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Posts from July 2014

Eating in Barcelona: Part IX: Gaudi, BO and castellers


This lady tried to pin a flower on my chest. I mean she poked me with the damned thing. This picture, mind you, isn't of her initial approach. This is after she poked me, and after I had walked past her. This is her friggin' chasing me with the deadly flower. It's really not a solid business model if you ask me.

"That's no way to start a day," I thought. Thankfully there was a very pleasant day ahead. A largely accidental one that I couldn't have planned better.

Bus stop

It was Sunday, and very few people were around, aside from the chest stabbing gypsies. We were well away from Las Rambla and meandering through fascinating little sections of Barcelona on our way to Park Guell, Antoni Gaudi's silly garden and park. The walk was well over an hour, and took us to parts of Barcelona we didn't know existed. Gràcia, for example. It's a very different world in the outlying districts of Barcelona. These were once towns in their own right, but were eventually sucked up by the expanding city. I cannot speak with much authority on this, but I suspect many have retained their own unique identity, which makes these towns-within-a-city great places to visit.

Park guell1

We arrived at Park Guell and found out that you have to buy tickets. In advance. It's nuts. Here I thought we'd be walking through a park filled with Gaudi's Willy Wonka-esque art and spirit. But that wasn't meant to be. We did find out that you can walk through much of the park without a ticket. I really don't know what we missed, but we had a nice time walking around the free section. The walk takes you up and up and up, exposing grander views of the city at every turn. Lots of cactuses and various flora to take in. And, of course, you'll have a chance to see some of his wacky creations.

Park Guell2,jpg
Park Guell2,jpg

Our walk through Park Guell terminated at the opposite side of the hill, away from the entrance. It just sort of plops you out onto a street. I really had no idea where we were, but I knew the walk back to Gràcia would be long, but downhill. Away we went, off to find a suitable place for lunch.

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Eating in Barcelona: Part VIII: Los Toreros

Los Toreros exterior1

After a half day of walking and eating Barcelona, the rooftop bar at Hotel 1898 was feeling quite comfortable in the mid-afternoon sun. There were times when watching the seagulls and staring off to the sea and mountains while sipping vermouth seemed like the best possible use of our time. Even Las Ramblas appeared pleasant and quiet from this perch, with the line of tree tops being the only hint of the mass of tourists below.

1898 rooftopThe trees of Las Ramblas heading toward the sea

Venturing too far afield for dinner wasn't in the cards on this night. Luckily we found a little place called Los Toreros during some googling. Even more luckily was the restaurant is located directly behind Hotel 1898, in a little alley, tucked away, and seemed to be relatively tourist-free.

Los Toreros interior2

Los Toreros, which I believe means bullfighter, is a cheery, brightly yet warmly lit, energetic little place. The menu is extensive, with plenty of tapas. It felt, to us, very authentically "Spanish," with a little whimsy thrown in, what with all of the pictures of bullfighters on the walls. The most old-school place that we visited to that point. (It will be noted that the t:e organization does not support bullfighting or the killing, torturing, or taunting of anything for sport. Well, OK, I do enjoy taunting people who have that fabulous combination of ignorance and arrogance and insist on proving it at every turn.)

We did not screw around and got right to the food. Which is what I'll do right now. But first, sangria.

Continue reading " Eating in Barcelona: Part VIII: Los Toreros" »

Eating in Barcelona: Part VII: Los Cachitos

Los Cachitos

We woke up at the crack of 8 am looking forward to a day without any reservations, or plans of any sort for that matter.

It was a glorious morning and we decided to go check out Gaudi's Sagrada Família, a spell-binding basílica which Gaudi started 30 years before his death. At the time of his death, the thing was a quarter complete. That was almost 90 years ago, and they are still working on it, with a scheduled completion date of 2026. A full 100 years after the man's death. Scope creep? Or maybe a lot of siestas.

Sagrada Familia

A partially-completed church couldn't possibly draw big crowds, especially so early in the morning, we figured as we moseyed on over. Errr, the thousands of people waiting in line to get in obviously knew differently. Bus loads of people. I have never seen a line this long. I think it went around the block twice. And this is a large block.

Sagrada Familia2

I'm not one to wait in lines, so we walked around the block, taking in its curious beauty, and then got the hell out of there, looking for the next thing to stare at. But first I had to buy something for that sunburn that I had foolishly acquired the first afternoon of the trip on the rooftop of Hotel 1898. It was a burn like I've never had before. My skin was itchy and stingy and felt like it was crawling off of my body. I have quite a bit of skin I should add.

FarmaciaThat nice gentleman is looking this American's belly, just barely hiding his shock and disgust.

We stopped at a Farmacia, a place where I assumed they'd speak English and I'd be able to simply ask for the remedy. No such luck. I resorted to picking up my shirt, pointing at my red and sizable belly, and making what in hindsight were baboon-like gestures to indicate itching. The missus found this exchange very, very humorous. The lady behind the counter probably not quite as much. I already had a bottle of aloe from the shelf, but was advised by a nice gentleman who happened to be there that "it's for teeth." For TEETH!?!  Ack. I was given a proper bottle of aloe for skin and was advised that it was 27 euro. "Whaaaatt??!" was my reply. The lady suddenly spoke very clear English and said "it's very good." Well bloody hell I should hope so.



We saw some kids playing soccer, and spent some time taking pictures and relaxing in the sun. The aloe was working already. It was in fact, apparently, very good.

Ciutadella park

Then we stumbled upon Ciutadella Park, which is certainly worth a visit. We spent some time at the Casada Fountain, not knowing a damned thing about it or what we were walking on/looking at. Still don't. That's OK.

With hunger setting in, we started looking for a place to eat in the Barri Gòtic . Nothing was really jumping out at us, aside from a nice little bar that had vermouth. We had vermouth.

Aimlessly making our way back to La Rambla, a street on which I advise spending as little time as possible, we ran into one of the many outposts of Enrique Tomas, a sort of charcuterie chain. With cones of pig for your snacking pleasure. And snack I did. Jamón ibérico in a cone. Whaddacountry.

Enrique tomas

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Tuna and watermelon: ceviche

Tuna watermelon ceviche_edited-1

Ceviche is like the margarita of food: bright, acidic, crowd-pleasing, intoxicating, just exotic enough, simple to make, and perfect morning noon and night.

It's also a super-fast and relatively inexpensive meal to pull together. I don't know about you, but I usually have a bunch of limes and a bit of red onion and herbs on hand, so my shopping list for ceviche is usually pretty short.

I've got this great ceviche book called The Great Ceviche Book, which I've thumbed through hundreds of times, yet never thought to use for a recipe, until yesterday. Watermelon was calling my name, and I figured this book found a use for that magical melon. It sure did. With tuna

The recipe called for some stuff that I couldn't be bothered with, like lemon oil and yuzu juice. And tarragon. And candied kumquats in syrup. Good grief. Let's not make this too complicated, ya know? It's ceviche for fuck's sake.

My version went like this:

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Eating in Barcelona: Part VI: Gelonch

Gelonch interior1

It wasn't my intention to eat many upscale meals in Barcelona. It certainly wasn't my intention to eat two upscale meals on the same day. But, that's how the reservations panned out on this particular Friday.

After a wonderful lunch at Hisop, we spent the afternoon aimlessly wandering the city, walking it off. There's no better past time. We did a fly-by on Gelonch, the restaurant to which we'd be going for dinner, and took a look at the menu. The missus was not pleased to be staring at another tasting menu, but at least they offered two, one of which seemed to include a reasonable number of courses. We are not looking for any marathon meals while on vacation. However, eating the food of a chef who worked under Ferran Adrià was certainly appealing, multiple courses be damned.

This is a small, chef-run restaurant. There is an upstairs with seating, and that area is equally as small as the one on the first floor, which was probably 4 or 5 tables.

The shorter tasting menu consisted of ten courses, contrasted with the larger sixteen course menu. I've read that there's a Peruvian or Japanese influence at Gelonch, but I didn't sense this. It was just very good, interesting food.

Gelonch kitchen door

Chef Gelonch does his thing in what is no doubt a tiny kitchen, which is hidden behind a door. When the food is ready, he opens a little hatch in that door, and places the dishes on the wee shelf for the server to pick up. Every time he dinged his bell and opened up the little door, he'd kind of look out. Perhaps he was taken with the missus. Either way it turned into a game with the missus trying to get his picture when he'd poke his face in the open hatch. The missus finally caught him.

Unfortunately this meal was about 100 meals ago at this point, and I didn't bother taking notes. I do recall a few specifics, and will try to present something at least slightly meaningful here.

Continue reading " Eating in Barcelona: Part VI: Gelonch" »

Confetti Ristorante & Vinoteca: Piermont, NY

Confetti exterior

I feel a bit Takei when I say "recommended by a fan."

Confetti, in Piermont, NY, was "recommended by a reader." That doesn't sound much better. Anyway this fella was telling me all about their good pasta and that a proper Negroni could be had at this sort-of-water-front restaurant that I had never given a second thought to. Or first thought for that matter.

But he seemed genuine and earnest, so I put Confetti (or Confetti's, if you want to sound just a little silly) on my list of places to try.

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, we headed to Piermont to check out the scene.

Confetti bread

We snagged one of the many outdoor seats under the umbrellas and settled in with our basket of bread. The large floor to ceiling doors of the restaurant open fully to the patio, so if you want to get out of the heat and sun, which would have been a good idea on this day, sitting just inside is a nice option.

My intention was to order a Negroni and a bowl of pasta, and that's exactly what I did. We also ordered an app and of course the missus had to get herself an entree as well.

The waitress didn't seem to know what a Negroni was. No big deal. I probably didn't know what a Negroni was until a few years ago--although the missus tells me we spent much time in Florence drinking them back in the early aughts. I explained that it's gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, in equal parts (give or take), on the rocks, and noted that the bartender should know what it is. I mean, they do have those little books, and I suppose the internet, don't they?

While I'm at it, I should note that they don't have fresh lime juice at Confetti. I just don't understand this at all. WTF is wrong with restaurant and bar owners? Are you that lazy or ignorant? You make me very angry.

Confetti negroni

The Negroni was completely serviceable. I prefer a proper twist in cocktails, rather than the half wagon wheel of fruit, but finding a proper twist in bars outside of major metropolitan areas is a bit of a challenge. "Twist" has been debased to "a slice of unwashed fruit." These are the things I have to put up with. These are my challenges in life.

Enough of my nonsense. Let's get to the food.

The menu leans "Italian." Maybe even a little more "real" Italian than Italian-American, which is what you'll find at most restaurants in New Jersey and the rest of the country, regardless of if they refer to themselves as "Southern" or "Northern" Italian. It's all the same stuff here in the states and doesn't resemble any food I've had in northern or southern Italy.

Enough of my nonsense. Let's get to the food.

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Hot Diggity Grill: Hawthorne, NJ: Great burgers!

Hot diggity Grill burger fries

I was driving through Paterson today, and for some reason I started wondering how Smashburger serves their burgers so darned hot. They really are hot, and stay hot. Like magic. I'm a big fan of Smashburger. It was close to lunchtime so I figured I had to get a burger, from somewhere.

Smashburger was a bit out of my way, and luckily I recalled a reader telling me that Hot Diggity Grill in Hawthorne has a good burger. I was skeptical when I heard this, and was still skeptical when I recalled this, but I shot into Hawthorne to give them a shot. Glad I did.

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Due: Ridgewood, NJ: New and improved, now with extra Weissening.

Update (2016): Adam Weiss is not longer at Due and I can no longer recommend this restaurant.

It was seven years ago (ACK!) that I first had Chef Weiss's cooking. This was at Esty Street in Park Ridge, where Weiss was the Sous Chef--and soon to be Executive Chef. I wrote a few words on our meals at Esty back then, which were largely enjoyable. After several visits, Weiss figured out who I was. It was another one of those situations where I have no idea how it came about. I certainly don't go around announcing myself as a food blogger and in general don't draw much attention to myself. But I guess they have ways.

Still, though, it was a bit of a surprise when Weiss recognized me during a recent meal at Due, where he's now Executive Chef. It has been at least five years since he's laid eyes on my marvelous face.

We visited Due last year, pre-Weiss, and were way, way not impressed. It was an unexceptional meal, from what I recall. The food lacked herbs and acidity. Not one herb anywhere on any dish, I recall thinking. The first bites of our recent meal, conversely, were clearly the product of a chef who appreciates herbs and acid like we do. This is no surprise, when I see what I wrote about Esty Street and Weiss seven years ago:

"Esty Street is serving food that's bright and clean. Lots of acids and herbs."

I'm glad to see Weiss bringing this style of cooking to Ridgewood.

Continue reading "Due: Ridgewood, NJ: New and improved, now with extra Weissening." »