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ChristineBerenger's Profile

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Clerkenwell Area Suggstions?... [London]

Limster and MonkeyC - I third the Gascon "fiefdom"... just added it as a go-to on my website and told Simon about it below.

Clerkenwell Area Suggstions?... [London]

Simon -

You must try Club Gascon (57 West Smithfield). It is higher end, but so amazing, especially if you fancy foie gras. You also asked about Angel. Try Ottolenghi (think healthful, prepared salads which you can take out or eat on premises there, but just at that location). Here are a few other suggestions for other neighborhoods in London (lots of Marylebone) which I just posted:
I hope you find it useful.

St Barts for a week

Hi Beer4Breakfast and Poppy-

I LOVE St. Barth's! it's one of our favorite places for R&R. We loved it so much that we got married there. It's a very special place. We were just there a few weeks ago. The food, the people, the island.... amazing. I completely agree with Poppy's suggestion on L'Esprit Salines... It's now one of our new go-tos. I think it's a top pick for the locals as well. Also, be certain to have cocktails at Le Sereno.I just wrote an article on some of my faves there. I hope it helps:


Japan Trip in February 2009

Hi Winenipper

First of all - lucky you. We had such a lovely time in Tokyo. It is an amazing city for the foodies... I loved Mizutani and I truly hope it works out for you. They were able to squeeze us in a lunch resie while we were there. They were completely booked for evening reservations, but we didn't care. We planned our entire dining experiences and trip around Mizutani. This is a foodie website, so you get it. I'd also add Volontaire to my list for an after dinner cocktail/scotch.

Exilekiss, Four Seasons, Silverjay, and HKTraveler are superstars with their suggestions and won't lead you astray. I included my Tokyo dining and random experiences on my blog and hope it helps your trip be as fun and memorable as possible:

Enjoy your trip! I can't wait to go back.

Jan 11, 2010
ChristineBerenger in Japan

Great Madrid, Spain Restaurants

Hi Tim - I'm not sure if you made it to Madrid already or not - hopefully this gets to you in time... I literally just posted it yesterday. We were only there for a long weekend, but I truly enjoyed my time there. I wish I were eating lomo right now.

A week in Burgundy... any suggestions?

Merci bien Mangeur. Yep - I've already gone over to the dark side on the foie gras.... and I love it, especially since some of our friends in France have generously shared foie gras made from their homes in the SW with me. I actually served it for Christmas last year with a Sauternes gelée. OMG - amazing... I just can't go to the dark side on all offal quite yet. I was a true vegetarian for a year, but I missed bacon too much. Look at me now.

Dec 01, 2009
ChristineBerenger in France

A week in Burgundy... any suggestions?

I am right there with you on that sort of meat. I think my limit ends but includes wild boar saucisson (huge fan - we even tracked down an amazing place in NY - which is where we live - that has the real deal). Maybe I am limited because I'm 'merican? My husband is French and he eats all that kind of stuff. He has become quite the connoisseur and he LOVED the Andouillette. We really enjoyed the warmth of Ma Cuisine - and it was clear that this is where the locals eat.

Nov 27, 2009
ChristineBerenger in France

A week in Burgundy... any suggestions?

Gman, CJT, Laidback and Ken-
I was looking through my notes - I take back what I had written below on not eating out in a restaurant while in Burgundy. Three weeks of living out of a suitcase and visiting a ton of family - fabulous trip, but lots to take in. We had a really great lunch in Beaune at Ma Cuisine. The staff was unbelievably warm and easy going. The food was delish, with a wine list to match. I had amazing skate and escargot traditional. My husband had the Andouillette AAAAA (Association Amicale des Amateurs d'Andouillette Authentiquessausage). I know... I had to find out what the AAAAA meant. Ken and Laidback were right - Add this one to your list while in Burgundy.

Nov 20, 2009
ChristineBerenger in France

A week in Burgundy... any suggestions?

Hi there Gman.

My sister-in-law lives right outside of Lyon. Their favorite restaurant in Lyon is:
La Cantine des Sales Gosses
5 rue de la Martiniére
69001 Lyon 04 78 27 65 81

The owner loves to change it up and even has a surprise menu (meaning - chef's choice, you'd just need to inform the restaurant of any food allergies). They also have an impressive wine selection. For what you get - both food and wine - it's not a bad deal. My absolute favorite thing that we had was a glacé made out of cep mushrooms and then a nother made out of foie gras. Don't knock it until you try it. My mouth is watering as I type about it.

For wine, if you want a treat and are near Lyon with a little extra time, the Northern Rhône is not far away and something to seriously consider. I assume since you have Burgundy on your list, wine is on the agenda for your holidays. I actually just did a 5 part series on my website on the Northern Rhône Valley - seriously delicious and amazing wines:

We also visited Burgundy about a month or so ago. I am fortunate in that we have a ton of family there who wanted to wine and dine us. I don't have any restaurant recommendations for you since we visited family. However - if you are a mustard fan, be certain to stop by some of the mustard shops in Dijon. This is a must. We are mustard freaks. You will get mustards there that you cannot get in the U.S. I assume that you are going to Burgundy to do some wine tasting too. I am in the middle of doing a series on Burgundian wines:

Overall, in Burgundy, it looked like Beaune had quite a few adorable places to dine. Have a blast. You will have an amazing gastronomic experience in both places!

Nov 17, 2009
ChristineBerenger in France

Portland Oregon 2009

It was completely my pleasure. I am adding Broadley to my list next year - they really are super friendly people - thanks for confirming this via recounting your experience.. and I love the garage story. I just love visiting the wineries out there - super chilled.

Portland Oregon 2009

Hi Rusticakane - I did two write-ups on my blog on Portland and Willamette - I hope it helps:

I am right with you on Higgins - I love that place - and if you are lucky enough to be there during the Cooper River Salmon season.... wow -mmmm

12 Day trip To Italy: Venice, Verona, Florence, Rome, Positano/Sorrento, Capri. Where do I start???

It took us a month+ to get our case of Brunellos via mail from Italy when we did that a few years ago (and we shipped it in early spring). Joe is correct. If it's shipped in the fall of spring, that would be one thing, but now... the heat will destroy the wine. If you do end up buying wine (because you will), go for a few bottles of the amazing stuff (since you'll be limited) and pack in your suitcase. However, if you are hitting 8 stops by train, a few extra pounds of luggage would be more than a nuisance for me (or anyone for that matter).

Also, I get what you are talking about with the drinking and driving bit, but tasting in Italy is not a drunk fest like it seems to be with many hitting U.S. wineries. You won't see the limos rolling up with trashed people chugging down glasses of wine. In my many tasting experiences in Europe, it's truly about tasting. I really think you would be fine with a rental car and would find it more preferable (come and go at your own leisure).

Jun 24, 2009
ChristineBerenger in Italy

12 Day trip To Italy: Venice, Verona, Florence, Rome, Positano/Sorrento, Capri. Where do I start???

Joe is 100% correct.

For Italy, we've only done the wine tour bit in Montalcino and Montepulciano, but our experience was the same. We emailed the wineries directly in advance and requested a visit. The wineries were so incredibly responsive. We felt like we were guests in their family’s home, as was often the case. We never once had that “Vegas in Napa” experience. It was very intimate. They were so proud to share the wines they made with us. We never paid a dime for a wine tour. Our biggest dilemma was keeping our wine purchasing down to the allowed shipping limits.

We found many wine shops would ship for us when we asked. Also, I always carry a few wineskins (bubble wrapped lined sealed plastic bag in case the wine ever breaks) whenever I travel abroad so I can bring back a few bottles with ease in my suitcase. Check to see the custom rules and limitations on how much you are allowed to bring back.

Save the $300 to spend on the wine. 2004 Brunellos had just arrived in stores when we were in Venice last month. 2004 was a rock star year in Italy. You can pick up some gorgeous ones with WS ratings of 94, 95, 96… easily and you know they haven’t been stored improperly because they were just being stocked on the shelves.

Jun 24, 2009
ChristineBerenger in Italy

Portland Oregon 2009

Hi Travel Couple. I was going to post this and I saw your inquiry, so I added to your chain. I hope I am not too late for your trip. Enjoy Portland.

Portland, Oregon - May 2008
I love Pinot. I just love it. So, for the past couple of years, my friend and I have made an annual pilgrimage to the Willamette Valley to do a ton of Pinot purchasing. Wine Country is only about 45minutes to an hour away from Portland, which happens to be a very pleasant foodie city. Here are a few of my favs in Portland. I’ll come back shortly on the wineries.

1239 SW Broadway (Broadway & Jefferson)
It’s a special treat if you visit Portland during the prime of Copper River Salmon season. This place brings salmon to a new level. We had it for dinner and came back the next day to have it again. It was that good. I am still thinking about it. Greg Higgins was one of the first chefs to start the whole organic/locally grown produce movement in the Portland area. You can taste the freshness of the ingredients he uses.

Henry’s Tavern
10 NW 12th Ave. (12th & Burnside)
This place brags of 100+ beers from around the world and specializes in the local breweries – anything from the fruity wheat, to the reds and the stouts - ask for the shooter sized portions (they’ll give you 3 beers to taste for free). They should really consider doing flights, so you can host your own Pepsi Challenge. It would be a huge attraction and the base is already there.

Dave and Louis’ Oyster Bar
208 SW Ankeny St. (Ankeny & 2nd)
East coast vs. west coast is not just about rapping. You can do your own blind taste test of the many west coast oysters (with some east coast) and figure it out for yourself. It’s a little divey, but that’s what makes it special. They also have a few local beers - we enjoyed the Dead Man.

Clark Lewis
1001 SE Water Ave. (Water & Taylor)
With the scant candle light right next to the menu, reading the menu here is a challenge. Is your optometrist appointment is long overdue? However, the half and full sized portions are a great feature, especially for the pasta dishes. You’ll see a rare find here for Portland as people actually abandoned their North Face gear to go out to eat.

Northwest Coffee Shop
1951 W. Burnside Blvd. (Burnside & NW Trinity)
Really great coffee! Everyone seems so happy to be a barista here. I kind of wonder what’s in their mo-Joe. Lots of people park themselves for hours on end with their one cup of coffee in return for free internet connections, so be prepared if you arrive during peak hours. The coffee is so tasty with simple, yet beautiful presentation. I am certain they could even make custom made designs for you in the foam if you wanted.

Venice, Italy - TOPS

Hi Tony and PBSF -

Sorry for my delay in responding to your inquiry.

I have to agree with PBSF, most restaurants in Venice have a strong seafood base. I am partial to seafood and I guess it shows in my write-up. However, there are many outstanding non-seafood choices. Amazing prosciutto is everywhere. I love it. The pasta dishes are to die for and available at pretty much every restaurant in Venice. And yes, you must include the pasta. Veal is also on most dinner menus. We went on diets and detoxed when we came home.

Tony - We really enjoyed Ca d’Oro (Alla Vedova). We found it to be very reasonably priced and filled with locals. You can make a reservation for dinner the day of, but make a resie. AND - promise me that you will have at least 3 meatballs. We loved them. Enjoy your trip.

Jun 10, 2009
ChristineBerenger in Italy

12 Day trip To Italy: Venice, Verona, Florence, Rome, Positano/Sorrento, Capri. Where do I start???

Capri, Italy - May 2009

Via Fuorlovado, 18-22
Just because Mariah Carey’s photo is on the wall (along with many other celebs), don’t be fearful. Despite the celebrity scene that turns some foodies off, this restaurant is mmm mmm good and definitely one not to miss when you are in Capri. It would be a fun one to save for your last night. They have amazing pizza with a super thin crust that you must have. We had this amazing salad with warm porcini mushrooms over Parmesan and arugula. If it’s someone’s birthday, get ready for the lights out Disco party. Everyone celebrates. It’s a festive ambiance, with great food and an extensive wine list. As with the rest of Capri, it's not cheap.

Jun 10, 2009
ChristineBerenger in Italy

Venice, Italy - TOPS

Armed with a ton of restaurant research and advice from friends, here's our take on a week of dining in Venice:

Fiaschetteria Toscana, Cannaregio 5719, San Giovanni Grisotomo 041-528-5281,
Be certain to book the dining room downstairs, as recommended by others at CH. We ate at this restaurant twice because our first dining experience here was our favorite in Venice. The upstairs dining area is where they relegate larger parties and children. And that’s totally cool, but you might get stuck waiting for an hour+ after ordering to get your food and then having to ask for the bill three times. The food is the same on both floors, but the service was not.
I tried to not let our second experience detract from our first, because the first time around was so lovely. The bartender from our hotel, Marco, a local and also self-proclaimed foodie, said FT was one of his favorite restaurants in the city. The food doesn’t change over the years, and it’s simple preparation, but only the freshest ingredients are used. Using our first dining experience here as the beta, we wholeheartedly agree, dine on the downstairs level here and this would be one classic Venetian place not to miss. Be certain to get the fresh grilled fish, as it is their specialty. Save room for the tiny strawberry tartlet if strawberries are in season.

Il Ridotto, Castello 4509, Campo SS. Fillippo e Giacomo 041-5208280
A very close second prize for dining experiences this week goes to Il Ridotto. Initially, it felt a little exclusive and on the fancy side versus the other restaurants we had been to in Venice; however, this feeling subsided quickly. The chef treats his restaurant as his home, and was determined to make our dining experience an inviting and special memory. He checked up on us frequently to make sure we were enjoying his creations, but he was so subtle that it never felt intrusive. He gets more artistic and creative with his preparation and presentation than our other Venetian dining experiences, but it wasn’t over the top frou frou noveau.
We loved the local baby squid in their ink on top pureed potatoes. We had various raw fish tossed with lavender and paired with fruit or other items as a starter. Our favs from this dish were the scorpion fish with apple and fennel, the sea bas on top of a peach and the tuna with thyme. Our absolute favorite part of the meal - and one not to miss - was his pasta. We had peperoncino ravioli with rock shrimp, garnished and dressed with fresh tomatoes, basil and a sliver of mozzarella. OMG. So delish. The fresh fish is also not to be missed here.

Al Covo, Castello 3968, Campiello della Pescaria, 041-522-3812
I know this one gets added to every Venice foodie list and we were told by one of our friends who is the GM of a very famous Italian restaurant in NY (as well as a few others he worked with) that this was THE best place in Venice to have fritto misto. The owner/chef was so honest and endearing. He alone will make you come back. We defaulted to him in selecting our dishes. He said it was like asking a father who his favorite son was. But, with his guidance, we shared the fritto misto (the portion is so large that it needs to be shared and the owner will tell you this even though it goes against the P&L). It was truly delicious and prepared in the classic Venetian way. I loved the cod – mmmm mmm good. He has broad wine list with wines that are reasonably priced.

Vini da Gigio, Cannaregio 3628, Fondamenta San Felice 041-528-5140
Ok – this one was written up in so many food-rating books and all with very high ratings. It was good, but we were a little disappointed. We loved the soft shell crab and I would imagine their fritto misto would probably follow suit, as the preparation would have been the same. Pass on the pasta. The servers were very lovely and personable, but I think this restaurant has such a following and demand for reservations that they’ve fallen prey to the “resting on their laurels” syndrome. Advice to management - A restaurant with ratings in major guide books such as yours shouldn’t allow the pestering rose guys to ask patrons 4 times over the course of a meal if they want a rose.

Ca d’Oro (Alla Vedova), Cannaregio 3912, 041-528-5324
Inexpensive, good and endearing. A traditional bacari experience. You must have a meatball (or three).

Snacks, lite bites and other:
Osteria Enoteca, San Marco 1610, 041-5285242
After seeing what could be the most expensive and underwhelming cocktail or snack of your life in the San Marco Piazza, this was such a welcoming experience. We had a lovely half bottle of Brunello and deliciously and perfectly cooked pasta. Put this one on your agenda for a lite lunch after walking around San Marco, as all the tourists in that area are too busy queuing at Hard Rock Venice to find this little gem.

Il Refolo, Santa Croce 1459, 041-524-0016
Post reading many guide books and seeing a deluge of non-locals (massive fanny packs seem to be the dead give away) eating at pizza places, we steered clear of this food genre. I mean amazing prosciutto and melon is in abundance here people, so why default to pizza especially if you are warned in advance that it’s so-so? However, sometimes, a pizza and a beer hit the spot. We agree, the pizza here was very good.

Antica Drogheria, (wine store) San Paolo, 041-5229762
He was very honest telling us which wines had been sitting around for a little while and which ones they had just got in – 2004 Brunellos had just arrived that week, so of course, we picked up a few to take back.

Best of the Best:
If we were to diet for a month and prepare our ultimate Venetian dinner menu based on our experiences this week it would be:
Soft shell crabs, Vini da Gigo
Meatball(s), Ca d’Oro
Prosciutto, so fresh at most locations
Pasta sampling:
- Rock shrimp in peperoncino ravioli, Il Ridotto
- Osteria Enoteca
Grilled Fish, Fiaschetteria Toscana

Jun 03, 2009
ChristineBerenger in Italy