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Recent Northern Spain Trip - go to Lerma!

Some thoughts on Northern Spain: I ate very well, and had better luck with places that looked like they were trying to be trendy rather than trying to be traditionally fancy.

Madrid: Triciclo
I heartily recommend this restaurant, but the food stands out in my mind less than what came after it. I recall enjoying an asparagus dish with almonds and jamón iberico, and some sort of sauce. You won’t be disappointed.

Lerma: Restaurante Galoria
A recently opened, totally undiscovered and totally fabulous restaurant in the tiny town of Lerma, just off the highway south of Burgos. We ventured down the hill from the Parador—without a reservation—and were immediately charmed by the lovely patio and welcoming staff. Unsure exactly how to order, we got the €45 prix fixe, which included four starters, a main course, dessert, coffee, and wine. The strawberry gazpacho, toasts with onion jam and shaved foie gras, and sea bass ceviche with mango, cherry tomatoes and chives were stunning, and my father's lamb chops with potato gratin showed that the restaurant had mastered the classics. There’s no website and the staff don’t speak English, but don’t let that deter you. Go before they get at least one star!

San Sebastián
Pintxos: Borda Berri was by far the best of the pintxos places we visited. We especially liked the risotto with local cheese.

Agorregi Jatetxea
It’s a mark of how well we ate that this meal was the least distinguished of our trip. The meal started strong, but the hake entrée was disappointing. I liked the dessert, an updated version of a Basque custard-and-millefeuille dish, but my mother found it dry. Still a good meal.

Arzak: we’d read some disappointing reviews, so I went with some trepidation, but the meal and experience were spectacular. My heart filled with dread when I saw poached eggs with pig’s trotters on the menu—my father doesn’t eat pork and my mother loathes eggs—but the staff graciously substituted a plate of local vegetables (which my father said was the best plate of vegetables he’d ever eaten), and even offered more substitutions when they realized that I wanted to try as many things as possible. They were even fine with our drinking minimal wine. As for the food, I particularly enjoyed the giant chocolate truffle (shaped like the kind of truffle that grows in the ground), which collapsed when melted chocolate was poured on it.

León: becook
The chef excels at combining sweet, salty, sour, and sometimes also bitter flavors in any given dish, the roasted endive with blood orange hollandaise being a particular case in point. He’s also masterful with texture: the big joke of the tuna tartare with green and black olive tapenade and thinly sliced beets was that the fish itself was much oilier than the olives, and a dusting of gaufrette in chocolate mousse with milk-flavored and salted caramel sauce took the dessert from crowd-pleasing to exceptional.

Jun 30, 2015
Liuthard in Spain/Portugal

Best ice cream in Boston is..

I much preferred the conceit of designing my own sundae to the ice cream itself at Commonwealth. Despite having left Cambridge, I'm still a regular at Toscanini's - it's the best!

Mar 26, 2015
Liuthard in Greater Boston Area

July 2014 Openings and Closings

Xinh Xinh appears to be undergoing renovation.

Jul 28, 2014
Liuthard in Greater Boston Area

Can It Be?! Is Our Beautiful City Finally Getting a Terrific French Bakery?

Totally agreed on Maison Villatte. I would even venture to say that it's better than anything I've found in NYC. The viennoiserie is all superb, especially the pain au chocolat aux amandes. My favorites among the desserts are the apricot-pistachio tart and the Royale, a chocolate mousse-hazelnut-praline creation that I nearly dragged my family all the way to Falmouth for on my birthday.

Perhaps the most endearing part is that the baker (from the Loire Valley) seems not to have figured out that the "brownie au chocolat" doesn't get baked in a petit four pan.

Jul 18, 2014
Liuthard in Greater Boston Area

Martha's Vineyard advice

Definitely explore Menemsha and Aquinnah. I highly recommend the fried clams at The Bite in Menemsha. While I've never had the prepared food at Larsen's, I've heard good things, and the freshly shucked oysters there are always a treat. Frappes at the Galley overlooking the water are a treat.

Lunch or dinner at the Gay Head Cliffs in Aquinnah can be great fun. My favorite lobster roll on the island is to be found at the Dreamcatcher, a little shack on the right as you head up the hill toward the Cliffs. If you'd prefer table service and a view, the Aquinnah provides good food and a nice experience.

Jun 11, 2014
Liuthard in Southern New England

Milan to Siena - recommendations along the way?

Parma: I had a good lunch at Ristorante Angiol d'Or, just to the left of the cathedral. Don't miss the Baptistery.

Bologna: Lots of great food shopping in the area to the east of the Piazza Maggiore. Superb gelato at Galliera 49.

Siena: I had a good meal at Da Divo. Here is an Italian website's food guide to the city (in Italian; search for names and addresses):

Jun 11, 2014
Liuthard in Italy

Sicily Trip Report

We just got back from a 10-day trip to Sicily. Sicily is a land of finite flavors, endlessly and often deliciously combined: fresh pasta, swordfish, almonds, pistachios, eggplant, tomatoes, mint, citrus, cinnamon, anchovies/sardines, sesame seeds, etc. After a while, the menus began to blend together, but there were still some high points:

Nice meals at Trattoria Casalinga da Nino and Antica Marina.

Our lunch at Ristorante La Zagara (conveniently, if not tranquilly, situated across from the bus stop from the below-town car park) was one of the best meals of the trip. The restaurant had just opened and the place was empty. The arugula salad with grana and cherry tomatoes, arranged in the tricolore, was as tasty as it was playful, and the spaghetti with anchovies and red pepper was delicious. We demolished a slice of setteveli (chocolate mousse cake) in record time.

We had very good, very cheap sandwiches for lunch at Caseificio Borderi. The gourmet store next door, Fratelli Burgio, is also fun. Both of these stores are located in the market, which had the best sun-dried tomatoes we saw on our entire trip.

For dinner, we ended up at Sicilia in Tavola. Although they had found superb burrata for an antipasto of burrata wrapped in anchovies, we didn't much like the experience. Everyone was speaking English, the food was otherwise mediocre, and we ended up feeling as though we'd been had.

Cannoli at Caffè Sicilia are an absolute must. The amaretti and espresso were also good, and the café recently topped a list of top 25 granite in Italy:

We arrived in Agrigento around lunchtime having done no research. Upon hearing that we wanted a quick lunch before visiting the Valley of the Temples, the hotel clerk recommended Il Re dei Grigenti, not far past the upper parking lot on the same road. (At the rotary, take the road before the exit signed to the temples.) We were alone except for the proprietor's extended family, and sat on a terrace overlooking the temples and the sea. Dessert, a deconstructed cannolo with a broken chocolate shell and ricotta cream, with trace amounts of honey, pistachio, and cinnamon, tasted somewhere between cannoli and baklava.

We had another standout meal at Ristorante Monte San Giuliano. An antipasto dish of fish layered with lemon/ricotta was a personal favorite of mine. I enjoyed my almond semifreddo, but thought my brother's oranges with caramel sauce were too sweet. He disagreed, and gobbled it up.

We had a pleasant lunch at Locanda del Marinaio, including a tuna carpaccio that melted in the mouth. We also had best gelato of our trip at the Caffè Serio to the right of the entrance to the Duomo.

All of our Palermo food destinations came from here:

We had a good meal in a pleasant space at Osteria Ballarò. Everything on the fish antipasto sampler was quite good, especially the smoked fish caponata, which was served in a radicchio leaf. One of our mains, a pumpkin risotto with cinnamon, had been adapted from a recipe from the eighteenth century.

At A'Cuncuma, the quality of the warm pistachio-ricotta cream with strawberries and chocolate crunch made up for the fact that the server never once smiled.

Cheap and chowish, Ai Cascinari served us the best meal of our trip. (Call during mealtimes to reserve, as the restaurant frequently does not answer the phone at other times of day.) The mixed antipasto dish was a parade of delights: veal, meatballs in tomato sauce, fried calamari. Among the mains, the stuffed squid and the linguine with artichokes and caciocavallo were superb. The only disappointment was the setteveli.

Snacks/markets/street food

Markets: we found Capo superior to Ballarò. Neither was world-class, in our view.

We had a delicious sit-down street food lunch at Nni Franco U' Vastiddaru, the highlight of which was a spleen slider of sorts--milza, in Italian--and two types of arancini. We had nice Setteveli (chocolate mousse cake) at the Antica Foccacceria San Francesco, which also had appetizing sandwiches.

Many thanks to previous 'Hounds and to the Italian foodie website for making such a great trip possible.

May 31, 2014
Liuthard in Italy

Dinner and breakfast near the Eliot Hotel Boston

For breakfast, I'd recommend Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe, a diner on Columbus Ave. in the South End (usually empty on weekdays; crowded Saturdays; closed Sundays). They're famous for their turkey hash, but I could eat the Cape Cod French Toast (French toast with cranberry compote) every day. Be warned: drip coffee and from-concentrate orange juice only.

Apr 29, 2014
Liuthard in Greater Boston Area

Celebratory Lunch near Faneuil Hall

I recently learned that I passed the Massachusetts bar exam and am being sworn in at Faneuil Hall the week after next. The swearing-in ends just before lunchtime. Since several family members will have just endured hours of boring speeches--and since I myself would like something of a sense of occasion--I'd like to go out to a nice lunch thereafter. We can't go far because some of us will be going on to a meeting near the Aquarium. I assume hundreds of other new lawyers are going out to lunch with their families, too, so I'd prefer to go somewhere that accepts reservations.

All thoughts appreciated.

Nov 15, 2013
Liuthard in Greater Boston Area

Best Fried Chicken

I'm a big fan of the fried chicken at Strip T's, though some might be a little daunted by the fact that the claw is still attached.

Jan 23, 2013
Liuthard in Greater Boston Area

Your food truck favorites?

Though I didn't love the Double Awesome, I'm a big fan of Mei Mei in general. Their menu changes frequently, so it's usually best to ask the staff (who are extremely friendly) what they are recommending on any given day. I was recently steered to Jenny's Yu Xiang Eggplant and Tofu and it was delicious. I remember also being impressed with the beef and blue cheese dumplings I had a few months ago.

Oct 20, 2012
Liuthard in Greater Boston Area

Crema Cafe

I'm with you on the twice-baked brioche from Flour, but I'm not especially partial to the almond "croissants" at Crema. They're cheesy and more like danishes than croissants--I didn't like them at all the one time I tried them. If you're going to be breakfasting at Crema, you might want to try the English muffins with butter and jam; at $1.50 plus tax, they're one of the only deals in Harvard Square.

Oct 20, 2012
Liuthard in Greater Boston Area