Salt cod is one of the staples of the Mediterranean. It’s one of those dishes, no matter how many times it’s been tried, still seems to be bony and not worth the trouble. It’s everywhere in every Mediterranean port but it only seems to be the locals who buy it.
Recife's main city centre is a baffling and confusing place but I grew to love it there; it's not a conventional place to hang around but since when did travel always have to be about things that are beautiful in an obvious sense? Olinda and Porto de Galinhas are mainly idyllic, beautiful locations, of which Pernambuco state has no shortage, but Recife's main central islands have a strange charm.
At night, you need to be a bit streetwise, but there are the clubs and bars in the Recife Antigo area and the Patio de Sao Pedro and it's a great night out, but in the daytime, Recife city centre's more mundane sights are something that for some reason captivate me. It's not one thing in particular - it's the whole place. At certain times of the day, you get old men selling decrepit vinyl albums lined on the walls of the square to the side of Avenida Dantas Barreto. Near Igreja do Carmo, you'll find men singing Embolada, a mesmeric poetic duel that'll make you wonder how the hell they can summon the power to make you lose sense of where you are using just their voices and a pair of tambourines. You'll find people barbecuing meats and cheeses in unlikely corners and men fishing for crab off the bridges.
The oldest law faculty in the Americas is here, cheek by jowl with some of the best and cheapest lunch restaurants you may ever find; there are some faded Deco-style buildings and plenty of Portuguese colonial-style architecture too, with wrought iron British-designed bridges connecting the three islands, as well as a former prison that doubles up as a craft centre.
Among the narrow streets, men use makeshift sound systems to promote the clothes or radios or cutlery their shop is trying to sell you. This sort of thing would be considered noise pollution in most developed countries, but it makes for a strange sort of music in Recife; "Clothes shop MC on the M-I-C", said my friend.
Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.
If any dish can be said to be typical of Provence, it has to be Bouillabaisse - and especially so of Marseilles. No two people will agree on what makes good Bouillabaisse, as fish vary so much along the coast. Ideally it is based on the bony rock fish, rascasse, along with whatever else is available.
Everything is cooked whole and simmered in a gigantic pot with potatoes until tender. The liquor is strained and served as a first course and the remaining chunks of fish and vegetables served as a stew. Now while our refined tastes might balk at eating heads, entrails, skin etc, be assured this is one of the top ten dishes in the world for taste.
This market just off La Rambla is under an enormous lofty wrought iron roof resembling a Victorian railway station. Here can be bought just about every fruit and vegetable that can be thought of – and more. And everything fresh, every day – and unbelievably cheap. A kilo of tomatoes, ripe and bursting with flavour, for 39 cents.
Being a Mediterranean port, this is where fish reigns supreme. Every sort of fish – whole, gutted, filleted, dried, smoked, cooked, salted. Fresh and glistening in beds of glittering ice. From the lowly mackerel and sardine – unbelievable grilled over a hot barbecue, to octopus and langoustine. There can be no smell that is more evocative of the Mediterranean than that of shells of giant prawns roasting over charcoal. This gigantic market of food covers an area the size of a football pitch and is packed every day with shoppers till early evening.
Take the ferry across the bay (passing Alcatraz on the way!) to the pleasant town of Sausalito, which, with its restaurants, antique shops and galleries, seems to be the place where San Francisco's artists end up when they find the city too hectic. Then if you can, hike past the bridge to the Marin Headlands on the Pacific - it's great for walking or dirt-biking, and has a nature reserve and a small museum dedicated to the Portuguese fishing community that used to live there, and even an abandoned nuclear missile silo!
Dottie’s True Blue Cafe dishes up the best breakfasts ever – don’t be put off by the queues and the slightly dodgy surroundings, their French toast/pancakes with a side of fruit salad, posh fry-ups and unusual baked goodies are well worth it. You’ll be back again and again!
522 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94102-2008
One of the best views in San Francisco is to be found in the financial district, at the top of the Bank of America building (of Towering Inferno fame). Its bar/restaurant (Carnelian Room) is open to the public after three in the afternoon and has some breathtaking views of the bay.
Bank of America Building
555 California St. (Kearny St.)
San Francisco, CA 94104
Golden Gate Park – you could literally spend days there. A good idea is walking from the Eastern to the Western end, stopping off on the way to check out a few highlights, like the flower conservatory, Japanese Tea Garden (as featured in Memoirs of a Geisha) and the De Young museum. Your reward at the end: the waves of the Pacific and the Beach Chalet, a restaurant/brewery where, if you time it right, you can have dinner with lovely sunset views over the ocean.
The Ferry Building farmers market must be the best way to spend a Saturday morning in San Francisco. The produce looks and tastes amazing and there are plenty of try-before-you-buy opportunities – and you will buy! Sit at the outdoor tables to consume your purchases while you listen to live music and admire the Bay Bridge.
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111;
tel: (415) 693-0996;
The Helmand hasn’t been voted one of the most romantic restaurants in San Francisco for nothing. The Afghan food is tasty and surprisingly good value, and the simple but warm room, friendly staff and good wine list add to a pleasant experience.
San Francisco, CA 94133
Zuni Cafe is a classy yet unpretentious restaurant in Civic Center. The atmosphere’s buzzing and the food is gorgeous and fresh, California cuisine style. And if you liked the food, you can buy the recipe book. Booking is recommended.
1658 Market St
San Francisco CA 94102
Pinecrest offers everything a good diner should: huge breakfasts, endless coffee refills, maple syrup jugs on the tables, gum chewing attentive-but-aloof waitresses, a choice of sitting at the counter or in booths, milkshakes to die for, nutty but extremely friendly clientele, and it's 24 hour - what more could you want?! A classic american experience!
401 Geary St (at the corner of Pine Street), San Francisco, 94102
Tel: 1 415 885 6407
The area around the Rialto is the best place to eat in, away from the menu turistico of the restaurants in the central areas. The most tempting food shops and bars are here. Cantina Do Mori is a city legend, dark and secret. It serves the best cichetti, a bit like Spanish Tapas, and cheap wine that is drunk by the market traders. Eat in this area and it’s unlikely that you will go hungry or be disappointed.
Food of course is the highlight of each day, and one of the best ways to enjoy it is to take an apartment and shop in the market. If eating out, it can be expensive as can everything in Venice. Remember if you want to sit outside to see and be seen, it may cost you twice as much as sitting inside. Order a panini or tramezzini at the bar and either stand while you eat or take it out to eat at the edge of a little canal or on the steps of a bridge, even cheaper still.
This far north, pasta tends to give way to risotto and with so much seafood from the lagoon, the choice is large. Most menus have a zuppa di pesce, or fish soup, again with an infinity of ingredients. Specifically Venetian is carpaccio, thin slices of beef served in mayonnaise, or bigoli in salsa, noodles in an anchovy or sardine sauce.
Cantina Do Mori: San Polo 429, with entrances on Calle Galiazza and Calle Do Mori, In San Polo;
tel: 041 522 5401
Directions: Go to the San Polo side of the Rialto Bridge, walk to the end of the market stalls, turn left, then immediately right, and look for small wooden cantina sign on left.
The stretch of Kingsland Road between Shoreditch and Hackney can seem barren at the best of times, with little more than car mechanics and tool hire shops to stop for, but a sure sign that things are changing is The Fox, a gastropub ripe for serving the new cluster of flats springing up in the area.
The menu is organic, and changes monthly, and they have a special menu for kids. Sunday morning is a real family-fest. When I visited the patrons seemed to span in age from 8 months to 80 years.
372 Kingsland Road, London E8; tel: 020 7254 4012
If you cannot do without Guinness and pub grub then head to Saints & Scholars on Wilhelm Strasse, a modern variation on the Irish pub theme but with a large outdoor sitting area - tell Darko I sent you.
Saints & Scholars Irish Pub, Wilhelmstr. 44 (07071) 25 64 08: 25 minutes or so from the train station.
A superb 'genuine' Italian coffee shop - in Melbourne – where you can get homemade biscuits, cakes, sweets and confectionery to go with your coffee, and for the kids - gelati. This little cafè has become a fave with the local Hamptonites. The name Amaretto? From the Italian liqueur.
565 Hampton St, Hampton, Victoria 3188;
We went there 18 months ago whilst on a short visit to the city.
Water infused with melon. Loads of different teas to try. The afternoon tea itself was served in a bento box and delicious - share it! Lots of cake and interesting sandwiches too.
The deco was so cool - mish-mash chairs and tablecloths, and china cups. We sat out in the back (old coach) with low seats and a rocking chair.
The staff were so nice and helpful. A real oasis.
696 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON; tel: 416 203 8882;
Great morning out - lovely, fresh and in-season fruit and veg (the peaches and corn are especially good in the summer). So much good stuff!
Oh and the fresh pasta is delicious - gorgonzola and walnut. Yum!
At the ferry building; For directions on how to get there see www.ferryplazafarmersmarket.com/markets/transport.php
The chef entertains you in what is essentially her home dining room. She serves a selection of Georgian specialities including lamb stews and dumplings. Time permitting, she plays old Russian songs on her piano in her own inimitable way. Interesting selection of desserts, but not much to offer the vegeterian. Atmospheric and surreal experience.
Galata Kulesi Sok. 61, a stones throw (downhill) from the staircase to Galata Tower, Beyoglu;
tel: 0212 245 1861;
open: Tues-Sun noon-midnight
Excellent street food - lamb and chicken kebabs with assorted accompaniments - harissa, mint and yoghurt, salad, grilled aubergine and fresh flat bread. All washed down with freshly squeezed orange or sweet lime juice. The friendly owner speaks eight different languages. Very affordable prices and friendly service despite being in tourist infested Sultanahmet.
Yerebatan Caddessi No 54, 34410
tel: (0212) 526 5231
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