Holidays. What’s not to love about them? I swear that my recent six week European adventure was a good year and a half in the making. Hours spent planning out which countries to visit and then further refining those plans to where will we stay and finally where will we eat! It was a labour of love and as the departure date approached I kept looking over my very detailed itinerary and wondering if it would be as good in reality as I thought it looked on paper. Finally, after counting down those final few sleeps it was time to go. Long flights, they are honestly one of my least favourite things about a holiday, but here are a few of my favourite things…more specifically favourite things we ate and drank in Europe.
A chocolate one I bought from a little patisserie in Etoges in France. It was the first one I bought and it really set the bar high. So delicious. Even the beautiful éclairs from L’Eclair de Genie in Paris weren’t quite as good (though they looked beautiful and the salted caramel was a very, very close second).
A tagliatelle dish in Castelnuovo Del Abate at Locanda Sant’Antimo. An incredibly small town we walked to on the first day of our Hidden Italy self-guided walking tour. There was essentially one restaurant in town and we ended up there for lunch and dinner. As part of the dinner there was a pasta course (because we had locked in a multi course meal each night of the tour) and it was tagliatelle with a wild boar ragu (wild boar was all the rage in Tuscany). The pasta was absolutely the best we had. It was so light and so silky with just a simple sauce, but it was entirely memorable and not at all filling. It was like magic pasta. There were a few others that came close, like a gnocchiette with basil pesto and also this pica (thick spaghetti) that was amazing in Montepulciano.
Best Cold Cuts:
Very tough call on this because we were in Europe, so a few contenders. We went to a little wine bar in Bordeaux aptly called Le Wine Bar, which was run by a charming Italian gent. He gave us a plate of truffled ham that was seriously amazing. The truffle aroma hit you as soon as the plate was put on the table and the flavour was just divine. Jamon in Barcelona is just amazing, I mean come on, they have bags you can buy to hold whole legs and you can sling the bags over your shoulder! We ate it several times a day in sunny Barca, because why wouldn’t you? And finally in Italy, well fennel salami is delicious and we also tried some delightful porchetta at D’Angelos in Montalcino. Cold cuts are beautiful. I grew up eating them on rye bread on the weekends, because of my amazing Dad who has German parents. Being in Europe and getting to eat cold cuts for breakfast most days was amazing!
We stayed two nights at Le Chateau D’Etoges and a huge highlight of the evening meals was the cheese trolley. All those French cheeses, take your pick. The triple cream Brie was particularly delicious and creamy and as indulgent as hell! Special mention must also go to pecorino in Tuscany because it is very different to pecorino I’ve tried in Australia. A lot softer and I loved the range of different flavours that were available. Oh I also can’t forget feta in Greek salads in Santorini 🙂 Oooo or buffalo mozzarella in Italy, so amazingly creamy. Yum! Basically though it is far to say that all cheese in Europe is magic.
Tommi’s! An Icelandic burger chain that has found its way to Berlin. They focus on making fairly simple burgers done well and their cheeseburgers are simply perfection. We also jammed a few fries into our burgers , which was delicious and Icelandic beer is a great brew too.
Easy pick for this one (and we had a lot of hotel buffets) and we loved it so much we did it back to back mornings. I’m very grateful to a gal in Perth who had recently visited Barcelona and steered me to this place (and to this dish). A little food stand in the middle of La Boqueria markets called El Quim. Mixed wild mushrooms with soft fried eggs. I mean oh my goodness, oh my goodness those yolks and those mushrooms and their crazy wildness! It was bliss. Yolky, lovely, mushroomy bliss. Go there early, go there every day and go there for those mushrooms.
Tiramisu was our go to dessert and given that we had it on more than five occasions, it has to take out favourite dessert honours. What I found interesting was all the different versions of it! Everyone tended to have their own spin on it. I even gave it a whirl in gelato form. Magic. All the creamy, chocolate, coffee infused magic, it is very high on my favourite desserts list. Of all time.
Best Fine Dining Meal:
Rutz in Berlin. We chalked up a few starred restaurants on our holiday but our most memorable was a Thursday evening spent at Rutz. I found the place while googling and made the booking after reading that they had won awards for best wine list in Germany. We decided to go all in and chose their ten course menu with matched wines. It was such an experience! Fabulous food, really different wines and incredibly friendly, informative and attentive service. Loved it. Loved everything about it. And know that it was in tough coming. There’s a few stars on the listed restaurants below 🙂
Another vote for El Quim. Their macchiatos were out of this world! I had two on both breakfast visits. There were a few great espressos in the mix too, because hello Italy and it was my breakfast beverage of choice most mornings, but Barcelona, best coffee you got it.
Another tough decision because Germany and Prague were always going to be solid contenders on the perfect brew front and we did enjoy some great beers at many a German beer hall and hard to go past the infamous Hofbrahaus and it made for a very memorable Sunday lunch there. Prague also make a great beer and I learnt at Lokal that I actually quite like a dark beer. Peroni at a visit to a beer hall in Rome was also a delight, especially because it was so warm while we were there. So we’ll call this one a tie.
Place that took my breath away:
La Boqueria. It may well be what I think heaven looks like. The colour and the vibrancy of this place is incredible. The beautiful, fresh produce all looks so perfect and I was grateful to be staying in an apartment so we had the opportunity to actually cook up a meal with it. Go. Just make sure if you are in Barcelona that you go to these beautiful markets.
On the food front I’d probably say that Prague ended up surprising me most. I probably did incorrectly have it pegged as all goulash (and don’t get me wrong because the goulash is really good!), but it actually offers a really diverse range of foods and we ate at some really lovely places. These ranged from more traditional cuisine to a fine dining experience at La Degustation, where I discovered that neither fois gras or beef tongue is scary. Also Hemingway in Prague is a really cool little bar and we had some lovely cocktails there on our visit, felt all very flash. I feel a little bit fancy drinking cocktails.
New Loves: Red wine! I was never really massively on board with red wine, was very much white for me but my eyes were opened the week we spent walking through Tuscany. Mornings were spent trekking from one village to the next where we celebrated with bowls of pasta and shared Brunellos. I am looking forward to getting stuck into many of WA’s finest back home (though not sure GG is as excited about this since he’ll now have to share with me). Also Aperol Spritz. I think I only tried one because they were starting to become all the rage in Perth, but they are actually very refreshing and very easy drinking! And tzatziki, think we ate it every day we were in Santorini. Beautiful stuff, so creamy!
So there you go, a few musings. I think it is when you can sit back and look through all the photos of everything you did that you more fully appreciate how much you managed to pack into those precious weeks away from the office and how much fun was had. Sometimes when you are sitting there waiting for a train or a flight has been delayed or the thought of sight-seeing around another city has less appeal, you don’t quite appreciate the amazing time you’ve had.
But GG and I saw plenty. We ate, we drank and were perpetually merry for our time away and we reflected as we sat on our balcony in Santorini on our final day that holidays are excellent and we enjoyed every moment. Like Dorothy Gale said though, there’s no place like home. At the end of the trip we were ready for home.
This is a list of the places we stayed at and names of most of the restaurants we ate at. If you want any other details about anything just let me know 🙂
- Hotel: Lyric Hotel
- Goust *
- Frenchies Wine Bar
- Le Coupe Chou
- L’eclair De Genie
- Eric Kayser Boulanger Paris
- La Bellevilloise (La Halle aux Oliviers)
- Hotel: Arcadia Residence
- Taste of Prague food tour
- La Degustation*
- U Modre Kachnicky II
- The Bakeshop
- Hotel: The Inn at the Roman Forum
- Glass Hostaria*
- Armaden La Pantheon
- Da Francesco
- L’Antica Birreria Peroni