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Critique/revise my rough Italy itinerary (Rome/Florence/Venice)

For New Year Day in Venice,
There might be a couple exceptions but most of the bacari and osterie/trattorie with front cecchetti bars mentioned on this board will be closed. Places that are opened are mostly around the tourist/high traffic areas: San Marco, Strada Nuova, Campo Santa Margherita/San Pantelon, Campo Bella Viena near the Rialto market. My advice is just to find a place opened where you will be strolling; can't be too picky. In the meantime, give a short list to your hotel desk and ask them to check what is open that day. Nothing is firm when it comes to Venice.
Popular cicchetti eating will be on New Years Eve, therefore, if you have dinner plan that night, do the crawl during midday. Those around the Rialto market will be great and the market itself will be mob before it close for business at noon.

Dec 16, 2014
PBSF in Italy
1

Foods unique to France to buy in Paris?

For Bonne Maman preserve, we bring back rhubarb and mirabelle from their inexpensive regular line. We prefer our jam on the sweet side. If you are flying, preserves and jam are not allowed in carry-on bags.

Dec 16, 2014
PBSF in France

Critique/revise my rough Italy itinerary (Rome/Florence/Venice)

For Venice: finding a good trattoria/osteria open on New Year's Day will be difficult. It is a day that only visitors eat out. If you have the patience, you might just as well email or telephone what is on your list to check for sure. Better if you are staying in a hotel, give the list to the front desk ahead and ask them to telephone for you. My advice is just make that it a 'no reservation day' and eat simply. There will be places open around the main tourist areas: San Marco (Aciugheta is always open and reliable, Florian is open for midday, Quadri, operated by the Le Calandre group will have a bar menu); around Campo Santa Stefano and Strada Nuova are also good areas. This might be a good time to see what Harry's Bar is all about: order a Bellini, carpaccio and munch on grissini on the ground floor bar/table. I wouldn't eat their upstair dining rooms. Since there is always an afternoon performance at La Fenice on New Year's Day, the nearby Vino Vino is probably open. To get the lively vibe for that day, eat early or it will probably be deserted later on the evening.
Since you have reservation for Antiche Carampane, finding a place to eat for your other day shouldn't be a problem. Many good suggestions on this thread as well others earlier posts on this board. If you are looking for traditional Venetian cooking, my choice would be Vini da Gigio or Fiaschetteria Toscana. The former is more of a trattoria, latter borders on 'fine dining. FT has a great selection of seafood antipasti and Vini has more non-seafood choices, especially good non-seafood secondi. Just a comment on an earlier post for Anice Stellato, it is not 'fine dining' but a very good simple trattoria.

Dec 05, 2014
PBSF in Italy
1

What's up with Acme? [San Francisco]

I've never inquired about their ingredients for their pain de mie. Most recipes for that bread has sugar to to make it slightly sweet. I do taste sweetnest in their pain de mie.

Nov 27, 2014
PBSF in San Francisco Bay Area

What's up with Acme? [San Francisco]

The pain de mie from their Ferry Plaza location has been baked in open loaf pans for at least the past three years. I find their pain de mie much too airy and sponge like and expensive for what it is. For sandwiches and about $1.50 less, I like their sweet rustic loaf. It has a denser crumb and slice beautifully. The sweet batard is the same dough as their sweet rustic baguette. Besides the difference in crumb, it is less sweet than the pain de mie. I buy bread there several times a week and have not come across the 'long' or 'giant' loaf.
I haven't found any recent decline in quality; generally very good for what they charge for their breads.

Nov 26, 2014
PBSF in San Francisco Bay Area

Da Roberto

You have nothing to redeem, except a good story and a wonderful report. I posted because I was puzzled: who would ever care on this board if Da Roberto was closed for maintenance and that if you meant da Alberto, we were at their front bar a week ago. Anyway, it turned out well with Fiaschetteria Toscana. Glad you enjoyed your cicchetti tour and Osteria Alla Ciurma. You got the royal treatment.
Now you got me curious about the noodle take away place. Interesting if it is Asian inspire noodle rather than Italian pasta. If you can recall approximately the route from Da Roberto to FT, it would be helpful. We don't set foot around San Marco much.

Nov 05, 2014
PBSF in Italy

Venice- New Year's Eve

Sorry, I haven't been. There was a post couple months ago on this board. Just type in CoVino on the top left "search" box and see what comes up.

Nov 04, 2014
PBSF in Italy

Disappointed in L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon (Sainte Germaine)

Golden Chopsticks, where can I get a pair?

Nov 04, 2014
PBSF in France
1

Da Roberto

Are you referring to Trattoria Da Roberto, a pizzeria east of Piazza San Marco. it never gets mention on this board.

Nov 04, 2014
PBSF in Italy

Disappointed in L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon (Sainte Germaine)

How and who ranked L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon around #200 among French restaurants in Tokyo (of about 2500)? There are 2500 French restaurants in the city?

Nov 04, 2014
PBSF in France
1

Venice- New Year's Eve

Venice, tourist or not, is like any popular city on NYEve. Just about all the better place will offer a special NYEve menu and raise their prices. The simple osterie may not offer a special menu or raise their prices but they will packed the dining room. Those are the best bet if you don't want to spend 200e per person. It is the worst evening to dine out not just the expense, but also a higher chance of getting less than good food and service. The link below is a recent post on this topic; too bad that not more people post their experience. Venice dining scene has not changed much in the past few years, therefore, older posts are not outdated. If there are places that interest you, might post on this thread to check if those are still good or not. As for reservation, better places such as Al Covo, Antiche Carampane, etc, sooner is better. The simple osterie probably won't take your reservation this far in advance.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/992701

Nov 03, 2014
PBSF in Italy

Disappointed in L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon (Sainte Germaine)

"No amuse bouche, which I found odd, as I've had them at other fine-dining restaurants in France"
I think you were disappointed mainly because the restaurant did not meet your expectation of 'fine-dining'. Robuchon's intent was to open a number of L'Ateliers, using a single blue print. It was to be informal, small plates (served in no particular order), bar seating with a no-reservation policy. I have only eaten at the St. Germain outpost when it first opened and it adhere to the above, including no amuse bouche, no pre-dessert, no petits fours or mignardises. Then, the menu was only a la carte with about 15 small plates and 4 large plates. Shortly after, Michelin awarded the restaurant a star, then a second, subsequently, a second L'Atelier opened in Paris with Michelin 2 stars. Michelin 2 star in Paris pretty much denote 'fine-dining', but L'Atelier does not conform to that.
"All-in-all, my four courses were probably served in an hour and a bit more. Then it took 45 minutes for the rest of the meal -- the wait for dessert, then the wine and coffee."
My experience with restaurant dining in Paris is that, after ordering, the entre and plat are served without a long pause. Then it slows down, a times to a crawl, with cheese, dessert, coffee, etc. The first two plates may take 40 minutes, but we rarely get out in less than two hours.

Nov 02, 2014
PBSF in France

Places to try in Milan / Venice

In order to get some valid recommendations, you need to be more specific than "awesome food, or open to anything, or no restrictions". What is your budget? how much time you allow your meal, the ambience, For one day you also need to be specific as to what day of the week (restaurants close on certain days), the time in the evening you have to leave Milan for Venice. From reading your post, you will be in Milan for less than a day; what part of the city will you be in, how long it will take you from the airport, and will you have luggage. Same for Venice as eating places have specific times that they serve lunch and dinner and it might not fit your traveling schedule.

Oct 30, 2014
PBSF in Italy

Le Cinq or Guy Savoy?

Comparing high end Michelin star restaurants is useless. Each of these restaurants offers an unique experience. It comes down to personal preference and expectation. This board is a wealth of great information but when it comes to high-end dining, there are better sites that have in depth write ups. Most of the posts on this board are too brief to be useful. If someone plainly picked one over the other, does that make it the better choice for you? Le Squer was cooking excellent food at Ledoyen, therefore, why the sudden interest when he moved to Le Cinq. If he branch out on his own and open a 30 seat restaurant, then I'll be interested.

Oct 29, 2014
PBSF in France
2

Is La Mere Brazier in Lyon still worth a try for lunch?

Wait for black truffle season.

Oct 27, 2014
PBSF in France

Favourite pintxos places in Barcelona right now?!

Unlike pintxo places in the Basque, Barcelona pintxo bars basically serve the same simple items, mostly food served on a pick or on slices of bread. From my recent visits, I don't know if anything very special openings. Couple of 'oldies' that I like are in Eixample: Takitka Berri and Maitea. I wouldn't make a special trip for either one. In the Gotic, might try Bilbao Berria. Sagardi and Euskal Etxea are both part of the Groupo Sagardi with basically the same food. I do like ambience at Euskal Etxea much better and they seem to take more care of the counter. Sagardi el Born can be great for people watching on the Placa de Jacint Reventos.
If you are looking for newer places that serve tapas: Suculent, Llamber, Bohemic, La Palma, El Canota (seafood only), Saboc. All are either in the old city or Eixample. An 'oldie' that I like is Gata Mala up in Gracia, a bit far.

Oct 27, 2014
PBSF in Spain/Portugal

Christmas Dinner in Rome

I believe eating seafood on Christmas Eve has been an Italian tradition and the Southern Italians/Sicilians brought that tradition to America. They may have named it Feast of the Seven Fishes. A few years ago, we spent the holiday with a family in Rome. They served a multi seafood feast, more than seven courses, including the traditional spaghetti alle alici, eel, bake seabass, steamed clams, stuff squids, etc. We've spent the holidays in Venice and for Christmas eve, we always had an all seafood dinner with our Venetian friends. A number of trattoria in Venice do a Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. True that most of the diners are visitors as families celebrate at home. Hope others on this board can make some recommendations for the OP.

Oct 27, 2014
PBSF in Italy

Four days Rome, four days Venice

If you referring to do Spade and Osteria Diavolo e L'Aquasanta:
No on both, because I don't eat cicchetti for dinner.
Do Spade: don't even know what they serve at dinner. I like it midday because the Rialto market is full of activity.
Osteria Diavolo e L'Aquasanta is a osteria with a cicchetti bar. Food wise, there are better osterie.

Oct 27, 2014
PBSF in Italy

Four days Rome, four days Venice

A misspelling on the name of an osteria in my above post on Venice: Osteria Disvolo e L'Aquasanta should be Osteria Diavolo e L'Acquasanta.

Oct 27, 2014
PBSF in Italy

"Tip and Tax not included." A new trick on visitors unfamiliar with Paris restaurants?

1. You are not yet too senile; there is a proposition in the San Francisco Ballot to raise the minimum wage. The proposition is to implement increment increases each year from the $11.02 starting Jan 2015 to $15.00 per hour by July 2018, after that, to peg yearly increases to inflate rate.

2. As I stated, the San Francisco Health Reform law is complicated as is written and as you stated, has loopholes. Parts of the compliancy is still being audited by City Attorney's Office.

3. I agree that the many higher end restaurants have to pay their kitchen employees more than the minimum. Part of it is to retain their staff because there is an alarming shortage of good skill cooks in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more than 20 years, I worked in the kitchen of more or less high-end restaurants in San Francisco from line cooking to running a kitchen. There have periods of economic up and downs and right now employees have some leverage. The upper-mid-level restaurants employe only a small percentage of workers. A larger percentage work in many smaller, everyday eateries and fast food chains which most are pay the minimum hourly wage. The main objective of the restaurant owners who are substituting the 'surcharge' for 'tip' is to be able compensate the kitchen staff who despite being paid above the minimum hourly wage makes much less than a good mid-upper end restaurant server. The number of restaurants doing this are few and all are in the more upper-end places. They include Saison, Chez Panisse (one of the first), The French Laundry. No small simple eatery is doing this.

4 True that many restaurants depend on visitors and conventioneers for their business. But much of the recent restaurant boom have been fueled mostly by influx of people moving to the Bay Area to work at the high tech companies.

I don't think we have much disagreement. What my post was to try to provide a short answer to an earlier post about what the restaurants which implemented a percentage surcharge rather than leaving the tipping to the customer do with the money collected from the 'surcharge'.

Oct 26, 2014
PBSF in France

Four days Rome, four days Venice

For ciccheti eating, if you are around the Rialto market during lunch or pre-lunch, nearby is do Spade with very good cicchetti, lots of atmosphere with tables and chair. It even has a menu, rare for a bacaro. Also good nearby is the front roomy bar area of Osteria Disvolo e L'Aquasanta, not too crowded and the friendly owner won't mind if your family sit at a nearby table. Children can be a great asset in so many ways. Neither are overly crowded even at lunch hours. The other bacari around Rialto area are standup only.
Near your apartment, just right off Campo Santo Stefano is Trattoria da Fiore's bacaro and down the block is Osteria alle Botteghe with a cicchetti bar (on the calle with the same name). The food at the latter is decent but full of atmosphere. With children, convenient trumps many things.
December/January is cold in Venice but regardless, children are oblivious when it comes to gelato. Gelaterie are all over Venice. Good ones are Mela Verde, del Doge, Le Squero, del Corso, couple of Grom. Venchi for chocolate flavor, all in high traffic areas. Except the last two, it is usually 1.2 euro for a big scoop. The last time we were in Venice during the holidays which was 4 years ago, we had friends with children visiting and gelato was a daily ritual.

Oct 26, 2014
PBSF in Italy

"Tip and Tax not included." A new trick on visitors unfamiliar with Paris restaurants?

San Francisco has a minimum wage law that is above that of the state of California, currently $10.74/hour and $11.03 in 2015. That applies to restaurant servers and any tip or surcharge are not part of the minimum wage. There have been attempts by the big restaurant trade association (comprise mainly of owners) to exempt servers from this minimum wage law because of their tips. Instead of tipping, a few restaurants are adding a 'surcharge'. Since tips are mainly doled out between front of the house personnels, some owners feel that there is a inequality between front and back of the house. The 'surcharge' is to be divided with the kitchen staff. Most of the kitchen staff make just the minimum wage or slightly above.
As for benefits, a health insurance benefit was enacted to offer health benefits to employees. As with much of health care legislation in the US, arcane and totally complicated that requires a 500 page thesis. As for other benefits, nil as before. Except those in some large chain hotels, restaurant employees are not unionized.

Oct 26, 2014
PBSF in France

Four days Rome, four days Venice

Normally, evening starts 6:30pm. For NY Eve, it is a good bet that they will be open through the entire day. The cicchetti bar has no seating and it will be very crowded. Same for any popular bacaro on that evening. Not the best evening with children. A suggestion is maybe go there when they just open for lunch service, order a couple of cicchetti and ombré (house wine, less than 1 euro per glass). If it isn't too crowded, there is a good chance that they will offer your children a couple of chairs (no table, can't have everything). Stay if your family is comfortable. If not, there are a lot of eating places around Strada Nuova. The best is La Cantina, down the block on Strada Nuova. Take a table and share one or two platters of food. They usually have three or four: seafood, cured meat, cheese, misto. Not cheap, 20-25e each, but excellent ingredients.
Alternatively, if you prefer eating out that evening, check ahead if ai Promessi Sposi or alla Vedova is serving their regular menu that evening, if not, what is their menu and the cost. Make a reservation if it suits you. They speak some English. Do this early, maybe the middle of Dec. Eat early to leave plenty of time to get to San Marco for the firework. There will be a crowd trying to get there. There are other spots but The Piazza is the most iconic.

Oct 25, 2014
PBSF in Italy

Four days Rome, four days Venice

When I read that line, i didn't take it literally but as their commitment to freshness. It is impractical for any restaurant to operate without refrigeration. All need to carry over what they didn't sell to the next day. They can't stay in business if they start each day only with food they procured that morning.

Oct 25, 2014
PBSF in Italy

"Tip and Tax not included." A new trick on visitors unfamiliar with Paris restaurants?

Out of curiosity, how can you tell that young wait staff at Ze Kitchen, Chateaubriand and Le Bat are not mostly career servers? I've found that in Paris, servers come in all ages. Being a server is a legitimate career in France and many start young. That is beginning to be true for restaurants in the States and I am sure you've notice that dining out. Working in restaurant is no longer a look down upon career. Being a server in good restaurants requires a lot of skills.

Oct 24, 2014
PBSF in France
2

Budget dining in Paris?

Just to elaborate on Mangeur's post, Lebovitz's blog is always about an American expat living in Paris. After 10 years, he is still an expat, learning to deal with the complexity of Parisian daily life, some humorous, some exasperating. He never intend to come across as an expert of any sort. He writes about his experiences as an expat, what he love about Paris and what he missed not living in America, the differences between the two. His writings on restaurants are not reviews, more of a musing of a place that he enjoyed. There will be people who will read his blog and take it as gospel. It is another case of not reading between the lines and know where the blogger is coming from.

Four days Rome, four days Venice

Agree with mbfant that the two speciies are very close in taste and also texture, with the size of veraci being a little bigger (we are talking about mm). With me, if I am buying at the Rialto, veraci. If I am at a restaurant, I wouldn't quibble. But once you see the meat, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing which you are eating. If you are checking out the Pescheria, take a look at the shells of both and you will see a difference. Both are packed in bags and the veraci are always label so.
A side note; even if you are not buying, the Pescheria is very entertaining for children. They are fascinated by all the different creatures with their heads, tails, shells, etc.

Oct 24, 2014
PBSF in Italy

"Tip and Tax not included." A new trick on visitors unfamiliar with Paris restaurants?

I think this post has morphed into two separate but related issues:
1. The issues of leaving extra 'tip'. This topic pops up periodically and the conversation always takes the same path. Americans feel bad or is insecure not leaving a tip whereas locals object to that. There is somewhat of an agreement that 'service; is included in the price/bill' and not much extra is necessary. Doing so leads to all sorts of other issues. It is not necessary to rehash this every 6 months. Just get with the program and follow what locals do or continue to leave the extra 10% or whatever to alleviate the guilt and insecurity. We are familiar with deja vu on this board. We are just wasting time.
2. The issued that the OP brought up is that there appear to be cases in Paris where there is a written message on the bottom of the check that states 'Tip and Tax not included". Is this a new trend? some change in the law? a conspiracy? No, that statement is false and twisted and is a trick to get unsuspected visitors to leave an extra amount. The word 'tip' rather 'service' is used to skirt around the issue. Strictly speaking, it is correct that 'tip' is not included but it is irrelevant. Now, the 'tax' part is a total confusion. I don't know how many visitors actually know what the VAT on restaurant is, therefore, what percentage more do they have to pony up. This second part is fraud because tax IS included. This is a bad trend, fleecing the tourist.
Back then in France, occasionally I would see 'service non-comprise, 12% (15%) en sus" printed on bottom of a menu. That percentage will be added to the bill. Pay that amount and no need to leave anything else. So far, I have not seen a menu or a bill stating 'tip and tax' not included in Paris. Maybe I should be looking more carefully. I posted above of my view and experience on this topic in Venice.
Thanks, everyone. I need to get this off my chest.

Oct 23, 2014
PBSF in France

Les Bouqinistes

Les Bouquinistes (before it was called Les Bookinistes) when first opened was a Guy Savoy offshoot with William Ledeuil running the kitchen. He has since moved over next door to Ze Kitchen Gallery. My impression is that very few locals on this board has eaten there since, therefore, very few mentionings. Also when it first opened, it had a good value 3 course formula and as you stated, good location. Patricia Wells, a big Guy Savoy fan, gave it a big plug hence, drawing a lot of Americans. I ate there then and enjoyed it. Since, the price has gone way up and even if the quality is still good, it is no longer good value compare to many newer bistrots, etc.

Oct 23, 2014
PBSF in France

Four days Rome, four days Venice

Though both the veraci and the Asian import are cultivated in the Venetian lagoon and beyond, I do as Venetians do and use the vongole veraci. We call the Asian import, Manilla clams in the States and I like them very much also. Both are pretty much available all year and not too much difference in price at the Rialto; the veraci around 8-9 euros for a kilo. Half a kilo a good amount for spaghetti alle vongole for two. Signor Benelli's description of the two varieties is right on.

Oct 23, 2014
PBSF in Italy