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cmm2's Profile

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Places in Europe like Seville and San Sebastian

Yes. Madrid.

Feb 23, 2014
cmm2 in Spain/Portugal

Lunch in Umbria

If you have any interest in wine, you should visit the town of Montefalco, which is less than an hour from where you are staying. When you are there, eat lunch at L' Alchemista, which is located on the main piazza. I believe all the seating is outdoors, so pick a nice day to go there. The menu is a bit more creative than most in the area, yet relies on fresh, local ingredients. Great wine list, too.

Jul 25, 2013
cmm2 in Italy

Itinerary Advice - Rome, Naples, Lerici, Herculaneum

Viva Lo Re--Absolutely. Can't comment on the others.

Jun 03, 2013
cmm2 in Italy

Where to find decent lambrusco ?

Pastaworks on Hawthorne is sure to have a few. Mt Tabor Fine Wines probably will, too.

Nov 11, 2012
cmm2 in Metro Portland

What Italian food items do you bring back to the U.S.?

Olive oil, honey, confitura, capers (if in Sicily)

Jul 16, 2012
cmm2 in Italy

Corsica Report

Unfortunately, cheese is not my thing, so I really can't answer your question. I do know that at most of the roadside stores selling Corsican products there were usually at least a dozen or so varieties of local cheeses available. Sorry.

Jul 09, 2012
cmm2 in France

Corsica Report

For those here who are interested in areas outside of Paris--in this case, way outside of Paris--I thought I would provide a brief report on the two weeks we recently spent in Corsica. My wife and I were traveling with our two kids, so we did not always get to eat at the restaurants we preferred, but that's the way it goes.

We spent one week in the northern part of the island, and one week in the south. The north has a different feel to it--it is more spread out and on the whole, more "French" than the south, which has more of an Italian feel to it and is more dedicated to tourism. A working knowledge of French is a near-necessity throughout Corsica, as the Island seems to see very few English-speaking tourists. In fact, the only English we heard (outside of our family) the entire trip was a waitress in a mountain restaurant who happened to be from my hometown in Maryland.

In general, eating out is relatively expensive in Corsica, but not more so than other desireable vacation areas of France, or Europe generally. Lunch for our family of four usually ran close to 80 euros, including wine, bottled water, and sometimes dessert. Even though Corsica is an island, the menus are heavily meat-oriented. The seafood tends to be expensive and not particularly memorable, although there are of course exceptions. Sanglier (wild boar) is prevalent, and is served primarily braised (often in a pasta sauce) or as salumi, much of which is excellent. The salumi is generally of a very high quality and is made from regular pork, as well as sanglier. It is widely available in grocery stores, restaurants, and roadside stands selling local food products. For me, the food highlights of the trip were the local fruit (for the most part, stone fruit, especially apricots), and Corsican wine, especially the roses and whites. During our visit, (last two weeks of June) Corsican apricots, peaches and nectarines were everywhere and could be had for between 3 and 6 euros per kilo at roadside stands and grocery stores. Oddly, it was somewhat difficult to find Corsican preserves from these fruits, as most of it tended to be made from figs, myrtle, oranges, chestnuts, or some combination thereof. Corsican wines are, as you would expect, available everywere and are everywere inexpensive. As you might not expect, though, the quality of the wines is extremely high. I would have to agree with the wine importer Kermit Lynch, who says that Corsica is the most exciting wine region in France right now. As in most of France, pichets and demi-pichets are served in almost all restaurants and cost about 10 euros per litre. Most of these wines were quite good, better than the typical house wines served in other parts of Europe. But for only a little more, you can buy whole bottles off the list from some of the top producers on the island. Because it was hot, we drank white and rosee, which is the overwhelming choice of most restaurant customers in Corsica during the summer. Producers to look for include Torraccia (Porto-Vecchio), Maestracci (Calvi), Columbu (Calvi), Alzipratu (Calvi), Gioelli (Cap Corse), Clos Nicrosi (Cap Corse), Domaine Gentile (Patrimonio) Clos Teddy (Patrimonio), Arena (Patrimonio), Canarelli (Figari), and Abattucci (Ajaccio), but there are dozens of other excellent producers. All the grocery stores on the Island sell a broad selection of really good Corsican wines, as well as an anonymous selection of wines from other parts of France. Many of the roadside produce stands (and even gas stations, believe it or not) also sell really good Corsican wines, but the prices tend to be a little higher. If I were an American wine importer, I would be spending a lot of time in Corsica.

I was surprisingly disappointed in the olive oil and honey of Corsica. The honey is primarily of chestnut and maqui, both of which tend to have a strong flavor I find off-putting. The Corsican olive oils I tried were very light in color and not flavorful--among my least favorite European olive oils. And the Corsican oils are very expensive, to boot.

We usually did not eat dinner out, preferring to make lunch our main meal of the day, and have a light dinner at our rental apartment. A lot of the restaurants we ate at were pretty non-descript ones, catering to French tourists. The menus tended to be similar after a while, and the food, although good, was not memorable. Many restaurants serve pizza at lunch, and those that do tend to have wood-burning ovens, so the quality of the pizza is high, although not quite up to the standards of Campania or Sicily. Corsican ham is a popular topping. Often it is topped with Brocciu, a local, mozzarella-like goat cheese. A pizza at lunch costs between 8 to 14 euros, depending on the restaurant and the toppings. Our kids at a lot of pizza and they were rarely disappointed.

Another thing to look for in Corsica is the roadside stands selling rotisserie chickens. They are cheap and delicious, and tipically come with potatoes and fresh vegetables (grilled peppers, onions, eggplant). A full meal for 4 will set you back around 20 euros.

Here are the restaurants I can recommend:

A Cassarella (Pigna): a small plates restaurant with an incredible view. Very carefullty prepared food, all of which was excellent, especially the chick pea puree (I don't want to call it hummus) and the best tapenade I've ever had. Small but excellent (and cheap) wine list. Lunch for four of us cost about 55 euros, including wine.

Potager du Nebbio (Oletta): basically, a working farm just outside of St. Florent, at the base of the Cap Corse. Probably the best food of the trip, but it took us forever to get served. My sense is that there was just one (talented) guy or gal working in the kitchen. The dishes are made with a lighter, more creative touch than the tipical restaurant fare in Corsica. You definitely want to reserve; we didn't and I think that was part of the problem. Dishes are made mainly with products grown on the farm.

Chez Dede (Ponte-Leccia)--a rural road-side restaurant with very good main plates and pizza. Main plates are primarily meat, but are served with fresh and well-prepared vegetables on the side, not always the case in Corsica. Excellent and inexpensive wine list.

Restaurant 39.2 Degrees (Cala Rosa Plage). Our favorite beach-side restaurant of the trip--and we ate at quite a few. Cala Rosa is a beatiful (mostly locals) beach just outside of Porto-Vecchio, in southern Corsica. This restaurant is located right on the sand. The pizza and the grilled octopus salad are outstanding. Wine list is small, but inexpensive, and well-chosen. For the quality, price and location, this place can't be beat. Excellent and friendly service, too, which was not always the case during our Corsican travels. We ate here twice.

I apologize because this report really just scratches the surface. I would be happy to answer specific questions if you are curious or are thinking about visiting Corsica. It is an incredible place and really deserves to be more widely known outside of France, although that would probably detract from its charms.

Jul 08, 2012
cmm2 in France

Puglia, Basilicata, Molise "report" May 2012 (really long with more negative than positive impressions)

Thank you for your wonderful trip report. As someone who has been considering a trip to Puglia for some time, it is extraordinarily helpful to hear divergent viewpoints. It's unfortunate that Chowhound so severely restricts "non-food" discussion; I would love to hear about the "other" part of your trip, too.

The Slow Food Guide is wonderful, isn't it? Although we have had a few disappointments over the years, it's led us to dozens of fabulous places we never would have found otherwise. I wish I knew of similarly reliable guides for France, Spain, etc...

May 16, 2012
cmm2 in Italy

Please review/critique my plan

Probably not. It's a different menu. You won't be disappointed, though, especially if you order the duck confit. You can check out the menu online.

Aug 15, 2011
cmm2 in Metro Portland

Please review/critique my plan

You should consider Little Bird. Same chef/owner as Le Pigeon, just as good and much closer to where you are staying.

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Le Pigeon
738 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214

Aug 14, 2011
cmm2 in Metro Portland

Le Mura Ristorante in Capalbio

We were in Capalbio (a beautiful town, by the way) for a few days this past summer and ate at several restaurants within the city walls, but not this one. All the restaurants had similar menus (heavy on roasted meats) and all were good but really stood out above the rest.

Apr 11, 2011
cmm2 in Italy

Segesta, Calatafimi recommendations

Well, there's nothing wrong with a picnic lunch at Segesta; it's a magical spot. But as long as you're going to get to Vultaggio some other day, you could stop at Il Restaurantino del Monsu, which is in Castellammare del Golfo, conveniently on your way back to Palermo. It is a quiet, relatively refined restaurant that has particularly good seafood, and a nice wine list, to boot. Also in the SlowFood guide.

Mar 24, 2011
cmm2 in Italy

Segesta, Calatafimi recommendations

We had an unforgettable lunch at Vultaggio, an agriturismo about 10 miles from Trapani, after a Sunday visit to Segesta. Everything grown on the estate, including the wine. Fantastic experience. Only problem for you is that it's toward Trapani, opposite direction from Palermo. It's in the SlowFood guide.

Mar 24, 2011
cmm2 in Italy

Foodie looking for the real restaurants in Sicily

Albertagirl--glad you enjoyed the Gran Caffe del Duomo. We stumbled upon it looking for a place to watch a USA World Cup game (they were showing the game on a big TV inside), not expecting much in the way of food, especially given the primo location.

We heard about the Red Moon from a local we met at the Gran Caffe, but we were never able to find it. I wish we had.

Oct 25, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

wine store snubs

Nope. Quite the opposite. On a recent visit to Sicily (Castellammare del Golfo) I patronized the same local wine shop three times over the course of a week, each time buying a modest (10 euro or so) bottle or two for dinner. On my third visit, the owner insisted on giving me an extra bottle for free, and the bottle he gave me was priced higher than any of the bottles I bought.

On the other hand, I have not visited any "high-end" wine shops in Rome (or elsewhere). Did you greet the owner upon entering the store?

Oct 12, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

Andalucia

Actually, five different hotels in five nights is my idea of hell, especially since the places you are staying are, in some cases, separated by long drives. You will spend most of you time in a car and checking in and out of hotels. Why not just stay in one place? Five nights would be scarely time to scratch the surface in a place like Sevilla. Or you could stay somewhere like Ronda all five nights and take day trips to Arcos, Cordoba, Sevilla, and perhaps Malaga (which should not be overlooked, especially from a food perspective, but often is).

Oct 09, 2010
cmm2 in Spain/Portugal

Syracusa Palermo

Albertagirl--I checked out your hotel's location on a map. I'm sure you're not going to want to hear this, but if it's not too late, I would book a room in Ortigia, which is the ancient, pedestrian section of Siracusa. It is absolutely where you will want to spend your time when you are there. (Your hotel is about a 15 minute walk from Ortigia.) There should be plenty of good rooms available for reasonable prices when you are in Siracusa. If you are interested in cooking, you should rent a small apartment in Ortigia. Again, there will be lots of available apartments when you are going and I'm sure you could find something nice for well under 100 euro per night.

Oct 06, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

Syracusa Palermo

Not sure how there could be a miscommunication. Pesci assuri = pesci azzuri, not calamari or shrimp. And despite what the guide said in 2006, it's no longer a meat only restaurant. There were several seafood choices on the chalkboard menu. And I believe the 2010 Slow Food guide reflects that change.

Oct 05, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

Syracusa Palermo

At the Gran Caffe, I would recommend any of the pizze and the insalatas. They also had a very attractive antipasto bar and good classic dishes such as spagetti vongole e cozze. Wines are basic, decent and inexpensive. Our tab for two adults and two kids was usually around 50 euro, which included a caraffe or two of wine, bottled water and a Fanta or two.

Vite e Vitelo was a big disappointment. It is a charming small space and was immediately across the street from our apartment. The chalkboard menu looked great, but the delivery was deeply flawed. My insalata mista was awful--about what one would expect at an Olive Garden in Kansas City in February. Barely ripe tomatoes, limp lettuce--and remember, this is in July in Siracusa, not 300 meters from probably the best daily produce market I've ever seen. There's absolutely no excuse. My wife ordered a pasta with meat sauce and it was OK. We also got a grilled vegetable antipasto platter that was at best OK--the eggplant, for example, was barely cooked. I ordered a "frittura mista di peschi azzuri". The problem was, it contained hardly any peschi azzuri--mostly calamari rings, with a couple gamberi and a sardine or two. Again, this was a few hundreds meters from a market with the freshest, cheapest seafood--including limitless amounts of sardines, mackeral and anchovies--you could imagine. I can't remember much else. The wine list was pretty decent. I think we got a bottle of Produttori di Barbaresco for around 25 euro. Over dozens of meals, this was about the only time I've ever been steered wrong by the Slow Food guide.

Oct 05, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

Syracusa Palermo

Where is your apartment? In addition to the daily market, there is an enormous Carrefour hipermarket just outside of town where you can stock up on all you daily necessities. And just behind the Piazza Archimedes, there is a fantastic shop called Tami, where you can buy great wine, olive oil and other high quality, typical products. They specialize in vini naturale. There are lots of wine shops in Ortigia, but Tami was the best one we found.

Oct 05, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

Syracusa Palermo

We spent a week in Siracusa this past summer and loved the town. That being said, we did not have a lot of tremendously memorable meals there. We had dinner at least three times at the Gran Caffe del Duomo, which is located (of course) in the stunning piazza del duomo. There are a number of cafes opposite the duomo, and this one is on your far right if you are standing on the duomo steps. Friendly service and very good wood-fired pizza, along with all the other classics. Reasonably priced, despite its primo location. Vite e Vitelo, recommended by the Slow Food guide, was very disappointing. Although it's not a major destination for Americans, Siracusa, or rather Ortigia, is a tourist-oriented town so there are quite a few culinary landmines that can trip you up if you're not careful. If you have an apartment with a kitchen, I recommend daily trips to the market, near the Talete parking garage. It's one of the best I seen in Europe and the prices are absurdly low for the quality.

If you will have a car, which you absolutely should have, I recommend a vist to the lovely town of Marzamemi, about 45 south, along the coast. It's a quaint fishing village where we had one of our best meals of the trip right on the water at Ristorante La Balata. Outstanding and creative seafood. I little more expensive than other places in the area, but well worth it.

By the way, not sure why you have "Palermo" in the title to your post. It's about 3 and a half hours from Siracusa and definitely not recommended as a day trip destination from there.

Oct 04, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

Amalfi Coast/Naples Report

I agree with your take on the Amalfi Coast seafood. Other than in Cetara, which of course is far off the tourist track, there really wasn't much to write home about. I understand that the waters in that part of Campania have been so heavily fished that all that's really left are anchovies and some sardines.

And I'm glad you found Viva Lo Re. We loved it so much that we had lunch there two days in a row--once before visiting Herculaneum and the next day after a trip to Pompeii. (BTW, I heard that the owner/chef once operated a restaurant in NYC.) The fritto misto was the best we had in Italy and even rivaled the ones we had in Andalusia.

Sep 28, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

Credit cards accepted on the Amalfi Coast, even in smaller restaurants?

I think you should re-consider your plan. As a general matter, Italian business (especially restaurants) hate credit cards, and I'm sure they hate bill-splitting with credit cards even more. When we go to Italy, we pay for everything in cash, with the possible exception of hotels. Here, we are typical Americans who pay for most everything with plastic, but I must say there is something satisfying about using cash for everything, not least of which is the smaller credit card bills when we get home.

There are many banks, such as Capital One, that provide ATM cards with minimal or no fees for international withdrawals.

Sep 17, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

Sicily - Scopello and San Vito Lo Capo

I really couldn't tell you if the pannini truck would be there in October, but I would guess that it would be. (We were there in late June.) I'm pretty sure it would be around on Sunday.

Make sure not to miss Trapani. It was our favorite town in Western Sicily. You should also visit Erice on the cable car, but I would not really recommend eating there; it is touristy in the extreme. La Cantina Siciliana in Trapani was terrific. And I would really recommend that you go to Vultaggio for a Sunday afternoon meal. It might be a good idea to make a reservation because it will be packed with Sicilian families celebrating their children and grandchildrens' first communions, etc. I'm pretty sure you'll be the only Anglophone there. Make sure to order the caponata; it was by far the best we had on the trip. It's an agriturismo so almost all the food (including the wine) is made with products that are grown there.

Sep 09, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

Sicily - Scopello and San Vito Lo Capo

We spent a week this summer near Scopello. I agree with Jen's recommendation to get your hands on the Slow Food guide and use it. If you speak some Italian, I would suggest you buy the latest edition when you get to Italy. The english language version is somewhat outdated and is no longer published.

We largely followed the Slow Food guide and were never disappointed. My highest recommendation is for Vultaggio, which Jen mentions below. We had a Sunday afternoon lunch there that was unforgettable. It's about 10 KM from Trapani. One other strong recommendation that's not in any guidebook: On the road from Castellammare del Golfo to Scopello there is a rest area on the mountain overlooking the town of Castellammare. There is a mobile pannini truck there from noon until about 11:00 PM every day that sells fantastic pannini, panelle and all kinds of other wonderful street food for embarrassingly low prices. He also sells very good local wine for about 1 euro a glass, ice cold beer and gelato. Our family of four had lunch there several times on the way back from the beach or from hiking in the Zingaro preserve. We usually spent about 25 euros and were always very happy. To me, these meals were among the most enjoyable of our two weeks in Sicily.

Sep 09, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

Where to go in Italy in June? Seeking: delcious food, culture, seaside

Landscape reminds me of the Zingaro reserve in Western Sicily--mountains that go right down to the sea. Much of the area is in the Cilento National Park, but there are towns scattered all over, none of them very big. There are fantastic beaches, especially at Marina di Camerota and Maratea. Food can't be easily summed up. Obviously, great seafood, but also good pizza (it is Campania, after all) and traditional vegetable dishes from inland. If you are thinking of going, you should pick up Carla Capalbo's book on Campania.

Aug 26, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

Where to go in Italy in June? Seeking: delcious food, culture, seaside

I can heartily recommend the Cilento coast area of Campania, especially the southern Cilento. We stayed in Scario, but out favorite towns were Marina di Camerota and Maratea (not part of the Cilento, but only a short drive south). In the north, the area just around Agropoli has a lot to offer, as well. Both areas should satisfy your criteria. Warning though: they are off the beaten track. Particularly in the southern part of the Cilento, you will not easily find four-star accommodations.

Aug 24, 2010
cmm2 in Italy

Off to Spain on May 22 - any recommendations for Estepona, Malaga, Ronda, Granada?

In Malaga (a greatly underrated town, IMO) just walk around the old town, pick a bustling sidewalk cafe on one of the side streets, order a cold San Miguel and enjoy the mariscos. You can't go wrong. We've eaten at about 5 such places and they are all good. The specialties of the casa may vary, but calamaritos and boquerones (fried anchovies) are staples at pretty much all. The seafood in Malaga (and Andalucia in general) can't be beat.

May 12, 2010
cmm2 in Spain/Portugal

Child friendly recommendations in Girona?

There is a Basque tapas bar in the historic center that is very good and moderately priced for the quality. Just around the corner is an Irish bar, that is very friendly and served excellent and inexpensive pub food. The choices were limited, but everything we had there was good. We took our children (6 and 8) to both places multiple times when we visited the city in 2008. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of either place, but there is only one Basque tapas restaurant in that part of town and only one Irish pub, as well.

Mar 28, 2010
cmm2 in Spain/Portugal

Looking to stay on a Greek island with great food - any suggestions?

Although I have not been to any other islands, I can highly recommend Lesbos (referred to below as Mytilini). It is one of the largest Greek Island, and therefore quite diverse, at least geographically, and not beholden to mass tourism. We stayed in the town of Molyvos and it was a great base. The food everywhere we went was exceptional, significantly better than in the Peleponese, on the mainland, where we also spent a week.

Mar 28, 2010
cmm2 in Europe