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MiguelCardoso

The French Catalan Coast

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In mid-May my wife and I will be travelling for two weeks on the Catalan coast. The excuse is dinner at El Bulli in Roses but we'd like to explore the Roussillon/Languedoc coast, which neither of us have ever visited.

Our problem (would that all problems be like this!) is we don't know how long we should spend on the French side of the border. We love the food on the Spanish side, but we're happily familiar with it, so we'd really like to venture into the French coast.

As we hate moving from hotel to hotel, we'd like to be based in a really comfortable hotel somewhere in the region, from where we'd daily dart out to all the interesting restaurants. We're especially interested in very fresh seafood, simply prepared: coastal cuisine, such as we get at home, only Mediterranean rather than Atlantic - and deliciously French! Treats such as mussels and oysters which might be banal to inhabitants are, for us, very thrilling.

I know this sort of query is a pain in the ass but, as I've paid my dues with fellow eGullet members who come to Portugal, I was hoping I might be able to impose on your generosity.

I passionately love France and French cooking - to the point of blindness. Everyone tells me the French Catalan coast is gastronomically boring - and I believe them - but I'm very easy to please with all things French, so I beg any kind correspondents to be as unfussy as I am. I'm not looking for world-shattering revelations or astounding culinary feats. My (not unambitious but realistic) goal is to eat what the locals choose on special occasions or day-to-day with particular pleasure.

If it is indeed a waste of time (not that I believe it for a moment), then we'll stick to Spain. We have two weeks: is it worth blowing both on the French coast? Would one for Spain and the other for France be more intelligent?

Truth is, I'm at a loss. Finally. I would like to thank beforehand anyone kind enough to make a recommendation or suggest a solution. As absolute beginners, the slightest pointer would be very welcome!

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The Pyrenées-Orientales is one of our favorite regions of France. Stunningly beautiful, it is still, amazingly enough "off the beaten track" for most tourists so you will have a really great experience traveling in this area.

We stayed in a fabulous hotel in Molitg-les-Bains, near Prades. The hotel is Chateau de Riell, a 14th century chateau completely modernized on the inside but quite enthralling on the outside. The rooms have feminine names, and the bathrooms are all copper. Pricning is actually quite reasonable for such a high end experience. Do not listen to Michelin, the restaurant is still terrific, even though they lost their star. Prades is a wonderful town nearby that dedicates a lot of itself to its native son, the cellist Pablo Casals. Casals fled here from Spain to get away from Franco.

You will love this area!!

Chateau de Riell web site

P.S. The owner, Biche Barthélemy, is quite gracious and lovely; you will be getting a hand-made Christmas card from her every year for many years to come after your stay here!!

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I've already warned that my best pointers might well be away from the area. Along the coast, you'll find a great many new towns and recent developments that are of a scale I don't find charming with lots of summer homes and summer condominiums. This is not to say that the coast south of the border is pristine or lovely in most spots. Collioure is perhaps the most charming spot between the border and Montpellier along the coast. We've spent a night or two there. There is a one star restaurant, but we didn't reserve in advance and ate well enough at another place near it. Collioures saving grace may be it's topograpy. It's a difficult place to develop with it's three small beaches. The anchovies packed by Roque and I believe another outfit are wonderful unless you're used to the ones from Catalunya or the Atlantic. I mean to say that they're so much better than what we find in the US. Sete is an interesting town, but I don't recall good restaurants. For me, the local oysters don't compare with those of Brittany, but there are places to get local seafood near Sete, Meze and Bouzigues. Bouzigues is famous for its mussels. Actually north of Narbonne we're certainly not talking about the Catalan Coast anymore

Away from the sea, I have one recommendation for a rather simple place, where the accommodations may be more interesting than the food, but the food is honest and prepared with integrity. The products are first rate, local and more likely than not, organic. I recommended it here in this thead earlier when Menton and I disagreed about the food in the area. Graham Tigg also contributed to Silly Disciple's request for information and recommendations near Perpinya (Perpignan) and Fitou. See Pyrénées Orientales.

If I had two weeks and was coming from Roses, I'd get as far as Michel Bras.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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A short discussion on the Roussillon by largely the same characters.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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If I had two weeks and was coming from Roses, I'd get as far as Michel Bras.

How far is Michel Bras from Catalunya, specifically Roses?


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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If I had two weeks and was coming from Roses, I'd get as far as Michel Bras.

How far is Michel Bras from Catalunya, specifically Roses?

454 km. according to european map

website mappy.com (not sure if the link will work later on. If not, use Laguiole in France as your destination and recalculate).

Silly


We''ve opened Pazzta 920, a fresh pasta stall in the Boqueria Market. follow the thread here.

My blog, the Adventures of A Silly Disciple.

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Not so far south of Laguiole and Michel Bras, there's a small inn whose food has been a favorite of ours for years now. We first ate there before they had rooms. It's certainly not in Bras' class, but the food can be excellent. Le Vieux Pont in Belcastel. I've mentioned it several times on eGullet. Rignac is the nearest town and Rodez (pronounce the "z") is the nearest city.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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454 km. according to european map

website mappy.com

www.viamichelin.com makes it 386 Km with a 4h16m drive time Roses to Laguiole. By the time you go the amazing Viaduc du Millau will be open so you can knock 30 mins off the drive time.

For more info in the Vieux Pont at Belcastel see http://www.hotelbelcastel.com and my Web site http://www.languedoc-dining.com

Graham

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My last post on le Vieux Pont with a description of two meals including the gastronomic menu which I would recommend as I feel the chef holds back on some of the other menus as she has to please the more provincial tastes or her regular and local clientele.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Thank you ever so much, menton, bux, Graham and Silly for your kind and wise help.

Menton: I'll definitely be aiming to stay at the Chateau de Riell: just what the doctor ordered!

Hoping some day I can return the favour and wishing you all the very best,

Miguel

P.S. As for your heaven-sent website, Graham, well, it just seems too good to be true - wonderful and altruistic stuff, sir!

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My dear Miguel,

I hardly dare venture on to another of your threads after our last encounter. But I'll stick my head above the parapet and offer a humble suggestion all the same in the hope that you have now forgiven me... :huh:

Collioure is of course one of the most visited towns on the French Catalan coast. The no-longer-little fishing village was 'discovered' long, long ago by the likes of Matisse, Derain, Dufy and other artists and it's been pulling in the crowds and the wannabes ever since. Yet in spite of this, in spite of the unbelievably crummy, truly atrocious art on sale, it can be a delightful and charming place to visit nonetheless. And believe me, it's worth coming here simply to sample the humble anchois de Collioure, fresh or lightly cured, in any of the mainly indifferent but charming waterside restaurants.

Best of all is to visit the Ste Roque atelier de fabrication to see the traditional production of anchois - I have great memories of cigar-smoking women in rubber boots, hand-packing salted anchois into jars and tubs, calling out to me in a good-natured, lusty way as we made our way across the slippery floors. You can't miss the place when you enter the town, and it's possible to tour the atelier and of course to purchase. Address: 40, rue de la Democratie, tel (hope this still works) 68 82 04 94. Afterwards strike out into the ancient, stone-terraced vineyards of Banyuls - there is a sign-posted 'Route du Vin'. These ancient, sunbaked vineyards are the source, as I'm sure you know, of the wholly out-of-fashion, old-style Banyuls rancio that I adore. The oldest grands crus (Banyuls Grand Cru AOC) are exquisite, caramelly, concentrated sweet aged fortified wines that you can just sip and sip, a sensational after-dinner drink, no need of company, no need of conversation, though the wines are conducive to both. And of course Collioure AOC itself can be a massively satisfying and powerful red.

Marc


Edited by Marco_Polo (log)

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great memories of cigar-smoking women in rubber boots

Well, that's settled it, my dearest Marc, as far as I'm concerned. Maria João is even more of an anchovimaniac than I am - you'd be hard put to find a day an anchovy, of one sort or another, that (or is it "which"?) doesn't inch its way into our daily meals, at the slightest excuse.

Some dinner guest praises the excellent roast pork loin which has been obtained almost by blackmail from a dissolute pig breeder who's only held on to three acorn-fed porkers after paying off his gambling debts and what does she credit? The anchovy.

Thanks for, once again, sealing the decision. We'll be staying in Chateau de Riell; hanging out in Collioure and spurting out to everything toothsome in the vicinities in the enormous meanwhile.

Cheers! :)


Edited by MiguelCardoso (log)

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Miguel-- Please say hello to Mme. Barthélemy for us-- she is a lovely hostess, and I'm sure you will love everything about the Chjateau de Riell!!

Bon voyage!!

(Our favorite room is Magnolia)

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The Pyrenées-Orientales is one of our favorite regions of France.  Stunningly beautiful, it is still, amazingly enough "off the beaten track" for most tourists so you will have a really great experience traveling in this area. 

We stayed in a fabulous hotel in Molitg-les-Bains, near Prades.  The hotel is Chateau de Riell, a 14th century chateau completely modernized on the inside but quite enthralling on the outside.  The rooms have feminine names, and the bathrooms are all copper.  Pricning is actually quite reasonable for such a high end experience.  Do not listen to Michelin, the restaurant is still terrific, even though they lost their star.  Prades is a wonderful town nearby that dedicates a lot of itself to its native son, the cellist Pablo Casals. Casals fled here from Spain to get away from Franco. 

You will love this area!!

Chateau de Riell web site

P.S. The owner, Biche Barthélemy, is quite gracious and lovely; you will be getting a hand-made Christmas card from her every year for many years to come after your stay here!!

I would like to promote Chateau Riell with equal enthusiasm. I would also urge that you reqeust a room which overlooks Canigou (the mountain). Stay if possible in one of the main house rooms. They are preferable. Our favorite room is a soft orange pastel. Cannot remember the name but it is thrilling to awaken to the view of Canigou. The food is very satisfying. There are many wonderful areas nearby to explore. I would also urge that you spend one or two nights at Michel Bras. You will want to return again and again. The drive is now shortened by the new bypass of Millau. Maybe if you are lucky you can make it in 3-3.5 hours from Roses. I also endorse lunch in Belcastel at Vieux Pont. Great trip. J Gebhart

If I had two weeks and was coming from Roses, I'd get as far as Michel Bras.

How far is Michel Bras from Catalunya, specifically Roses?

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The Chateau de Riell is a beautiful place, but I have never seen it anything other than swathed in cloud. I suppose if you can ask for a view of Canigou, though, that theories about Molitg's microclimate cannot be true.

Just a couple of thoughts about places closer to the coast.

In Port Vendres, there is a fish restaurant called La Cote Vermeille: very trad, quite starchy, but reliable nevertheless. It is not particularly 'de la region', but the wine list has some excellent regional wines - you must try the Casot de Mailloles Collioure Blanc - and the food is much better than I have had in Collioure.

Otherwise, I have heard good things about eating at Chateau Rombeau, which is in Baixas on the plain. I am not quite sure what the deal is, but it seems that you turn up, eat a simple lunch in a simple room on the estate (when my parents went there was a large wedding going on) and drink large quantities of their excellent wine. I suppose this might be more attractive if you don't really come from a winegrowing country, though.

The problem I have had with restaurants in the Pyrenees Orientales is that they lack regional identity and don't really celebrate their produce. I think this is why people aren't particularly enthusiastic about the region for food, not because they lack starred places etc. I hope you manage to track some good places down...

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The problem I have had with restaurants in the Pyrenees Orientales is that they lack regional identity and don't really celebrate their produce.  I think this is why people aren't particularly enthusiastic about the region for food, not because they lack starred places etc.  I hope you manage to track some good places down...

I respectfully disagree. While this area doesn't get the publicity of Provence or the Dordogne, it very quietly has its own great identity, as do most regions of France.

L'Ollada is a terrific hearty peasant soup in the wintertime, reminiscent of Cassoulet but without the beans; Rouge de Rousillon Apricots are used throughout the region to create fabulous desserts and sweets; Colliure is quite acclaimed for its seafood, and, of course, my favorite, Catalan Crème!!

Just because the restaurant reviewers and tourist guides have missed this area, it is still wonderful and still undiscovered!!


Edited by menton1 (log)

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I respectfully disagree. While this area doesn't get the publicity of Provence or the Dordogne, it very quietly has its own great identity, as do most regions of France.

I agree that the area does have its own clear identity, but I don't think (in culinary terms) that it is as developed or as strong as other regions. Some of the regional specialities are neatly recorded in a series of postcards: Anchovies with Red Peppers, Ollada (made with rancid lard?) Crema Catalana and so on are all printed there; there are a few thinnish touristic cookbooks concentrating on Roussillon; but again, the range of great regional dishes seems quite limited.

In restaurants there are only a few dishes which seem to crop up across the board: usually something involving anchovies to start, some form of grillade/ simple fish dish next, and a crema catalana to finish. I do not want to eat the same thing everywhere I go, of course, but there doesn't always seem to be a common vocabulary. Ollada, for instance, is not something which turns up on restaurant menus in the same way a cassoulet does around Carcassone/Toulouse/Castelnaudry, Fabada does in Asturias, Bouillabaisse does for a whole stretch of the Mediterranean just a couple of hundred kilometres away.

It's precisely because there are such wonderful ingredients (Roussillon Apricots, Ceret cherries, copious wild mushrooms, Rose des Pyrenees, Pyrenean Lamb, superb peaches, excellent seafood) that I am surprised by the lack of good restaurants which make the most of the local produce.

There must be exceptions, of course, and that's what I am hoping people will be able to inform us about!

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It's precisely because there are such wonderful ingredients (Roussillon Apricots, Ceret cherries, copious wild mushrooms, Rose des Pyrenees, Pyrenean Lamb, superb peaches, excellent seafood) that I am surprised by the lack of good restaurants which make the most of the local produce. 

There must be exceptions, of course, and that's what I am hoping people will be able to inform us about!

I think there ARE great restaurants here, they just don't get any publicity. Hopefully, Miguel will start to change that right on this thread!!

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I think Miguel was rather hoping those of us with some familiarity with the region would name some great restaurants in the area.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I think Miguel was rather hoping those of us with some familiarity with the region would name some great restaurants in the area.

Hey, thanks Bux - but I really am enchanted and informed beyond my best expectations by the kind and knowledgeable replies so far.

One thing I love about eGullet is that it somehow manages to reproduce one's actual experience of life and food.

First, you get a marvellous recommendation for a hotel. Someone seconds it. A third fellow member suggests the East Wing, as the view is better. A fourth goes further and says the best room in the East Wing is the orange one. Everything seems settled. The reservation is made. Then it starts anew. A fresh voice says the Orange Room is indeed the best but only when it's not cloudy. If it is, best stick to the West Wing, which is more spacious and cheaper. Someone else adds they live next door and it so happens that the month I'm going it's been cloudy for the last three centuries, adding that only last month the rooms on the West Wing were redesigned and are now much smaller and, what is more, considerably more expensive - so perhaps it's best to ask for a room next to the restaurant and forget about the bloody view - you get that from the bar just across the corridor.

Then the guy who first recommended the Orange Room weighs in and informs that he's just been looking through his photographs and it was probably the Yellow one, as they were all taken when the sun was setting.

Finally - this hasn't happened yet - someone despairs and advises sticking to Spain after all until someone like Marc intervenes out of the blue and counsels that, if I'm in a "sticking to" mode, he fails to understand why I'm travelling at all, since staying in Lisbon is by far the best option at that particular time of the year. :)

No, really, when I arrive it will be that more exciting. As for finding good restaurants, I have tried and trusted methods - some of them devious but all well-intentioned - and since I devote all time between meals (and during!) to this task, being uninterested in anything else, I hope I can begin to thank those who've helped me by posting names and addresses of all the worthy establishments I "discover". Actually, the trick is not to "discover", but to tap the rich, life-filled well of what is deeply known but, for some reason, people aren't eager to share, out of fear, embarrassment, timidity or downright malice towards strangers.

My entire innovation quota for 2005 will no doubt be exhausted by that one dinner at El Bulli, so I'll be devoting all my energy to good, simple, time-tested food, wherever it is to be had, with no regard whatsoever to anything extraneous, including service with a smile and surroundings, however uncharming. The region's strengths - as stated in others' posts - are more than enough to get me panting!

Thank you all again!

Miguel

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The whole business of finding good restaurants in unfamiliar country might deserve a thread of its own but, since Bux himself brought it up, I'd be very interested in learning of the techniques used by fellow members.

To start the ball rolling, I'll translate a few common replies to the standard "Where would you yourself go, Madam or Sir, if you wanted to eat really, but really, really well?" question, with all its variants: such as "Is it really true that to eat well one has go to [insert rival region]? If it was your birthday/all your best friends were coming/someone else was picking up the bill/if you had to convince some stubborn journalist from the capital of the stupidity and ignorance of his low opinion of your region's cooking being merely pleasant, but not something to write home about/if you had to eat there for the rest of your life, day in, day out/if your own mother had been condemned to death and asked only for one decent meal before being guillotined", etc.

I'll base the translations on common answers in Portugal, for obvious reasons.

1)"Well, the place which has the reputation is...." ("Bem, o sítio com mais fama é...")

Translation: Tourists love it/Know-all ignoramuses flock there/Wouldn't be seen dead there, personally.

2)"Where one used to eat well is..." ("Onde se costumava comer bem era no...")

Translation: Still good but now too big for its boots in the local estimation, generally meaning far too expensive "for what it is". Definitely worth checking out, with a high probability of being the best restaurant around. Locals will pine for the days when it was a sawdust and cobweb-friendly dive and one could stub out one's cigarettes on the floor but the spoilt-rotten traveller will be glad that some ambitious local moustache now presents himself as a bona fide wine waiter.

3) "If eating well is paramount, there's unfortunately only one place and it's..." ("Para comer bem, só conheço um sítio, que é...")

Translation: It belongs to a cousin or a friend and is probably dire. Badmouthing the whole assortment of restaurants is one of the worst signs, i.e. one of best ways of detecting a false recommendation.

4) "Well, I usually go to...X...and am always well served, though I can't say whether you'd like it..." ("Bem, eu cá costumo ir ao...X.. e sou sempre bem servido - mas o senhor, não sei...")

Translation: A magnificent restaurant, ridiculously cheap.

5) "It depends on what you want to eat..." ("Bem, isso depende do que o senhor quer comer...")

Translation: You've struck gold and chanced on an expert! Answer immediately "I love everything" and he'll wearily trot out a list of fantastic restaurants according to what they do best, throwing you into a note-taking frenzy.

6) "Well, my opinion is that one only eats well at home but, when we do go out, to give my wife a break, she likes going to..." ("Bem, eu acho que, para comer mesmo bem, só em casa - mas a minha mulher, quando não está para isso, gosta de ir ao...")

Translation: Better than gold! Wives' preferences, when they are good cooks, are the most exacting and demanding of all those known to civilization.

7) "Restaurants, I don't know. But if it's only to snack..." ("De restaurantes não percebo nada, mas se é só para petiscar...")

Translation: Beyond all doubt, a superb restaurant. Many people with profound gastronomical knowledge and experience regard the word "restaurant" as a silly word for poncing and pseuding about for those more interested in being cossetted than well fed and would staunchly defy any accusation that the places where they lunch and dine are "restaurants". In fact, most of these so-called hicks - in reality, criterious gastronomes who don't know any worse, being so attuned and habituated to the better and the best - don't even grasp the concept of "eating well" for the simple reason that they have no experience whatsoever of eating badly. They're truly spoilt, the lucky bastards! So you may have to substitute "eating well" for something they can understand like "filling your stomach without spending too much money" or "somewhere to get decent food when it's not practical to go home for lunch or, when they're unusually used to excellence for almost nothing, even "Where can a guy get a bite around here?"

It's a big mistake to assume those who are materially poorer than we are have the slightest understanding of how exceptional it is to eat really well.

Yes, sorry, caught rambling again, so I'd better leave it here...

Any other pointers - specially if they're related to provincial France, Spain, Italy or the U.S. - would be warmly welcomed!


Edited by MiguelCardoso (log)

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The whole business of finding good restaurants in unfamiliar country might deserve a thread of its own but, since Bux himself brought it up, I'd be very interested in learning of the techniques used by fellow members.

To start the ball rolling, I'll translate a few common replies to the standard "Where would you yourself go, Madam or Sir, if you wanted to eat really, but really, really well?" question, with all its variants: such as "Is it really true that to eat well one has go to [insert rival region]? If it was your birthday/all your best friends were coming/someone else was picking up the bill/if you had to convince some stubborn journalist from the capital of the stupidity and ignorance of his low opinion of your region's cooking being merely pleasant, but not something to write home about/if you had to eat there for the rest of your life, day in, day out/if your own mother had been condemned to death and asked only for one decent meal before being guillotined", etc.

I'll base the translations on common answers in Portugal, for obvious reasons.

1)"Well, the place which has the reputation is...." ("Bem, o sítio com mais fama é...")

Translation: Tourists love it/Know-all ignoramuses flock there/Wouldn't be seen dead there, personally.

2)"Where one used to eat well is..." ("Onde se costumava comer bem era no...")

Translation: Still good but now too big for its boots in the local estimation, generally meaning far too expensive "for what it is".  Definitely worth checking out, with a high probability of being the best restaurant around.  Locals will pine for the days when it was a sawdust and cobweb-friendly dive and one could stub out one's cigarettes on the floor but the spoilt-rotten traveller will be glad that some ambitious local moustache now presents himself as a bona fide wine waiter.

3) "If eating well is paramount, there's unfortunately only one place and it's..." ("Para comer bem, só conheço um sítio, que é...")

Translation: It belongs to a cousin or a friend and is probably dire.  Badmouthing the whole assortment of restaurants is one of the worst signs, i.e. one of best ways of detecting a false recommendation.

4) "Well, I usually go to...X...and am always well served, though I can't say whether you'd like it..." ("Bem, eu cá costumo ir ao...X.. e sou sempre bem servido - mas o senhor, não sei...")

Translation: A magnificent restaurant, ridiculously cheap.

5) "It depends on what you want to eat..." ("Bem, isso depende do que o senhor quer comer...")

Translation: You've struck gold and chanced on an expert!  Answer immediately "I love everything" and he'll wearily trot out a list of fantastic restaurants according to what they do best, throwing you into a note-taking frenzy.

6) "Well, my opinion is that one only eats well at home but, when we do go out, to give my wife a break, she likes going to..." ("Bem, eu acho que, para comer mesmo bem, só em casa - mas a minha mulher, quando não está para isso, gosta de ir ao...")

Translation: Better than gold!  Wives' preferences, when they are good cooks, are the most exacting and demanding of all those known to civilization.

7) "Restaurants, I don't know.  But if it's only to snack..." ("De restaurantes não percebo nada, mas se é só para petiscar...")

Translation: Beyond all doubt, a superb restaurant.  Many people with profound gastronomical knowledge and experience regard the word "restaurant" as a silly word for poncing and pseuding about for those more interested in being cossetted than well fed and would staunchly defy any accusation that the places where they lunch and dine are "restaurants".

Yes, sorry, caught rambling again, so I'd better leave it here...

Any other pointers - specially if they're related to provincial France, Spain, Italy or the U.S. - would be warmly welcomed!

Miguel,

this is hands down one of the best posts I've read in quite a while.... thank you and keep the rambling coming.

Silly.


We''ve opened Pazzta 920, a fresh pasta stall in the Boqueria Market. follow the thread here.

My blog, the Adventures of A Silly Disciple.

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Hey, Silly - don't feed the animals! Nah, thanks for the encouragement and the opportunity to ramble on a bit more (the Christmas hamper is in the post and, yes, it does include that kilo of white Alba truffles you insisted on):

8) "People say one doesn't eat badly at X..." ("Dizem que não se come mal no...X")

Translation: Though I myself don't believe a word of it, stupid buggers.

Solution: Immediately ask "But where do you generally eat?" The answer is bound to be valuable.

9) "It seems that in X they don't serve badly..." ("Parece que não servem mal no X...")

Translation: I could kick myself for not having been yet - I have a hunch it's great.

10) "People who aren't from around here generally go to X..." ("O pessoal de fora geralmente vai ao X")

Translation: Poor bastards.

11) "If it was a Tuesday, I'd definitely go to X..." ("Se fosse terça-feira, era o X!")

Translation: A good restaurant every single day of the week. Go already!

12) "If you're not expecting great things, X may be a modest establishment but at least it doesn't fool anybody" ("Se não estiver assim com grandes ideias, o X é modesto mas também não engana ninguém.")

Translation: Expect great things, at a quarter of the price they'd deserve.

13) "X is expensive but one does eat well there." ("O X é caro mas lá que se come bem, ai isso come-se.")

Translation: A great inexpensive restaurant.

14) "I've never been, myself, but X is always full..." ("Nunca lá fui, mas o X está sempre cheio")

Translation: Very boring; not worth going. Might be quite good or cheap for what you get, but is assuredly banal.

15) "Well, if you particularly want to eat lamprey rice [or whatever], then X is the place to go, as it won't disappoint." ("Bem, se fôr para comer um arroz de lampreia, o X, verdade se diga, não desilude.")

Translation: Go but stick to the damned lamprey rice [or whatever]. The rest is probably crap.

16) "X is impeccable - top notch!" ("O X é impecável; alto luxo!")

Translation: The food is lousy but for the well-satisfied locals, used to eating superbly in their own homes, it's worth putting up with the trendy attempts at international cuisine to bask - once every six months- in the illusion they're dining swankily in the capital city.

17) "It's no longer what it used to be - but, still, they deliver the goods." ("Já não é o que era mas, enfim, continua a servir bem.")

Translation: Remains sublime, indifferent to the winds of change and its only sin is not to charge what they did when they first opened, two decades ago.

18) "Well, X has got good wine..." ("Bem, o X tem bom vinho...")

Translation: But the food is even better. The wine is probably sweet, atrocious but unique in the worst local way, inasmuch as, for a very good reason, you can't get it anywhere else. Choose something that goes well with beer.

19) "As long as you say I sent you, you'll be sure of a treat." ("Se disser que vem da minha parte, garanto-lhe que é bem servido.")

Translation: A disgrace where the informant likes to go for a post-prandial whisky and would much appreciate the prestige of directing a stranger towards its unspeakable offerings - or even the commission. Avoid and warn others.

20) "Hey, my friend, around here you eat well anywhere you go" or [slightly more literary variation] "What's difficult here, pal, is finding a place where you eat badly!" ("Isto aqui come-se bem em qualquer lado! Difícil, difícil é comer mal...!")

Translation: Not one decent restaurant within a twenty-mile radius.

21) "Hmmm...let me phone my friend Y - he'll know!" ("Deixe-me telefonar ao meu amigo Y que ele já lhe diz!")

Translation: You've struck gold and are about to be connected to an expert. Sharpen your pencil accordingly.

22) "You want to eat well? In these days? Tell me, my friend, no disrespect, do you know of anywhere where one eats well nowadays?" ("Comer bem? Hoje em dia? Ó meu amigo, mas há algum sítio onde se coma bem nos dias que correm?")

Translation: Lottery win! You are in the presence of an authentic "gourmet". Instantly convert your discourse to the negative mode and sit back to receive sterling recommendations, i.e. "I know, I know - isn't it a fucking tragedy? But, still, one has to eat: is there any place where the food is not so bad?").

I've barely scratched the surface but, having clearly outstayed my welcome, will now shut up and wait for others to provide their own interpretative devices.

I blame Silly Disciple myself. ;)

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Michel Sarran (Saran?) in Toulouse is well worth a detour and is certainly within easy striking distance - but Toulouse must be one of the worst places to drive around

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