Before I Forget: Favorite Meals From Europe

It’s only been three weeks since we got back form Europe and we’ve been busy getting back to our San Francisco selves: late night drinks and mashed potatoes at The Phoenix, settling into a new apartment, helping out at two Wild Kitchen dinners, and selling Vietnamese crepes at back-to-back Underground Markets in SF and the East Bay.

But before life gets too busy, I want to take a quick look back at our favorite meals and moments in Europe. Right when we got back, Iso organized a nine-course meal focused around our favorite dishes in Europe. It was unforgettable evening, being able to share our favorite moments and meals with people, especially my friends and family. I invited my dad and his wife, who got a taste our trip: from the fish soup we had in Cassis, to the flaming crepes our French hosts made for us in Aix-en-Provence. Iso successfully captured the essence of our trip through the meal and on his blog, but there’s some stories that I want to expand on. Enjoy!

Note: If you’re into food and know how to read Vietnamese, you should check out my dad’s review of the Wild Kitchen for the Viet Tribune. It’s really sweet.

A Lyonnais Bouchon

La Meuniere – Lyon, France

I read about the Lyonnaise bouchons in Lonely Planet on our plane ride over – low-key restaurants that serve traditional cuisine like blood sausage and salad Lyonaisse. We stumbled upon a perfect example at La Meuniere, which bistro-like atmosphere seemed like something straight out of a Marcel Pagnol movie. In the middle of the dining room sat a long table, covered with a white linen tablecloth topped with plates of charcuterie and cheese. When I ordered a plate of seasonal vegetables, the waitress tossed up bowls of pickled beets, celery and endives at this table – then brought them over for us to enjoy. A pleasant way to be served and enjoy a meal.

Real Underground (And Stinky)

Osteria dell’Orsa – Bologna, Italy

Osterias are homiest kind of restaurants, in every sense of the word. According to Wikipedia, the word osteria means “a place where the owner ‘hosts’ people.” At Osteria dell’Orsa, we felt like we were eating at some Italian person’s house, except with 40 others, all sitting in communal tables in the basement floor. There we had lentil soup, iceburg lettuce salad, penne pasta, crostini with brie and mushrooms. All good, simple, homecooked food. The only setback: the basement air contained a slight hint of, how should I say, shit, due to a sewage pipe malfunction. The fact that it was a full house was a testament to how much people like the food and atmosphere. We ate there again the next night (but upstairs this time, where it wasn’t so smelly).

Chef’s Salad

Made by Iso in Bologna and eaten en route to Tarquinia, Italy

Made with produce, cheese and fish purchased at Mercato Delle Erbe, one of Bologna’s indoor markets. The cheese was the best I had the entire month: unfortunately I forget the name It had the taste of mozzarella, but was slightly firmer and incased in a thin wax. So grateful Iso cooked and packed this meal for our long schlep to Tarquinia.

Mushroom Extravaganza

Alba, Italy

We came here for the truffles. Alba is the hub of the world-wide truffle market, and it was the heart of the season, so we couldn’t miss it. As foragers, we couldn’t skip it even despite the town’s campy truffle festival. Here we purchased our first truffles: a black and white, which we ended up putting on everything we ate for the next week: mac and cheese, fried eggs, and countless pasta dishes. The real gem of the trip was our last Italian dinner at La Libera, which I read about on Chowhound. Had the most tender, delicious homemade gnocchis I’ve ever eaten, paired with mushrooms, of course.

The American-French Dinner Collaboration

Aix-en-Provence, France

The highlight of our trip. We couchsurfed with a house of five Frenchies who reminded me of my friends from Santa Cruz, complete with dreads, African tribal tapestries, vegetarianism and of course, lots of pot. Together we conquered a night hike and camp up St. Victoire, cooked meals for each other, one of which was a mac and cheese dinner with truffles (made by me and Iso), and crepes flambe, courtesy of our French hosts.

Seafood Extravaganza

Le Bonaparte – Cassis, France

Following the Chowhound trail, we headed over to this nondescript restaurant in Cassis. This was what all meals should be: straightforward and delicious. We had mussels in a pesto sauce, prawns with aioli, broiled fish of the day, and the highlight of the evening: fish soup served with crostini, spicy aioli and cheese. We are indebted to our Airbnb host in Marseille who kindly lent us her car for the weekend, allowing us to explore the south of France.

Cafe Constant

Paris, France

Cafe Constant has the right kind of bistro feel, which isn’t too contrived, and where the food is more creative than your traditional fare but still affordable. Our Airbnb host recommended this neighborhood joint to us (if you’re ever in Paris, stay with him!) and we were so enamored by the food (not to mention its proximity to our house) that we ate there twice. Highlights included a oyster, shrimp and tuna ceviche (presented beautifully on a slate serving tray with rock salt) as well as the sea urchins, with a scrambled egg foam and caviar.

That’s about it. Do you have any dishes you still yearn for from Europe or elsewhere?

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