Tag Archives: Restaurants

Waiter, There’s A Moral Dilemma In My Lunch!

I did a very bad thing. No, not recently. It must have been seven or eight years ago. It happened at the end of a shopping trip in Brent Cross, North London. After trudging through the aisles like two people who only ever go shopping when they absolutely have to, my friend and I decided to reward ourselves with a nice lunch at Wagamama, which, back then, was still quite a hip chain of Asian fusion cuisine.

I’d eaten there a few times before, but my friend hadn’t, so I recommended a tasty stir fry, which she duly ordered. I can’t remember what I had, but I do remember that I only enjoyed the first two forkfuls of it because of what ensued.

The food arrived, looking all fresh, healthy and delicious. We started to tuck in.

“Oooooh! Yummmmmm!” My friend’s eyes grew wide and then closed slowly as she slipped into a trance of eating pleasure. “This is just the best tofu I have ever tasted in my whole damn life!”

My cardiac activity seized for a few seconds.

This was not tofu.

I had forgotten to tell her to substitute the chicken.

My friend had been a faithful vegetarian for the past quarter of a century. Until 40 seconds ago. How could I have made such a terrible mistake?

She clearly had no inkling that there was anything amiss. And why would she? After all, she was having lunch with no other than moi, a professional nutritionist attuned to people’s special dietary requirements.

I kept smiling as convincingly as I could muster while trying to make all the right food appreciation noises – no easy feat when your airways are constricting.

What was I to do?! My panicked monkey mind went into overdrive. Coming clean about my oversight and apologising profusely would probably be the right thing to do. But what good could possibly come of it? Lunch would be ruined, a good meal wasted. Right now, at least one of us was still enjoying it.

In fact, I’d never seen anyone take such delight in their food. For a fleeting moment, I wondered how someone, who went that gaga over some run-of-the-mill strips of chicken breast would react to a juicy slab of beef teriyaki or a soft-as-butter, slow-roasted lamb shank.

Nobody was being harmed here, I reasoned to myself. This was not a case of food allergy. (If anyone was experiencing all the symptoms of anaphylactic shock, it was me!) And the chicken had already been very dead for quite some time. I was, in fact, not only saving my friend’s stellar lunch experience, but also an animal from having given its life in vain. And it could have been worse – that could have been pork there on that plate. (My friend was not only vegetarian, but also Jewish.)

At this point, she turned to one of the servers who was rushing by, balancing several steaming bowls of ramen on his tray. “Hey, I just loooooove your tofu! So chewy! How do you get it to have a texture like that? Could I talk to the chef? I need that recipe!” (My friend was not only vegetarian and Jewish, but also American).

The bed of coals I was sitting on had just got hotter by another thousand degrees.

Coals

The waiter, a pimply young man on the minimum wage, flashed a flattered smile in my friend’s direction, but he did not – to my infinite relief! – relay her request for a personal audience to the chef, who was up to his armpits assembling meals for the lunchtime crowd.

After what seemed like an eternity, during which I remained hell-bent on engaging my friend in spurious conversation to draw her attention away from both the “tofu” and the wait staff, we finally cleared our plates.

“Hey, how about dessert?”, I asked, staring longingly at the door. “But not here, you know what these Asian places are like – crap sweets.” A blatant lie, at least where Wagamama is concerned. But I had no intention of prolonging this torture.

We paid and I leapt into the neon lit mall, which, at that moment, appeared to me as welcoming as a fragrant spring meadow populated by purring kittens. We headed straight for Millie’s Cookies. And never has a box of hydrogenated fat, sugar and food colouring washed down with coffee from a paper cup tasted so good.

Jane, if you’re reading this, I’m really, really sorry!

Last Minute Lyon

Procrastination is the road to perdition. The original plan was to spend a long weekend in Lisbon, but when it finally came down to booking the trip a mere five days before it was meant to happen, air fares had shot up to stupid levels. Pushed for time, my friend and I plonked for Lyon instead, courtesy of some very reasonably priced EasyJet flights. Neither of us had been to Lyon before, and I was kinda keen (and terrified at the same time) to practice my abysmal French.

I came to regret this snap decision the very next morning. That’s when I heard about the escalation of the strike situation in France. I had been  vaguely aware of some ongoing disputes to do with employees’ rights or something, but I’d not really been on the ball about the ramifications of this national crisis: oil refineries blocked off by burning barricades, a third of petrol stations out of fuel, public transport up the spout, air traffic controllers about to join the fray,  etc.

And into the disaster zone we go!

And off into the disaster zone we go!

**Spoiler alert: I fretted over nothing!**

In the end, we weren’t impacted by the strikes in any way whatsoever. Our trip turned out to have been very fortuitously timed, slotting in between two big bouts of industrial action.

Our only two complaints were the shitty hotel – our floor was stickier than a marshmallow factory – and the copious rain, but it was still a great weekend with lots of laughs and good food (except for a lunch involving gristly dry sausages – probably the only type of French food that a German can authoritatively criticise*).

Lyon is stunningly beautiful – I was agog whenever the curtain of rain parted, and everyone was really friendly and helpful. Even the staff of Marshmallow Towers.

The city stands at the confluence of two rivers and so there’s an infinite number of photogenic bridges:

Lyon Bridge

A shot of me taking the above shot

A shot of me taking the above shot

Lyon Bridge

 

Lyon view

Lyon views

Lyon Town Hall

Grafiti

Hinterhof

Penguins

Lyon has tons of cute cafés…

Lyon Café

Lyon Café

Lyon Café 1

 

Here's one where you can play any conceivable type of board game

No, it’s not a café with slot machines, but one where you can play any conceivable type of board game

Lyon Café

Flashy and with great ambience for sure, but a tad expensive. €23 for sausage and lentils? Forget it! In Spain, you can have that for a fiver. And the sausage will be up to scratch.

Lyon Café

Roses

It also seems to have been moving day in Lyon:

Got a shelf to move but no car? Just pop in on a skateboard!

Got a shelf to move but no car? Just pop in on a skateboard!

Kill two birds with one stone: Use mattress as rain shield

Kill two birds with one stone: Use mattress as a rain shield

Can you guess what's coming?!

Can anyone guess what’s coming up next?!

Yup. Cakes!!! What else?!?

Lyonese praline tart - fancy stuff!

Lyonese praline tart – fancy stuff!

...unfortunately, the one I tried wasn't all that great. Way too sweet and the pastry seemed to be made of bulletproof cardboard

Unfortunately, the one I tried wasn’t all that great. Way too sweet, and the pastry seemed to be made of bulletproof cardboard

Poached pear anyone? Now this one was absolutely delicious :)

Poached pear with gooey chocolate sauce anyone? Now this one was absolutely delicious 🙂

...but sometimes all you need is a crepe and a nice cup of tea :)

…and sometimes all you need is an apple sauce crêpe and a nice cup of tea 🙂

And some nice poppies to finish off :)

And some happy poppies to finish off.

So, did I get to practice my French? Well, yes, a little… with mixed success. I understood virtually all the written information I came across, which would have passed me by a year ago. Also, the mere attempt of communicating in French with wait staff etc was received very well. Some chose to switch to English or Spanish, but they did it in good cheer, since, I guess, we had at least tried to make an effort. I hope to do better next time 🙂

*Find my German sausage post here: Nothing separates a German from their sausage

Toledo Tapas Competition 2015 – Drool Alert…

Today is a sad day in Toledo. Today concludes the annual tapas competition, which had us devouring a wonderful array of delicacies conjured up by the town’s bars and restaurants. Here is a small testimony to our greediness devotion over the past three weeks:

Mini curry burgers. Can't go wrong with that...

Our first tapa consumed on 5 November, the day the contest kicked off: Mini curry burgers. Can’t go much wrong with these.

Smoked beef on toast, with sobrasada (a kind of smoked meat spread) and brie. Really strong flavours, but it worked surprisingly well.

Wafer-thin slices of smoked beef on toast, with sobrasada (a kind of smoked meat spread) and brie. A brave combo of some really strong flavours, but it worked surprisingly well.

Salmon with guacamole and lemon mousse. Looks great, but didn't work. The lemon flavour totally overpowered the whole thing.

Salmon with guacamole and lemon mousse. Looks tasty, but, sadly, it was a fail. The salmon was tender but insipid, and the lemon flavour totally overpowered the whole ensemble.

Tuna marinated in soy sauce with peach alioli. Totally delicious.

Tuna marinated in soy sauce with peach alioli. Totally delicious.

I cannot translate this one. Nor can I describe it. It contained the following: deer, shitake mushrooms, apricot, gnocchi, potato. And it tasted weird. But good-weird. Could have eaten it again. And again.

I cannot translate this one. Nor can I adequately describe it. It contained the following: venison, shitake mushrooms, apricot, gnocchi, potato, cream. And it tasted weird. But good-weird. Could have eaten it again. And again. Top marks for creativity and presentation.

Octopus and potato. Very Galician, and tasted just as expected. Perfectly acceptable, but nothing to write home about.

Octopus and potato “lasagne”. There was nothing lasagne about it, it was merely a fancy presentation of a Galician staple, pulpo gallego (which I love). Perfectly acceptable, but nothing to write home about.

A very traditional Manchego affair: Pork medallion with potato, onion and a dollop of creamy mushroom sauce. Totally delish.

A very traditional Manchego affair: Pork medallion with potato, crispy leek and a drizzle of creamy mushroom sauce. Simple, hearty and satisfying. A winner.

Taken on our walk between bars: The sun catching the Christmas lights, with Toledo cathedral in the background.

I managed to take this yesterday while swaying from one bar to the next: The sun catching the newly suspended Christmas lights, with Toledo cathedral in the background.

You know me - it had to end like this! Oh my, that red berry cake was to die for...

How predictable am I… it HAD TO end like this, didn’t it?! Oh my, that red berry cake was to die for. First visit to a new cafe, but definitely not the last 😉

So, although TapaMania may be over for this year, there’s one thought that consoles me greatly: Toledo was recently voted Spain’s Capital of Gastronomy 2016 – I just can’t wait for the New Year!!!

Tapas On A Winning Streak!

All good things must come to an end, as did Toledo’s annual tapas competition, which drew to a close last Sunday. For the entire month of November, local bars and restaurants had been showcasing a new breed of extravagant tapas, specially created for this year’s contest. (Yes, there were voting slips, prize draws and stuff!)

I have no idea how many different creations I tried throughout my innumerable outings,  as there were A LOT of participants this year. Anyway, here are some of the highlights:

Botero

Pork balls. Very satisfying 🙂

Alfonso VI

Sliver of fried pork with sauteed vegetables on bread, topped with raisin sauce. Looked better than it tasted, was our combined verdict.

Gulas

Puff pastry filled with seafood. The white stringy things, in case you’re wondering, are baby eels (gulas). These are very popular on tapas, and can take a bit of getting used to.

Lamb burger

One of my absolute faves: lamb topped with caramelised onion and manchego cheese, served  on a curry bun

Pulpo

Octopus with cauliflower mousse and coffee vinaigrette. This place has a knack for the outlandish, and it usually works, but this time, it didn’t. It really didn’t. Pretty to look at, though.

Cheese tapa

Now, what could go wrong with a tapa entirely consisting of cheese? I tell you what: Absolutely nothing. Gimme more!

Foie gras oreo

Foie gras “Oreos” filled with manchego mousse

Foie gras truffle

More foie, this time in the shape of a truffle. You were meant to mix it with the bread crumbs. Interesting concept, but it was a bit like eating lard mixed with sand.

Beef stew

A dollop of beef stew on sliced potato. Simple and delicious.

Rabbit

Rabbit, fancily “rolled up” and drizzled with chestnut compote. Divine! This may have been my overall favourite.

Tapas2

I’m the only one with her eyes trained on the food rather than on the camera… typical!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Beer!

Well, not quite… but it got your attention, didn’t it? 😉

Toledo has a brewery that makes Domus, aka “La Cerveza De Toledo”, whose proud history goes all the way back to … erm… 2007. (Sorry, this is my Bavarian heritage scoffing here…). BUT, I have to admit, the stuff ain’t half bad.

On Friday, Carmen alerted me to the fact that they were running a two-week promotion: two bottles of the brew and one ‘special’ tapa, featuring Domus as an ingredient, for a fiver, with 27 local restaurants/bars participating.

So, today we went off to investigate.

Mussels

These mussels in creamy sauce were divine…

chicken wings

Chicken wings with caramelised onions. Lovely 🙂

We scoffed more than just those, but the pics didn’t turn out so well. One of us – either my camera or I – was struggling to focus…

We may have to do this again next week.

Thai Food And A Dirty Selfie

On Friday, my friend Maria and I sacrificed yet another perfectly good working day on the altar of freelance rebellion. We went AWOL in Madrid, which entailed some glorious food, a thought-provoking exhibition of photographs taken in 1960’s Barcelona by the legendary Eugeni Forcano, and a peruse of the latest scriptures laid out in The Temple (aka Casa Del Libro, a massive bookshop).

Let’s ogle the food. (I could eat it all over again right now…!) Maria chose a Thai restaurant called Thaidy, where we had a great three-course lunch for a mere €12.50 each.

Thai green curry and basil & chili beef

The basil and chilli beef was seriously hot – but that’s what we asked for, and we loved it! The green curry had just a tad too much salt, but it was still enjoyable.

Thai Starter

The starters – fresh and tasty 🙂

Madrid Street

Dirty Selfie

Those doors are in desperate need of a good clean! As are my own windows at home… erm…

Fürstenfeld Abbey… and more CAKE!

Fürstenfeldbruck, where I was born when bushy beards and flouncy flares were in fashion all at the same time, has its small town charms, but it’s definitely not a tourist town. There’s nothing to see. Except for this: Fürstenfeld Abbey.

The story, served up in twitterian brevity: In 1256, some Bavarian Duke executed his wife for adultery. Then it turned out she didn’t do it. Oooops. Too late to fix it with flowers, so he built a massive monastery instead.

Usually, the portals to the Abbey’s church are shut, or they only let you in as far as the iron-wrought interior gates, but, much to my delight, this time, the church was open to all. As you’ll see, it’s really quite… overwhelming. There’s not a square inch that hasn’t got stucco/gold leaf/a fat angel clinging to it.

The BEST thing about this place, though, is the restaurant. The food is (and always has been) absolutely fabulous, and it’s very reasonably priced.

Fürstenfeld Abbey Church, ExteriorFürstenfeld Abbey 4Fürstenfeld Abbey 3Fürstenfeld Abbey 2OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFürstenfeld Abbey Wrought IronOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And this was my lunch:

Fleischpflanzerl

Delicious veal rissoles smothered in pepper sauce with spätzle (tiny flour ‘dumplings’ that are kind of like pasta). It was really quite picante, and I loved every bite!

Zwetschgendatschi

Zwetschgendatschi – very traditional and seasonal. The plums are quartered and arranged on a yeast dough base, which isn’t actually sweet, and which really brings out the flavour of the fruit.

If you’d like to see a handful of pictures of my birth town, click here. There’s ice cream! 😉