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Going to Europe? Restaurants and Food Stop Recommendations

July 8th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Editor’s note: The best part of having so many contacts and friends is the wealth of information available among them. Alyson Seligman, a media friend, is one such resource. She tapped me for info about food prospects in Europe during a trip last year, then returned with a bundle of notes for me, and photos, too.  I’m sharing with you readers her recommendations since some of you are bound to be traveling and eating and might like to know of a few good places. I encourage you to leave a comment about other spots you’ve been, so we can have a mini-guide to Europe’s finest foods right here on JanNorris.com. Here’s Alyson to kick things off.

My European Food Recommendations

Story and photos by Alyson Seligman, guest columnist

Alyson Seligman

Alyson Seligman

Let’s be honest: if you’re reading Jan’s web site, you’re just like me… you’re not traveling anywhere without doing your restaurant and food research in advance. My husband, Adam, and I recently returned from an awe-inspiring and completely delicious trip to Rome, Florence, Venice, Amsterdam and Paris.

I feel comforted that our research paid off so we wanted to share some of our favorite places along the journey.
I might not be the most knowledgeable food expert … just someone who loves great food, a good atmosphere and trying new dishes. (Note: I don’t eat pork, which is a bit limiting in Europe with many dishes including prosciutto, ham, etc).

First stop — Rome

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Meal at Francchi

Taverna del Ghetto, a bustling – albeit very small – kosher eatery in the heart of Rome’s Jewish ghetto just steps from the Jewish Museum. Try the fried artichoke.
Francchi, on V. Cola di Rienzo: Head away from the tourist traps by the Vatican and visit this small, authentic market with a few standing-only tables. Brush up on your Italian to order from a variety of pre-made dishes, or buy a bottle of wine, cheese and meat and make your own sandwich. We loved the homemade ravioli, marinated artichoke and vegetable panini, plus a few vegetable croquettes.
San Marco: If you’re staying in the north end of Rome near Via Borghese, check out this hip, yet affordable restaurant for pizzas, pastas and carafes of good house red wine. It was recommended by our hotel (the restaurant we wanted to try, Al Moro, which is near the Trevi Fountain, was closed that day).

…to Florence

In Tavola Cooking School

Alyson at In Tavola Cooking School

In Tavola: An affordable cooking school, which was a highlight of the trip. We made a four-course dinner, including gnocchi and tiramisu during the 3-1/2 hour course. Not for an advanced chef, but certainly a fun way to spend an evening. The school offers about a dozen different courses. See details here.

Il Latini: Touristy? Yes. Excellent food? Yes. Visit this trattoria for a complete Italian meal and lots of red wine. No menus, just what’s available. You’ll most likely be seated with other diners. Be sure to sample the bistecca and lamb. Pass on the ribollita soup  (traditional Tuscan white bean, vegetable and bread); it was just OK. About 40 euros/person, including more house red wine than you could imagine.

AS-europe-gelato_edited-1• For gelato, check out Grom or Gelateria de Neri (from there, walk just 2 minutes to Ponte all Grazie to watch the sunset with Ponte Vecchio in the distance, or continue the steep – but well worth it – walk to Piazze de Michelangelo for the sunset.) A tourist favorite for gelato: Vivoli, near San Croce.

Mercado Centrale

Mercato Centrale

Mercato Centrale: Meat, cheese and fruit market near the San Lorenzo leather market. Be sure to visit the second floor for dried fruit.
• Try the meat cart on Via Dante Alighieri about 20 feet away from our B&B — the Badia Fiorentina Guesthouse, on Via Dante Alighieri. Always a line filled exclusively with locals.
Pauli, down the street from our B&B on Via Dante Alighieri. Offers a very traditional Tuscan menu (in a traditional setting) and the best ribollita soup we sampled while in Florence.
Panificio Forno: recommended by a friend, it’s a very small shop with delicious fresh breads. Located on the left side behind the carts in the San Lorenzo market, a little before Mercato Centrale.
• Other recommendations (either closed while we were there or we couldn’t get to): Cammillo Trattoria; Sostanza – Troia; Buca Lapi Ristorante; Antico Noe for paninis, Trattoria Mario (be prepared to wait).

Then Venice

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Cantino del Moro octopus

Al Marco: best mini bacala sandwiches, located right near Mercato Rialto, the open-air fish, produce and cheese market
Rosa Salva: delicious, cheap pastries and good café.
Cantina Del Moro: oldest wine bar in the city with brass pots hanging from the ceiling. Located near the open-air fish and produce market. Sample fresh octopus, crostini, sardine e saur, etc.
Cafe Florian: Italy’s oldest café, open circa 1700s and overlooks San Marco square. Enjoy a decadent dessert (we had the chocolate torte) and cappuccino while seated in red velvet banquettes, people-watching on the square. Heads up: be prepared to pay for the experience.

Dinner at Al Mascaron

Dinner at Al Mascaron

Osteria Al Mascaron: We heard great things about this restaurant from friends, tour books, etc., so were slightly disappointed considering the hype. Still, very good with a lovely Venetian atmosphere.
Harry’s Bar: It was obnoxiously crowded so we left, but it’s a famous bar. If you go, order the bellini.

Afterward, Amsterdam

In de Waag: inside a 15th century converted church. Good, though not memorable food-wise. In a gorgeous space where patrons dine by candlelight.
Vlaames Frites: just like French fries, we picked them up at a stand and enjoyed them dipped in curry mustard while walking through Amsterdam.

Heineken Experience

Heineken Experience

Heineken Experience: an impressive, multi-media tour and sampling from the Heineken factory — definitely better than expected. About 12 euros/person. Near the Van Gogh museum (a worthy visit).
Foodism: eclectic restaurant with lots of vegetarian options.
Puccini: Bomboni: delicious, handmade chocolates made in this shop around the corner from Foodism.
Wok to Walk: just as it sounds, a pretty good noodle bar with dishes made to order. Available to go in traditional Chinese boxes, or sit in one of the many seats to eat in. We stopped here before seeing the Boom! Chicago improv show.

Paris, at last

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Cocotte

Les Cocottes: A restaurant by Chef Christian Constant who has four acclaimed (and higher-priced restaurants) on Saint Dominique in the 7th Arr. We ordered a cocotte (cast-iron pot) filled with crispy cod – skin on – with perfectly crisp potatoes, carrots and caramelized onions cooked in meat juice (perfect for dipping bread!).
Mon Vieil Ami: Three courses for 41 euros, or order each course separately. I liked that all dishes in each course cost the same. More importantly, loved, loved, loved all the dishes, especially the pumpkin soup with poached oysters and crème fraîche.
Dessirier: Since 1883, this is a top restaurant for seafood (especially oysters) that’s a Parisian institution run by acclaimed chef Michel Rostang. Be warned, no English menu but co-owner Phillippe is wonderfully charming and helpful. Reservations a must. 9 place du Marechal Juin, 75017.
Rue Cler: It’s a street, it’s a market. Located in the 7th Arr., it’s a street filled with a number of inviting shops. For dinner one night, we grabbed a baguette at one location, fresh vegetables at another, a big piece of camembert at a third and a bottle of wine on the way back to our hotel.

L'As du Fallafel

L'As du Fallafel

L’As du Fallafel, on Rue de Rosiers: order at the window or eat inside. Arguably the best falafel I have ever had (and I’ve been to Israel multiple times). Enormous, fully packed pita layered with chickpea fritters (perfectly crispy, yet soft inside), tomatoes, lightly pickled red and white cabbage, cucumber, marinated eggplant, hummus and mildly hot harissa. Grab napkins because the end result is a huge, delicious mess! Note: Rue de Rosiers is in the Jewish district of Paris.
Breizh Café: here’s a place for crepes that won’t disappoint. Crepes with eggs cooked over easy looked delish, but we sampled a dessert crepe filled with apple compote and caramel sauce with spice, plus fresh whipped cream and roasted sliced almonds.
La Grande Epicerie: the epicurean market of the famed Le Bon Marche (oldest department store in Paris), it’s an overwhelming experience for your senses. Fresh breads, pastries, fish, produce, chocolates, you name it. A must.
• Enjoyed a quick, yet delicious lunch at Eric Kayser Boulangerie. Fantastic breads and pastries, located on the right bank of the Seine just opposite the Louvre. A good find because we had wanted to try Be, a boulangerie and market co-owned by Kayser and Alain Ducasse.
• I’d recommend “my” corner boulangerie, but almost all we passed were packed with locals picking up fresh baguettes, and other breads and pastries.

Tags: Ask Jan

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rand Hoch // Jul 8, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Alyson’s writing has inspired me to share my thoughts (and photos) about a recent food-centric road trip from Bilbao, Spain to Paris. But it might take some time to put it all together.

  • 2 Jan Norris // Jul 8, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Terrific! Just email me when you’re ready and I’ll give you a guest columnist space!

    Anyone else with ideas for meals across the Pond – message me and you, too, can write here!

  • 3 AJ // Jul 12, 2009 at 1:45 am

    Great post bringing back some wonderful memories of fantastic meals overseas. I remember one stop–near a campsite outside of Rome–where, after making our choices from the menu, we were told that we were going to have the ravioli instead. Apparently the restaurant host thought our choices were inferior to the ravioli that night! Alas, a great meal nonetheless!

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