This meal was a nice introduction to Italian cuisine, if a little heavy for the weather. We would've liked at least one cold dish. Everything was very, very hot, like, piping.

Amuse

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This eggplant lasagna was very tasty--and so different than anything we'd eaten thus far--but heavy. Evocative of the rest of the meal, I think.

Fried prawns wrapped in seaweed

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Nice prawns but not nearly as pure and unadulterated as the Etxebarri beasts. This was served with a red pepper sauce and roasted tomato. I was impressed with the quality of the produce, I just wish that part of the dish had been cold. The temperature contrast would've been nice. The coolest/weirdest part of the dish was that the prawn was served on rice paper. As the juices ran from the prawn and other vegetables they made paper strangely delicious. I'm gross, I know, and I happily ate the entire sheet.

Cuttlefish and octopus, cooked in plastic.

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There's also some bacon and caramelized onion in there. This was rich and meaty but quite tasty.

White/black tagiolini with squid and zucchini

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Two thin sheets of pasta are rolled together to create bi-color noodles. Simple but cool. The zucchini is cut to match the exact size of the pasta. This was very good.

Ombrina with ham and figs

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The fish was stuffed with ham, served atop figs, and topped with a fig fruit leather. This was perhaps a bit underseasoned; it could've used salt and acid, as it was very rich and quite sweet.

Beef tenderloin, pizzaiola style

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Slices of beef tenderloin were served with eggplant and mozzarella cheese. On the side was the pizzaiola sauce. Randomly enough, I had a dish very similar to this at Rare in Vancouver, of all places. This was fine, but a step down, I thought. One portion of the beef was somewhat overcooked.

For my main, I got the braised veal with paccheri pasta.

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Our very talkative and amicable waiter was amazed I could finish the whole portion. It was very heavy, though. More a winter or fall dish for me.

Palate cleanser of watermelon and peaches poached in spiced red wine

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"Fragrance of Massa Lubrense coast"

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10, yes 10 different preparations of citrus and lemon. This was a bit excessive, but the sorbets were a welcome, icy treat.

Petits fours

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I thought these were a bit superfluous, as they weren't that great.

La Taverna del Capitano is a fun little property. One of our waiters spent more time schmoozing with the guests than he did serving food. He also helped us out with internet woes that night and the next morning. He also fetched me from the beach when the day's fish had come in to show me the catch. The wine steward is the owner's daughter and also works front desk. The chef helped me find a plastic bag to pack some extra clothes into. It's a really intimate, family-run kind of place. Thankfully, it's also quite isolated from the masses of tourists the overrun Positano and Capri and is patronized by a more local crowd. It wasn't the most elegant place we stayed but it was very quirky and charming.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Was the Taverna actually in Positano? That was a long day. I doubt anywhere could have lived up to expectations with a travel day like that. If that was indeed in Positano, how did you come to choose to stay there as opposed to la Sirenuse or Il San Pietro? I'm looking forward to more.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Bryan, your meal reports so far are really great! I am enjoying them a lot, despite how jealous I am! The views from the terrace of Le Petit Nice are spectacular. I look forward to what you're going to write about Vienna, as I'll be there in a couple of weeks.

Looking forward to the next installments...

Robert

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Was the Taverna actually in Positano? That was a long day. I doubt anywhere could have lived up to expectations with a travel day like that. If that was indeed in Positano, how did you come to choose to stay there as opposed to la Sirenuse or Il San Pietro? I'm looking forward to more.

La Taverna is near Massa Lubrense. It's on the edge of the peninsula that the main road kind of skirts. This area is relatively isolated and therefore gets more of a local crowd. Positano is probably prettier and better situated but I quite literally still felt like I was still in tri-state area. I'll get to that shortly, however.

La Sirenuse and Il San Pietro were simply too expensive. We would however have a meal at Il San Pietro so we got to spend some time on the property. It is very beautiful and probably the property I'd most like to stay at if I returned to the area because it's much more isolated and more appropriately captures the feel of the Amalfi coast.

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Positano and environs - Day 8

On our drive from Massa Lubrense to Positano proper we stopped for lunch at Don Alfonso 1890. This is an older restaurant that is going through something of a renaissance. In 2007 they drastically renovated the dining room to suit modern tastes. They're also undergoing significant capital investments on the property, updating the rooms and completely redoing the sizable back garden.

Many people have criticized Don Alfonso for its old-fashioned dining room. I'm posting a lot of pictures of the interior to show just how modern the space has become. The signature floral prints and pink remain from the past iteration, just presented in a more contemporary fashion.

Dining room

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While not to all tastes, it is very light and airy.

We opted for cheaper of two tasting menus, at €125, I believe. This is a R&C property.

Tomato gazpacho, avocado creme

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A nice start combining acidic with dairy.

Bread

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I'm including this picture for the sake of the foccacia. When topped with their local olive oil--nearly everything the restaurant uses comes from their own farm in Massa Lubrense--this was a course in itself. Certainly my favorite bread item of the trip; I had thirds.

Mozzarella souffle

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A light transition in the more substantial portion of the meal. The portion size was manageable, the texture airy yet substantial, and the temperature just warmed through.

Fried lobster with sweet-sour sauce

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I have to imagine the sauce was some kind of balsamic or other vinegar reduction. This was really, really good, especially for being so simple. The lobster was perfectly cooked and tender, not the least bit chewy or rubbery as is often the case.

Antipasti plate

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From the top right, clockwise: arancino, house-cured salumi, smoked mozzarella, eggplant. A nice collection of bites. The salumi was my favorite, with the eggplant bite coming in as the darkhorse second place finisher. Nice acidity in that latter dish.

Ravioli

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Another amazingly simple dish that surpassed expectations. The pasta dough is actually made more in the style of a Asian dumpling wrapper. It's simply high-protein flour and water, no egg. As a result, the pasta was incredibly thin and almost custardy. The accompaniments were great too but here the texture of the pasta itself took center stage.

Reef fish, "acqua pazzo"

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I'd actually become quite familiar with acqua pazzo--roughly, "crazy water"--back in North Carolina at a pan-Asian restaurant called Jujube. Strange, I know. Still this was a solid rendition using local fish.

I felt like something a bit meatier, so for my main I asked for the local goat.

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A nice bit of grassy gaminess here. In general, however, I thought the mains were a bit boring even if they were still quite tasty. At the back of the plate is a little nugget of deep-fried goat brain. It was yummy.

Cheese

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This was a pre-plated cheese plate but still very enjoyable. At this point, my love affair with real mozzarella di buffala began. I had had it from time to time in the States, but in Italy this stuff is so absurdly good it makes all past versions pale in comparison. I liked the diverse accompaniments on the plate. In the center is "virgin honey." Does anyone know what that means?

Fig sorbet with fig gelee

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A very feminine pre-dessert.

Desserts

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We happily accepted a different dessert of the each of us. My favorite was the lemon granita in the frozen preserved lemon. My coffee zabiglione was tasty just soo rich. It reminded me of a coffee omelette with all the creamy egg yolkiness of the thing. The sffoglia was good, but I thought the filling was a bit dense.

Petits fours

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Yeah, there were a lot of them.

Coffee service

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My mother found this dishware very cute and summarily bought something very similar in Positano.

At most restaurants the experience would end here and we would leave happily, if a bit awkwardly, after paying with our certificates. The hospitality at Don Alfonso, however, really took our meal there to the next level.

One of the servers mentioned their wine cellar and offered to take us on a tour of it. At the end of our meal, one of the owners of the property led us into their office/library where a few items and books are on sale. A video about the history of the restaurant and its associated farm also plays. This area is separated from the main restaurant and serves as a gateway to the wine cellar. As she went to fetch one of the wine directors we amused ourselves with these wares. We were also repeatedly offered complimentary glasses of limoncello.

It would turn out that this restaurant's wine cellar would be the oldest thing we'd see on the trip. This Etruscan excavation is said to be 2700 years old, far older than the castles of Roman ruins we had seen up to this point.

At the top, lots of wine bottles

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Looking down

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And back up

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The entire passage is lined with bottles.

At the bottom you find out that part of this used to be a well.

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Can you say, The Ring? Samara was surely waiting just around the corner.

In one of the rooms at the very bottom they age a lot of their cheese and some salumi

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This was pretty hardcore. We ate it up, literally and figuratively.

When we returned from our spelunking expedition the owner greeted us with a bag of complimentary dried pasta and a jar of their sauce. Clearly this place is all about hospitality. I was very impressed.

And so from there we set off to Positano.

Edited: Thank you, MikeHartnett.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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In terms of selecting restaurant I usually choose all of them. Obviously "value" is a concern in that I don't want to visit somewhere that's overpriced and doesn't have the chops--this was my concern with Oustau de Baumaniere, which was thankfully unfounded. Since my family eats anything it's not as if their input really matters. I do have to give props to my sister for finding La Taverna and Don Alfonso, as she planned the Italy portion of the trip.

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Glad to see that Don Alfonso is still living up to its reputation. I had a lovely meal here with my son back in 2002.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Positano and environs - Day 8 cont'd.

Positano is an interesting place. It's surely beautiful but perhaps a bit too touristy for my tastes. The food, I think, would somewhat reflect this, too. While tasty, everywhere we ate seemed to lacked the same intimacy of the other spots on our trip.

Beach

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In the early morning, the beach and dock look positively quaint. Within the next couple hours, it would be much more crowded.

View

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Taken from our hotel, Villa Rosa. The red building at the very, very bottom of the image is Sirenuse, the hotel docsconz mentioned. We were directly behind.

Dinner on this evening would take place on the water at Chez Black. I had a mini-nervous breakdown since I couldn't see myself eating at any of these places. Way too touristy. Eventually we settled on Chez Black, as it has a pretty good reputation. I could've done without the shmoozy waiters and all the kitsch, but the meal was fine, at times good.

Grilled vegetables

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Simple and tasty.

Caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella

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Love that cheese.

Mixed seafood pasta

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Mussels, clams, big prawns, some squid, I think. I'm torn on this dish. It was good, but it could've been amazing.

Pizzas

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Again, these were good, but could've been amazing. The toppings were too heavy, I think.

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Positano and environs - Day 9

We would spend the bulk of this day on Capri, a small island just off the coast. After taking a ferry, then a furnicular--it's very mountainous--we visited some Roman ruins at Villa Jovis. As reward for this climb we stopped for drinks near the top on the way down.

Limoncello prosecco cocktail

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Espresso with vanilla gelato

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This was really good.

After we completed our walk down we had lunch at La Cisterna. This is a no frills restaurant located on a side street off the main square in the town of Capri. It's cheap and the food was actually pretty good.

Our fine rosé

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On each bottle is a picture of the restaurant's rather large owner. Kinda creepy, mainly funny.

Pizzas

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These were really good. Probably my favorite pizzas of our stay in Italy.

Whole fish cooked in white wine and garlic

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Our server skillfully disassembled the fish. This was really good and cheap, too. The fish was only €16.

For dinner on this evening we would be dining at Hotel Il San Pietro, an extremely nice property located just outside of Positano. They offer shuttle service to their guests and those parties dining at the restaurant. This is a R&C property.

Amuse

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A strange but somehow fitting amuse. The pizza does capture many of the flavors of the region. The quality of the ingredients in this pizza were the best, but, to my tastes, it could've used more time in the oven to crisp up that crust.

We ordered a la carte here, as there is no tasting menu.

Antipasti

Seafood salad

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Cooked a la minute, so everything is fresh and warm. I think this is a really understated yet beautiful plate of food.

Baby prawn carpaccio with shrimp fritters

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Another nice starter. The fritters were surprisingly good.

Cooked and raw vegetables

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I'm usually not that into salads--my mother had serious palate and stomach fatigue by this point in the trip--but this was very good. Another beautiful plate, too.

Primi

Paccheri with sea snails and shellfish

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I was the only one to order my own primi, so I shared. This was good, but was a bit pedestrian. Besides the sea snails, not that exciting.

Secondi

Seabass with summer truffles and vegetables

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A solid dish but the seabass at Le Petit Nice was orders of magnitude better.

Anchovy tart

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My favorite of our mains. Cured anchovies sit at the bottom of a phyllo pastry shell. On top is a relish of tomato, then fresh anchovies on top of that. Very tasty and unique.

Ravioli with baby prawns

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Nice, but a bit heavier than what we were looking for.

It had been a long day so we skipped dessert. There were a few petits fours to complete our meal. Service here was perhaps the most disinterested we would come across. It's not that it was bad, but you could feel that this place was simply another restaurant, albeit much more elegant, catering to tourists only here for another night or two. The restaurant charges at 15% service fee to non-guests. This was clearly stated on the menu, so we obviously had no problem paying it. Don't get me wrong, the food is quite good here, and our starters were universally excellent, but I didn't feel much of an emotional attachment to the place.

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Il San Pietro is a marvelous place to spend a few days though. I too found the food there very good, albeit unspectacular.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I've been meaning to ask: Is the table set with eleventy-five pieces of silverware when you sit down, or is the proper cover placed as each course is set down? And when there are two soups per course, are there two spoons to keep the flavors from mingling?

One more thing:

Okay. I've been with you all the way. Every bite, every mile, every luscious mouthful. I've enjoyed the prose and the colors and the flavors that just waft off the page.

But this is just WRONG :raz:

  Usually I'm not a huge chocolate fan . . .
Edited by racheld (log)
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I've been meaning to ask:  Is the table set with eleventy-five pieces of silverware when you sit down, or is the proper cover placed as each course is set down?  And when there are two soups per course, are there two spoons to keep the flavors from mingling?

Servers re-set the table after each course with appropriate flatware. We were never really served two soups in one course--I suppose the closest was the shellfish soup and the anemone custard at Le Petit Nice--but only one spoon was provided. That's pretty typical.

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Paris - Day 10

Finally, we succeeded in getting from one locale to another with minimal incident. After driving from Positano to Naples, we boarded a plane to Paris.

Paris, je t'aime. This city is so absurdly pretty. My second trip, and I think I liked it even more than the first.

Eye candy

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We arrived in the afternoon and had a quick snack at a sidewalk cafe just off the Arc de Triomphe called Lateral. A bit overpriced but with surprisingly good food.

Street scene

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Charcuterie board

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Salad

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Onion soup

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This snack was exactly what we wanted.

Dinner on this evening would be at Christian Constant's one-starred Violon d' Ingres. We had a late reservation at 9:30 after a whirlwind afternoon and evening of sightseeing. The three-course, prix fixe menu here is €48. My sister and I partook in this. My mother ordered two appetizer courses a la carte.

Crab, avocado, and grapefruit salad

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Nice and creamy with the occasional hit of acidity.

Lobster salad

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This was really good. Great balance.

Beef tongue and foie gras

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But, oh man, this was even better. Meaty, creamy, great vinaigrette on the beans. Nice textural contrasts with the croutons and almonds.

Bresse chicken with macaroni gratin

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We need chicken this flavorful in the States. This was a full-flavored bird. The gratin was cool-looking, too.

Almond crusted seabass with capers

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A Constant signature that I was glad to try. Creamy fish and bracingly briny sauce. Very nice, but very hearty.

Foie gras ravioli with lobster bisque

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This was every bit as good as it sounds, maybe even better. A hearty appetizer portion, too.

Rum baba

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Quintessentially French, so simple, and so good. Every time I have this dessert I'm always amazed at how the rum doesn't overpower the cake and whipped cream. This version showed spot-on balance.

Vanilla souffle with caramel sauce

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Another great, old-school dessert. Light texture, but the sauce really gave this dessert some body and complexity. This is another signature dish and carried a €3 supplement.

I'm really happy we chose this restaurant, as it really plays into one of the key strengths of Paris's dining scene. The mid-level restaurants here, those in €40-€60 price range, are so damn good. We had visited several temples of gastronomy on this trip, but this meal was just tasty. Nothing groundbreaking but every dish was as good as I imagined it to be or better. It's rare that a restaurant have such a high success rate.

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