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r.vacapinta's Profile

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Say goodbye to Gessler at Daquise! [London]

A shame. It was a wonderful place with great food. I always meant to go back and have their steak tartare after limster's recommendation.

Now, I suppose I'll have to go to their place in Warsaw.

May 07, 2013
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Two Days in Bath with Kids

Thanks PhilD. It looks like I was a bit unclear. Society Cafe has great coffee and good sandwiches. Boston Tea Party merely has good sandwiches.

For better sandwiches, Chandos Deli, as has been mentioned. I also like Sam's Kitchen and Deli on Walcot St. but unfortunately every time I go there its extremely crowded and hard to find a table.

Mar 21, 2013
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Two Days in Bath with Kids

For a sandwich lunch, head to Kingsmead Square which is near the touristy centre so its an easy stop.

The Society Cafe rivals Colonna and Smalls for best coffee in Bath and also serves sandwiches. If they're too busy, the large Boston Tea Party cafe on the same square also serves decent sandwiches.

Mar 20, 2013
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Lords of the Manor, Upper Slaughter - or somewhere else?

So, yes, we were there Tuesday and we both loved it. It wasn't perfect but it had more hits than misses.

I have to say the meal was very relaxing. You start in the lounge with canapes - small crackers with goat cheese and truffles. While you order a drink, they also bring the menu and the wine list. Afterwards, you are taken into the dining room to start your meal.

My wife wasn't up to the tasting menu so we both ordered a la carte. I got scallops (Isle of Skye, marmalade) and Beef (Smoked, Dry-Aged with Braised Rib, Onion Gel). She got Foie Gras (Ballotine) and Rabbit (wrapped in Parma ham, pistachios).

We both made a mistake with our starters. My scallops were a bit dry and its past scallop season. Her foie gras wasn't as rich as you would hope/expect it to be. Its a lazy choice but she loves her foie gras.

The mains more than made up for it. My beef was juicy, tender, perfectly cooked. The sauces were subtle and perfectly complementary. She adored her rabbit. It was clearly slow-cooked until it was fall-apart tender.

The desserts were complex and satisfying as well. Very un-traditional. More of a mix of flavors. Hers was Yorkshire rhubarb, egg custard tart, cinammon panna cotta and bayleaf sorbet.

Finally we took our coffee and petit-fours back in the lounge. This is nice as it creates the feeling that you can remain there the whole evening if you like.

The evening came to 7 courses (canapes, appetizer, first course, Main, pre-dessert, Dessert, Coffee and petit-fours) and thats because we skipped the cheese course! We enjoyed and would definitely go back. Their strength is clearly their locally sourced ingredients as they proudly list their suppliers on the menu. Since the foie was from France and the Scallops were from Skye, I think the secret to the menu would be to stay more local and focus on game/meats/cheeses/poultry. A good mix of the traditional and the creative here. We'll definitely return.

Feb 21, 2013
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Berlin itinerary review & help filling gaps

We went to Hasir Kreuzberg on Adalbertstra├če. Yes, the service was really lacklustre. And a bit over-priced. But tasty nonetheless.

It might be worth adding a note to future readers about Mercan. It works a bit differently than most restaurants. As soon as you walk in there are anywhere from 5-15 plates of fresh cooked food on the left. You tell them what you want and then go find a table and wait for them to bring it to you. For a fixed price of 6 euros, you get to choose a dish as a Main. You also get a plate of rice, a side salad and a generous serving of bread. Very filling for 6 euros. (Drinks are extra)
We learned its also best to come early (soon after 6pm for dinner) as they only make so much food and so the later you come the less choice you have (plus, the "best" dishes will disappear earlier)

Feb 18, 2013
r.vacapinta in Europe

Berlin itinerary review & help filling gaps

Just a bit to add on Hasir and Mercan.

We were in Berlin last month and went to both. I do have to say that the quality of the food at Hasir is very high. Much tastier than Mercan. We did sit down and the lamb kebab was really one of the better ones I have ever had.

That said, I also agree that Mercan is amazing value for money. If I lived in Berlin, I'd be at Mercan at least once a week. It is very much like being invited into a Turkish family's home. Generous servings. Honest food.

I find it hard to compare the two places. I rather think they complement each other.

Feb 18, 2013
r.vacapinta in Europe

Best Lisbon restuarants

Ginjinhas are nice but I prefer the Eduardino sold at a little door in Rua das Portas de Santo Antao. Like the ginjinha, you buy a shot and drink it right on the spot. The Eduradinho is sweet, not so bitter, with a flavor of aniseed.

Feb 18, 2013
r.vacapinta in Spain/Portugal

Lords of the Manor, Upper Slaughter - or somewhere else?

Coincidentally, I'm heading to Lords of the Manor on Tuesday for the first time. For similar reasons. It is our 5th wedding anniversary and Mrs. vacapinta was charmed by the look of it when we stopped there briefly once and she's excited by the menu. I'll try and report back.

I've also heard mixed reviews but I've seen no recent reviews by anyone I trust. So, why not try it? It's the chowhound way I think to go and form our opinions first-hand.

Feb 13, 2013
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Lolo - FINALLY [San Francisco]

Lolo has been around a while. I do recall eating there years ago and, although I thought the place was cute and colorful and lively, I thought the food was only ok.

We went back to Lolo this week and it far exceeded my expectations. The food was simply delicious. The best dish for us was undoubtedly the Wonton Ravioli with Huitlacoche and Requeson. Smooth and buttery and rich.
The Tuna tacon was also a really pleasant mix of flavors. The guacamole was perfect and I loved the blue corn chips.
The Chicken Confit tostadas were wonderfully creamy.

We had a great meal there this week. Much better than other much more expensive meals where we had greater expectations. Even if you have been here in the past, its definitely worth a return visit.

Canteen - A study of contrasts [San Francisco]

I am on Canteen's mailing list and just received this:

For the remainder of the year Canteen is serving a sequence of
Prix-Fixe dinners - 100 of them - all based on Robert Courtine's 1971
book "The Hundred Glories of French Cuisine". Dinners will be four
courses (excepting Tuesdays), with two seatings: 6 and 8pm.

Central London - asking the impossible?

Bocca di Lupo is a fine choice food and price-wise but I would hesitate to say that it is not terribly noisy and crowded. It is a small space with bare walls and the open kitchen contributes a lot to the noise as well.

Oct 29, 2012
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Dish of the month

1. Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham - Breast of wood pigeon. So tender you can cut it with a butter knife. The rest of the Chef's menu is delicious too but the wood pigeon was for me a revelation.

2. Fat Toni's Pizza, Stroud - Wild mushroom pizza on D'Ischia Sourdough Base. This is a new place opened up by the former Sous chef at Calcot manor along with his brother and their father who hails from Tuscany. Authentic with great ingredients. Much better than Franco Manca in London.

Oct 29, 2012
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Skirt Steak

Any Mexican meat market will have it. It is the cut used to make Carne Asada. My folks in Encinitas usually buy it at El Nopalito.

Oct 28, 2012
r.vacapinta in San Diego

Mexican food - London/Essex

I'm with JFores on this one. BP is just horrible. I wanted to like them but the stuff is bland and low-quality. He wouldn't stand a chance in any place within a couple thousand miles of Mexico.

For what its worth, my family is Mexican.

Oct 25, 2012
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Canteen - A study of contrasts [San Francisco]

Where are you seeing that its only prix fixe after Nov 5?

Their current web page says prix fixe on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Noma - An unforgettable meal

Yes, wonderful report. We were there last year and I remember a lot of these dishes.

One thing you point out which I see rarely mentioned is the juice paring. When we were there, most other tables had a wine pairing. But I was recovering from an illness and couldn't drink. So they offered us the juice pairing instead. And really glad we did. It was well thought out and the juices were incredible. From my notes, I remember loving the Apple & Pinetree juice, the Seabuckthorn juice and the Pear & Verbena.
I'd recommend even to those who can drink wine because it is such a unique experience.

Oct 18, 2012
r.vacapinta in Europe

Trip Report

I've been eating regularly at Canteen almost since it first opened. This past April we had what I consider the first mediocre meal there in years and years.

What I noticed is that Denis Leary was nowhere to be seen. I'm used to seeing him, with his intense look of concentration, darting back and forth and so I noticed his absence this time. I wonder if he was there the night that soccermom13 went.

Tarn and Tarn et Garonne mini-report: L'Epicurien, La Falaise, L'Ancienne Auberge

My trip report is even shorter on restaurants so I'll add it here. This despite us covering the area from Quercy to Toulouse to the Ger and including west to Cahors and Moissac and east to Conques. So, the Tarn and a bit of the Aveyron.

The reason the trip report is so short is that this region seems to be about eating food where you find it, which is everywhere.

We stayed at the Domain de Bel Air in the Quercy and we ate dinner there every night. Its an old farmhouse run by a French man named Sebastien. He loves the area and he loves food so every dinner was preceded by and pleasantly interrupted by him giving us a small discourse on what we were eating and drinking. All local stuff. (All the guests were French, us two being the only outsiders -though we both speak French). A Foie gras mi cuit starter and then a few more courses of produce and game. This is where I first fell in love with Croustilot bread. That is some amazing bread. And each dinner finished with an enormous cheese plate. The obligatory Rocamadour and Cabecou were there along with other cheeses from the region, local honey, etc. With dinners like these, there was no reason to go to restaurants.

We did enjoy our lunch at Auberge St. Jacques in Conques. What a beautiful town. Their aligot was a standout here.

We did picnics wherever we went. Picking up some horse meat, for example, at the Moissac Saturday market, and bread and cheese and wine and melon. Not a huge fan of the Quercy melon, I must say, even though it was everywhere.

Vilage feast signs were everywhere but we never actually (regrettably) made it to one. We were sorry we couldn't stay for a large outdoor roast in Martel but we had just had a huge dinner. Next time.

Our stay in Gers continued the tradition of buying and eating. We had a gite there and would go out driving, buying food and cooking it at home. So we had multi-course feasts, almost always with mi cuit as a starter and either a Bordeaux or Cahors wine.

We did make it to the Samatan foie gras market on Monday. It wasn't enormous it being July. But we did enjoy buying raw foie gras (ridiculously cheap) and taking it back home and trying to prepare and cook it at home. The neighboring livestock market is something to see too. Full of kids selling their chickens or goats, people carrying boxes of live geese.

We had a wonderful vacation, full of incredible food and incredible sights (Churches, Art, Pech Merle, countryside, gorges...) We'll be back and perhaps next time we'll try some restaurants too!

Oct 02, 2012
r.vacapinta in France

October trip to Lisbon and small towns - Guincho, Nazare, Batalha, Tomar and Evora

Between Tomar and Batalha my wife recommends Tia Alice in Fatima (yes, Fatima) and particularly the bacalhau there. She says its one of the best Bacalhaus she's ever had - and she's Portuguese.

Seconding Taberna Quarta-Feira in Evora. Its one of the first places my wife took me to in Portugal. It definitely has a local feel, even in slightly touristy Evora, hidden away in a sidestreet. Delicious and abundant home-cooked food.

Sep 29, 2012
r.vacapinta in Spain/Portugal

October trip to Lisbon and small towns - Guincho, Nazare, Batalha, Tomar and Evora

I had lunch at Chico Elias last year. As monchique says, you absolutely must book. It is an interesting place. When we were there, there were quite a few empty tables as they turned away some walk-ins. I believe they like to plan ahead and know exactly how many customers will be coming and what they want to eat. This is not food-on-demand.

When we called, my wife (who is a Lisboeta) asked for Cabrito (young milk-fed goat) although the rabbit in pumpkin was recommended to us by friends. The food is all served family-style, brought to the table in huge platters. There's also a steady stream of appetizers (we had blood sausage and snail stew among others). You will not leave this place hungry. We left lots of food on the table, despite all of us showing up with appetites.

Sep 29, 2012
r.vacapinta in Spain/Portugal

Fresh Sushi in Lisbon?

Much appreciated. I'll give it a try and report back.

I'd like to think I know Lisbon eating fairly well (We are there 4-6 times a year) but sushi places are still undiscovered to me.

I'll be in Alcantara all week where I usually have lunch nearby at either 1300 Taberna or O Painel de Alcantara but I crave good sushi, which I know is there.

Sep 29, 2012
r.vacapinta in Spain/Portugal

Fresh Sushi in Lisbon?

Sushi seems to be popular here. Last time we were there we stumbled into Kampai which we loved.
Now there seems to be hundreds of sushi places in Lisbon.

Although I don't mind going back to Kampai, I'd love to know if anyone has recommendations for really fresh, tasty sushi. Atmosphere/price are not big considerations as much as the quality of the food.

Sep 28, 2012
r.vacapinta in Spain/Portugal

Outpost of NYC's Balthazar to open in London...

I remember when Balthazar opened (in the late 90s) because I was living in SoHo in NYC at the time, just a few blocks away. The only other comparable place was Les Halles. Back then it felt new and stylish. The paris-brasserie-replica thing hadn't been yet done to death. I recall the food was good but not remarkable.
I've never felt the urge to return on any NYC trip. Perhaps it doesn't seem so attractive to have foie gras in NYC when you live in the UK and have just come from a holiday in Southwest France.

Sep 28, 2012
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Cheep & Cheery Lunch recommendation needed for Central Bath

It might help if you could be more specific about what "Cheep" means to you. Bath is a fairly touristy town and, arguably, nothing there is cheap. This is more true if you're talking about the very center.

I like Sam's Kitchen Deli on Walcot st. but its very small and can be hard to get a table. Another great sandwich place - Made by Ben - is close by.
I also think the White Hart Inn (south of the main rail station) is reasonably priced with good food.

If you're talking about a ready-made sandwich type place, I'd recommend the Society Cafe on KingsMead square. Great coffee. There are also a few other cafes on this picturesque square.

For what its worth, the Bath Good Food Awards just came out:
Some of my favorite places in Bath are there (Casanis, King William, Menu Gordon Jones) but none of those are what i'd call cheap.

Sep 25, 2012
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

[Aldford, Nr Chester, Cheshire] Grosvenor Arms

In the US, most proper English chips would be known as "steak fries"
Home fries are entirely different, usually being pan-fried, pre-boiled cuts of potato.

Sep 23, 2012
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Cheltenham 2 spots please..

The Daffodil is a good anniversary spot. Good food served in a festive atmosphere (its a converted movie theatre). Lumiere is more intimate. Suffolk kitchen might be another option. Hotel du Vin bistro has reliable french food in a nice atmosphere as well.

For informal cafes, I really like Svea (a swedish cafe) for their herring platters. For a coffee/cakes place try Moka on suffolk although No. 5 The Brew Rooms is the 'serious' coffee place.

Sep 11, 2012
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Tasting menu in Bath

We went there last night and were delighted.

He does pack a lot of flavors into each dish but he is taking risks and sometimes they really pay off. The mutton on a bed of beetroot/cheese risotto was just delicious. So was the grouse in its mix of mustards and blueberries and about five or six other flavors. The chocolate souffle was perfect.

There is also an accompanying wine flight which I chose. The wines seem carefully chosen but they weren't particularly to my taste. A Hungarian blend, a California Zinfandel are the two I recall.

The restaurant is on a busy street corner. The view out the window is of large city buses going by. Despite that, it feels quiet and intimate inside.

Definitely recommend this. We plan to return.

Aug 24, 2012
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Affordable Groceries [London]

I suspect the confusion stems from the fact that when Americans say 'Asian' they mean East Asians. When Brits say 'Asian' they often mean what Americans would describe as 'Indian'

Aug 21, 2012
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

[Hay-on-Wye, Powys] Richard Booth's Bookshop Cafe

If you're in this town it is likely because you are to visit all the bookshops. You might also want to have lunch. We opted for the Cafe that adjoins Richard Booth's Bookshop. And so glad we did.

This is on the surface, a simple cafe menu. My wife had Fennel & Celeriac soup and Welsh Rarebit. I had the Arnold Bennett Omelette. We shared some Chips.

Oh, but it was so much more than that. The soup was creamy and delicious and rich. The Welsh Rarebit was possibly the best I have ever had - the mustard floating on top of the bread like a layer of cream. I ended up eating half of my wife's dish.

The Omelette was just rich and perfect as well, a fluffy egg layer with smoked haddock and a layer of -what was it - they call it a cheese sauce but it was rich like a hollandaise. My wife ate half of my plate.

The chips are chips people rave about, apparently. Flavorful. Crispy on the outside, tender and well-cooked on the inside. We ate everything and I'm usually not a fan of chips.

What else can I say? We skipped dessert but opted for coffee after seeing a neighbour served what looked like a proper espresso -my wife is very picky about this subject. I got an affogato which was made using their own homemade ice cream and it was, again, perfect.

I don't know who the cooks are - they seemed to be two guys in a small kitchen - but they are serving out wonderful food in an unexpected place. We'll definitely be back and not just for the books!

Aug 18, 2012
r.vacapinta in U.K./Ireland

Lot & Dordogne

For what its worth, we're headed off this July to spend one week in the Lot, followed by one week in the Gers. We already have an eating itinerary stretching down from Lacave to the Lot river (yes, we're going to Peche Merle) down to Albi to Auch and to L'Isle Jourdain (we're also going to the Marciac jazz festival)

There are some restaurants we're planning to visit but, in all honestly, the plan for many of our meals includes markets or farmhouses. This seems more apt in these areas. One of the Chambre d'Hotes we're staying at in Quercy we chose because the host has a reputation as a great cook.

Still, I'll try to report back.

Jul 09, 2012
r.vacapinta in France