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Driving from Bilbao to Barcelona - any good eats along the way?

Driving from Bilbao to Barcelona this coming May on a weekday - it's a 6+ hour drive so we'd love to find a recommendation for lunch. Zaragoza is midway, but searching the boards I'm not seeing any suggestions - appreciate any recommendations.

Apr 21, 2011
Maxfood in Spain/Portugal

Seasonal Food in early June (Rome)

Jen K - just back from first our time in Italy/Rome and am nodding my head in agreement with your description of greens "... with the simple oil, salt and vinegar dressing was electrifying." The rucola/arugula was so vibrant that I started scanning menus for it - "would anyone in the US believe me if I said I was looking at a menu hoping to find *letttuce* ??" Among the many other delights and surprises that was one of my favs.

Jun 03, 2009
Maxfood in Italy

ALBA-eating and food shopping in and around the city

Just in case anyone is thinking of going and still checking this thread... we just got back from that area and had 2 exceptional meals both from places from Erica's list:

La Piola in Alba. Even though we'd come from Milan and Turin (and Eataly) this was our first Wow! meal, and an example of the height of food that we'd continue to experience the rest of our trip. Just their anti-pasti was enough to bring a tear to our eyes :) The rest of meal was equally good and had us asking, "how do they get so much flavor out of so few ingredients and such simple combinations?" The veal roast I had with lettuce/grape tomato side was great - I do not tend to eat veal in the states so it was a welcome addition and we saw it on most menus.
I Bologna was our next great meal a few days later - the sense of genuine hospitality late on a Sunday night was refreshing after some of the colder customer service experiences we'd had (Eataly especially). We had their tasting menu and it was hit after hit, their Japanese chef's zen-like attention to detail and presentation applied to local cuisine. We were also invited into the cantina to pick our wine - a simple thing really but just underscored their desire to make us feel like special guests.

Jun 03, 2009
Maxfood in Italy

Roman Memories--Long

Rneeno - congrats on your honeymoon - sounds like a great trip! That apartment sounded pretty darn perfect too!
Btw - if you would be so kind we'd love to have a look at your restaurant list. I'm starting to cut and paste from CH - that would be a great addition, photoeats at gmail.com
Gratzie!

Mar 12, 2009
Maxfood in Italy

Proposed Rome food itinerary (is there any other kind ;) ?

What a great list shabbystorm! As someone going to Rome in May that will come in very handy. One quick question: outdoor seating cafes - just grab a seat and the waiter finds us, or go find a "host/hostess" to be seated?

Mar 12, 2009
Maxfood in Italy

Food and Driving Question

Thank you Jen K and David T - we have a car from Turin to Tuscany only, the big cities we will be walking - we are happy walkers "should we go left or right today?" from there, and with a couple dining options, things just seem to happen :)

Mar 08, 2009
Maxfood in Italy

Food and Driving Question

Thx for the words of encouragement - Yes. totaly agree!

Mar 08, 2009
Maxfood in Italy

Food and Driving Question

One concern I have in driving through some of these smaller towns is parking - I've been warned away from Florence because of fines. Are there local customs I need to watch out for? Are there general rules of thumb? Parking lots like we know them?

Mar 05, 2009
Maxfood in Italy

Food and Driving Question

DavidT, jen kalb, rrems - many thanks for your replies - Lucca sounds great and the coast does indeed sound like the better choice. I can see myself stuck in traffic on a flat, boring interstate thinking, "this is what I get for trying to save an hour... when I could be exploring a beautiful country!" And thx for the dining tip, Buca di San Antonio!

Mar 05, 2009
Maxfood in Italy

Food and Driving Question

My wife and I will be in Italy early May and we'll be driving from the Piedmont area to Florence for one of those days. I see 2 possible routes:

1. Middle of the country on the A1 toward Bologna and then over to Florence, about 3 hours, OR
2. Drive down the coast from Genova to Pisa and then over to Florence, about 5 hours.

This is our first time in Italy and while seeing the leaning tower would be nice it is not essential. I'm mainly considering the longer coast route because I'm assuming that (if it is truly along the coast) it would be spectacular, and it would give us a chance to try coastal cuisine... but it is 2 more hours of driving.

Any hounders' have suggestions on which way to go it would be greatly appreciated!

Mar 04, 2009
Maxfood in Italy

4 meals in St. Louis

Columbus > St. Louis, 4th of July weekend Report:

On the way to St. Louis we stopped in Effingham, IL for a dinner at Firefly Grill. Effingham is a very small city that largely came into being by servicing the travelers on interstate 70, and as such is crowded with the country's most popular and basic franchise food fare (Olive Garden, Friday's, etc). In that context Firefly Grill stands out considerably. It's just off the main drag but feels miles away. Sitting on it's own large pond with a fountain and sheltered by some woods, the look is big, modern BBQ party barn in the country. The menu has the same ring to it: modern, slightly upscale, but causal. Everything we had had the finish of being prepared by someone who had experience in fine dining but didn't like the fuss.
It was very unique and a very welcome surprise - I would definitely make plans to stop for lunch or dinner there if I were ever traveling by Effingham again.

In the St. Louis area we ate at:

17th Street Barbeque - Very good, but not the best BBQ we had in MO. I enjoyed the ribs and a side of beans and rice, but it seemed like everything had rub on it. Just a bit too much for me.

Ted Drewes - remarkable. Had the Caramel apple pie ala mode thingy. Apple pie on the bottom with their custard on top and then thick caramel. So very good. I'm usually pretty good at resisting temptation but if I lived near one of these I would need life support.

Imo's Pizza - I enjoyed the thin crust a lot - my kind of crust. Not a huge fan though of the cheese, seemed kind of gluey - it was ok, I kept eating regardless :) Toasted ravioli were ok too, glad I tried them.

A'Mis Pizza - The fine local food magazine, Sauce, gave them a great review, but they weren't exactly in winning form when we went. They burned our first pizza and undercooked our second. I'd try them again, and this time I'd go closer to a regular dining hour so the full staff is on hand.

Luciano's - We went on a Sunday and the A Team was definitely not there. Beautiful place, I hope they make it. They are iin a tough spot competing with Araka just across the street. Araka gets high marks from most local press - couldn't wait to eat there from all we'd read.

Araka - Well, we tried to eat here. Their menu said they were open on Sunday, our hotel said they were open on Sunday (and really good), and their valets were even outside waiting to park cars on Sunday, but no one else was there. Dark and not getting better. Not even a sign on the door. The valets seemed a bit miffed. Happens, sorry we didn't get to see what all the talk was about.

Niche - Awesome place, definitely on the contemporary, modern food scale of dining. I had an appetizer, "summer vegetable medley" with a red wine vinaigrette that was a real eye opener. A perfect balance of fresh veg flavors, light but intense at the same time. Service was great, knowledgeable, a foodie hot spot. Dress nice/fun, open collars and heels.

Shaved Duck - Cool, gastro pub-ish place. Kind of upscale bar hangout with very interesting Euro, Duck inspired menu. Had a great salad of smoked duck, greens and figs that was very special. Great service. Diners wore flip flops and t-shirts to dressy.

Blue Hog - Best BBQ we had of the 2 we tried. They were set up at the Clayton farmer's market next to Straubs's market. My guess is that the brisket and ribs we tried (for breakfast!) were from the fourth of July festivities the day before and reheated in foil in the smoker, but it didn't matter. I never took brisket as seriously as I do now (we don't see a lot in these parts, not our fault). Just... smoky and beefy and with their slightly hot bbq sauce over the top... wow. My new favorite breakfast.

Companion Baking - Across from Straub's (a very nice gourmet market - looking forward to trying their prepared foods one day). Had the baked eggs with potato and cheese and herbs - excellent for me, my wife was not so much. We will try their bread the next time.

Thx again for all of the ideas Chowhounders - loved our stay in St. Louis. Just too brief!

Jul 12, 2008
Maxfood in General Midwest Archive

4 meals in St. Louis

Hello all - just back from our trip, report coming soon. Thx again to all the suggestions! Until I get things sorted let me just say 2 things about St. Louis: Ted Drewes. I was so ready to be unimpressed by another (presumably overpriced) ice cream joint. We have them in Columbus (overpriced ice cream joints that is), why would Ted Drewes be any different? And the constant praise seemed more like a lot of people just wanting to be part of the party than any kind of critical analysis. Now I say "critical schmitical." The stuff defies analysis - why try and breakdown something as wonderful as this? It's a No. #1 must have for anyone traveling through St. Louis, and I will be thinking of it fondly until I can come up with an excuse to drive the 7 hours and get it again!

Jul 12, 2008
Maxfood in General Midwest Archive

Durham, Chapel Hill

Hi A. Tornquist! It's nice to be able to thank you personally, albeit digitally, for our wonderful evening at your restaurant. And thx too for the info about the artichokes, they were one of the many great surprises we had that night. :)

Jun 16, 2008
Maxfood in General South Archive

Downtown Columbus for a week

Hi fisher - I agree with the above posters as well.
My "must eats" would be:
1. G. Michael's. The more I eat outside of Columbus, the more I come to appreciate it - top quality, inventive, great execution in an informal but elegant atmosphere. Servers are knowledgeable, interested and not artificial.

2. Jeni's ice cream - she's putting Columbus on the map and doing ice cream like nobody else. The thing that impresses me is not just the fanciful combinations (that work) but just her base ice cream: just the texture of it is unlike any other. It's in the North Market which also houses Lac Viet, so you could go for lunch at LV and get some Pho and then a Jeni's cone for dessert - that would be a great day. And people watch - the North Market is always good for that.

3. Indian Oven - not far but as dirtgirl suggested you should take a cab or bus (it'll be cheap). Best Indian near you and a fun, bright contemporary dining room.

4. The Rossi - we've only eaten there once but it was quite good and it gets you to another hip neighborhood in Columbus, The Short North. The Rossi is Columbus' version of a Gastro Pub. Located on High St in and around a lot of eclectic shopping - if you get a nice afternoon/evening I'd walk from your hotel there (15 safe blocks) and bus or cab back.

Jun 14, 2008
Maxfood in General Midwest Archive

Durham, Chapel Hill

Thx bbqme! We hail from Columbus, Ohio, though both of us have lived in many places before this one (SF, LA, MPLS, Iowa, ME, MA....).

Jun 11, 2008
Maxfood in General South Archive

Durham, Chapel Hill

Thx Jeanne. I know you will have a fantastic meal! I had a sense that I was eating at cutting edge "new cuisine" restaurants with the ones mentioned. They have an almost scholarly approach to food and a genuine passion for creating with food - their proximity to major universities may have something to do with that.

Jun 11, 2008
Maxfood in General South Archive

Durham, Chapel Hill

My wife and I traveled to Durham and Chapel Hill last month and had some remarkable dining experiences.
First: just like to say how much we enjoyed staying at The Carolina Inn - a beauty of a hotel that has a very helpful staff and a very informal, warm environment + reasonable rates.

Food - Our first night we ate at The Lantern in Chapel Hill. A remarkable restaurant with tremendous food from a chef with a great deal of passion and an interesting history. I only knew some of the story when we dined, but after our dinner we both had to do some research, "who is behind this food?"

It's a very unassuming place where everything we had was polished (Asian influence). The server we had is how servers should be - interested in what they were doing and the food they were serving - no "corporate school of serving," no "server 101 psychology" to get a larger tip, just intelligent service and a genuine interest in the food being served.

We had Shaking Beef (pictured), seared rare Wagyu flat iron steak with black pepper, sweet caramelized red onions, watercress salad and soy-vinegar pan sauce. My wife had lemongrass BBQ'd Niman Ranch pork tenderloin with cool rice noodles, lettuce cups, Vietnamese herb salad, chile-lime sauce and roasted peanut hoisin.

Desert was a Cocoa bean panna cotta with roasted organic cherries and bittersweet chocolate-buckwheat pocky. Everything was memorable (except maybe the pocky - very bitter).

Lunch next day was at Rue Cler in Durham (not pictured). Fun place, great idea - French influenced menu. My wife had steak frites $17 - the steak was not as char-crusted as the French versions we've had and this particular one was a little more fatty than average, but still good. I had the Croque-monsieur $7.00 house made ham and Gruyere - very good, very generous portion. Added a side of fresh asparagus, simple and very nice.

Dinner - next was Magnolia's in Durham. We'd eaten there once before and loved it - this time no different. There's a seriousness to Magnolia and just a little pretentiousness, but it's well earned - the food is exceptional, combinations that you marvel at, "how did they come up with that?"
I started with a Twice-Baked Grits Souffle with Wild & Exotic Mushroom Ragôut, Aged Sherry-Mushroom Emulsion & Shaved Confit Foie Gras $9.95 (pictured). I ate it s-l-o-w-l-y to make it last. For her entree my wife had Pan-Roasted Muscovy Duck Breast in Bigerade Jus with Pomegranate Salsa & Pearl Barley “Risotto” with Roasted Cauliflower & Citrus Vinaigrette $24.95 and for desert she had their signature Blackout Cake - a chocolate lovers indulgence. It's a very special experience from start to finish.

We had breakfast/lunch at Foster's market near Durham next, where the ordering confuses but the food is great - another group of food people motivated first by food. It's a casual atmosphere with eclectic outdoor seating and a very casual sense of time ;) Enjoyed their new selection of $$ friendly wines.

Lastly, we had a dinner at Watt's Grocery. We were driving back from Savannah and had originally planned to stay in Knoxville as a halfway point, but last second we decided to drive an extra 2 hours and go back to Durham, CH to eat there, and we were so glad we did. The best meal of the great ones we had.

Watt's is another unfussed over, unpretentious space with simple tables and decorations - pretty minimal overall. My wife started with local charcuterie, in which the surprise item was the pickled artichokes. Crisp and lightly pickled, "where do we get these?" we wondered. Entrees were Pan seared Duck Breast served on a Vidalia onion custard with sautéed English peas and spring onions and finished with a grainy mustard pan sauce $19 (fab!), and I had Pepper rubbed NY Strip Steak (pictured) served with a Poblano pan sauce and grilled vegetables over Dave’s overnight chipotle beans. The steak was the best NY Strip I've ever had. Strips can be tough, this one was as tender as a filet, and the pan sauce had just the right amount of chile flavor and kick. The overnight beans were a great addition and have prompted an email to the restaurant for the recipe. The clincher though was the coconut cake (pictured) for desert. I'm not a huge coconut fan (probably because I've only had the plastic kind) but this was pretty dreamy.

All in all we wish the Durham/CH area was a lot closer - it's not that we mind the drive, it's just that we'd like to start eating sooner ;)

Jun 10, 2008
Maxfood in General South Archive

4 meals in St. Louis

@steveb - thx for the breakfast tip, just realizing that I hadn't accounted for that yet!

@greggold - thx, I think I would like to try a less traditional place, so perhaps Monarch on Maple, and thx too for the thoughts on sammies on the Hill, maybe one from each to do a side-by-side.

@jnf - definitely going to Niche, and looking forward to it greatly. Toasted Ravioli and St. Louis Pizza - at some point it will happen!

@cheesemongerswife - thx, my wife saw something good about the Shaved Duck as well... lessee, looks like we'll be eating 7 times each day... no problem!

Thx again to all posters - Dave

Jun 05, 2008
Maxfood in General Midwest Archive

4 meals in St. Louis

Thx everyone for the replies - that's an impressive list - I regret that I have but only 4 days to give to my country... :)

@blackbookali - "flat stack burgers" sounds intriguing... thx for the tip!

@nosh - Thx for the wealth of city and restaurant knowledge. I'm not a traditionalist by any stretch - is Tony's still a good choice? From your list Niche and An American Place sounds interesting as well as a "legendary sandwich" (someone needs to put those words on a menu for sure) at Amighetti's.
And if you and and tonifi are both ready to withstand flames for recommending St. Louis Pizza then that sounds like a must - seems like Imo's is the fav, so Imo's it is.
And a report will be my pleasure.

@tonifi - thx for your list. I saw something else about Everest somewhere, also intriguing. And another vote for Niche - solid #2.

@Doug - having a bratzel in the smallest park in the US just seems like something everyone should do at least once - thx!

@zataar - more votes for The Hill so I'm leaning that way for at least one meal, Tony's of the 2 most pop mentions. And more votes for Ted Dewes, seems like another must.

Can't wait - thx again all!

Jun 02, 2008
Maxfood in General Midwest Archive

4 meals in St. Louis

I will be in St. Louis for 3 days next month and would like to sample the best St. Louis has to offer - "best" meaning, most interesting, most "if you could only eat at 4 places... what would they be?" No dining restrictions, and I have no personal fav cuisines, just interested a memorable dining experience that will do St. Louis proud... that's all ;) Thx!

Jun 01, 2008
Maxfood in General Midwest Archive