The hot chocolate at Choco Café is seriously the best I’ve ever had. It is pure alchemy: 100 grams of decadent, delicious chocolate so thick you can eat it with a spoon.
This is a nice quiet place to get away from the hordes of tourists in the Old Town. The cosy café has tables and couches set in a relaxed atmosphere. You are encouraged to sit, relax and pass the time away. The long list of hot chocolate varieties include: spiced ginger, sea salt, chili, rum or fresh fruits. My favourite is the hot chocolate with chili. I love how the bittersweetness of the chocolate blends nicely with the hot chili kick - very nice. Try it!
There aren't many old style restaurants in this part of Berlin, so this stands out for that reason - it's been around since the early 1900s. It serves traditional style German/Berlin food. Not everyone's taste, but if you're visiting, you should at least try it. There's plenty of meat and sauerkraut, and it isn't pricey. Inside is cozy, and great for winter. Outside catches the early evening sun from June to September.
Tourists may be queuing up in front of Ladurée for its famous macarons but Parisians often shlep to the bucolic and authentic Daumesnil quartier to get the best Mille-Feuille in Paris, at Vandermeersch’s. A Mille-Feuille (literally, thousand leaves) is a landmark of French patisserie. Its « leaves » must be light and crispy and its cream delicately perfumed with vanilla and a touch of rum.
278 Avenue Daumnesil, Paris 12th
+33 (0)1 43 47 21 66
Google map: bit.ly/kxdncA
I've got a summer sweet tooth, so I'm heading to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn soon for an ice cream sundae served up 1950s style at alas, 2011 prices. Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain at 513 Henry Street is an old-school soda fountain with a counter, jukebox, and unpretentious sundaes, floats, local pickles and jams, and yes, even some real food. My mouth's destination: the Sundae of Broken Dreams, a vanilla and caramel sundae full of salty, crunchy pretzel pieces. Ah, the simpler times! Check hopstop.com for directions to a retro dessert. Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain is open most days from 10-10.
If, like me, you’re one of those people that loves to check out gourmet grocers when you visit a city, then you must go to Pusateri’s. This place is like a candy store for foodies: the freshest fruits and produce available, including my favourite heirloom tomatoes in the summer and chanterelles in the fall; a meat and deli counter that rivals anything I’ve seen anywhere, their Kobe beef is flown in daily from Japan; a bakery section that contains windows upon windows of decadent, glorious pastries, macarons, tarts, pies, cookies, anything and everything your heart desires; cheeses of every kind, fresh bread, imported delicacies and a variety of prepared foods. There is a small cafe area, where you can sit and watch the world go by - if you’re lucky enough to find a spot. No matter what time of day, this place is always packed.
Rawlicious is Toronto's only raw food restaurant where nothing is cooked above 118 F so that all of the enzymes, vitamins and minerals remain in their original state. Sceptics take note: this is not just a pile of cold vegetables on a plate; this is truly delicious food. I love my meat, don’t get me wrong, but I try to visit Rawlicious at least once a week; whether it’s dine-in or take-out.
The recipes in this vegan organic restaurant contain no gluten, meat, dairy or refined sugar, but they are anything but boring. I’m actually hoping they will come out with a cookbook soon.
Some of my favourites are the Pad Thai, containing kelp and zucchini noodles with lettuce, peppers, carrots, onions and cashews, all coated with a lovely thai sesame sauce, making this a lighter and cooler version of the pad thai everyone is familiar with; the Pasta Bolognese, a great spin on the classic dish, is also very good: also made from long strands of spiralled zucchini, along with a fresh tomato marinara sauce and “neat balls,” a mix of nuts, seeds and vegetables, all packed into tight little balls of delicious goodness.
Ice cream is one of my favourite treats, and Summer's always leaves me satisfied. This family-owned shop has been making ice cream for over 26 years. It has a wide variety of yogurt as well as milk-based and sorbet treats. They also make waffle cones on the premises, and you can have your ice cream in one of them at no extra charge. Just the smell of waffle cones baking on site is enough to leave me intoxicated with happiness. I can't think of a better way of enjoying a perfect summer evening than with my favourite cone while strolling through the fashionable streets of Yorkville.
My favourite flavour this year: key lime pie. This yogurt-based ice cream is made with lime juice and zest, as well as bits of graham crust. At only 120 calories per scoop, it is refreshing and satisfying at the same time. Flavours come and go, but one that has been popular among the locals for many years is the Toronto pothole: almonds, marshmallows, peanuts, chocolate chunks, road tar, and gravel, delightful and decadent.
Excellent Indian restaurant serving all the favourites in a stylish yet casual setting. The lamb chops malai and tandoori chicken are particularly tasty. Plenty of vegetarian and seafood options. Take away also available.
Sophocles is one of the best bakeries in south London and knocks all other Camberwell cakey places into a cocked hat. Where else can you try a kolokotes: a Cornish pasty-shaped sweet pastry case hiding an unusual and surprisingly tasty mix of pumpkin, raisins, cous cous and spices? It sounds strange but one of these is worth a journey on the number 12 bus alone. This Greek-owned bakery and patisserie tempts me inside daily, with its irresistible, fresh bloomers, whose fluffy white (or brown) bread, with a crisp sesame and aniseed dusting, cries out to be slathered in butter. There is a vast range of sweet pastries, creamy cakes, fruit tarts and almond pies dripping with honey. I only recently spotted the savoury section at the back, hidden behind the small café area, where elderly Greek gentlemen sip sticky coffee. However, I’ll be back soon to try a feta and spinach pastry, a crimson slice of pizza or a made to order sandwich. Tasty.
24 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8QU
+44(0)20 7252 6316
Bus 12, 171, 345, 36, 436 to Camberwell Green
Google map: bit.ly/lF8fAn
Upon entering you might think you’ve arrived in a Bavarian hunting lodge – complete with yellowing walls, dim lighting, and a collection of antlers. Actually you’re in the former meeting point for Belgium’s surrealist scene. And yet despite the visits of Magritte, Alechinsky, Scutenaire and Breton, despite the 406 framed portraits and photos, the place does not have the kind of surrealist drawings, poems or doodling that you might have been expecting and certainly hoped for. That is because everything of value was sold, save a few exceptions; and what we have combines donations and founder and art dealer Geert van Bruaene's mix-match collection of objects, including a group of Virgin Marys. Luckily the café was rescued and spared the museum treatment: it is once again the venue for literary salons, poetry readings and much beer drinking. And what is on the walls is certainly worth perusing.
Try and sit at Magritte’s table: solid, wooden and smooth from years of elbow rubbing; although it too is like a school pupil’s desk with no strange etchings to be found. Sneak in here one afternoon to enjoy a strong beer – a spontaneously fermenting lambic, gueuze or kriek would seem an appropriate choice, accompanied by the special house pralines – and before long voices recede into the distance and you find yourself contemplating the mysterious phrases on the walls….. Hmm, perhaps this place is surreal after all!
“Nul ne m’est étranger comme moi-même.”
La Fleur is open every day from 11:00 until Midnight (until 19:00 on Sundays). It’s closed on Mondays, unless there’s some literary event going on.
Rue des Alexiens 55, 1000 Bruxelles
+32(0)2 511 16 59
Google map: bit.ly/kPvion
Along with its fantastic beer and chocolate, Belgium is rightly famous for its frites and you can find little chip huts (baraques à frites or frietkots in Flemish) dotted all over Brussels. Tracking down the best friteries in the land seems to be a national pastime, at least in cyberspace. There’s even a new itunes application showing 49 top Brussels frietkots with their GPS positioning. I say you have to start somewhere, so why not first sample the offerings at Frit’ Flagey? Here they are fried twice (as they should be) and emerge golden with a crispy exterior - tastier than those of the famed Maison Antoine, in my opinion. Chips come either in small or large portions, but the choice of sauces can be bewildering, so spend your waiting time wisely deciding which to have. I recently strayed from my usual unimaginative ketchup and chose provençale. Frite-eating in Brussels is a pleasure shared by people of all ages, shapes and sizes and I often wonder at the orderliness of the queue – why is it never like this in the post office or waiting for the bus?
Place Flagey/Flageyplein, 1050 Ixelles
Google map: bit.ly/mydj7Z
Small World is a small deli/takeaway join that offers the BEST sandwiches in Amsterdam (along with cakes, coffee, juices, salads and warm meals). It's Aussie-owned and staffed by friendly young expats. The sandwiches can easily feed two and are stuffed with incredibly fresh ingredients in fresh baked bread. It's a local gem and not to be missed!
In a city where chicken is sometimes the veggie option, it is refreshing to find such a wonderful vegetarian restaurant in the heart of the city. Steps from the Old Town Square, Restaurace Maitrea is a beautifully decorated haven offering delicious, healthy and incredibly affordable vegetarian food. Maitrea has a two-course lunch offer that changes daily (usually under 110 CZK for two-courses - a steal considering the surroundings), a very full standard menu and a decent wine list (the Chenin Blanc is very good). Try its sister restaurant Lehka Hlava (Clear Head) as well
While packing in all the tourist sights is a "must" for most visitors (and the Old Town Square, Charles Bridge and castle really should not be missed), the main tourist areas can at first glance seem a little devoid of original quality restaurants. For a healthy yet appetising lunchtime pit-stop, go to Cukr Kava Limonada. This delightful cafe restaurant is very close to the Charles Bridge, yet easily missed as it is tucked away in a quiet courtyard. It offers brilliant savory pancakes and excellent freshly made tagliatelli. On a hot day, cool down with their homemade elderflower lemonade. In winter, warm up with their decedent hazelnut hot chocolate. Take time to look up and see the traditional decorated ceiling and modern quirky chandeliers (from Prague-based i-material [www.i-material.com/]).
Walk north over the Charles Bridge and turn left onto Láze_ská. It's on the right, number 7.
Lázeňská 7, 110 00 Hl.m. Praha-Praha 1, Czech Republic
+420 257 530 628
Google map: bit.ly/jl6YyT
A visit to Letná Park (Letenské sady) will help you work off all the dumplings and also reward you with a phenomenal view of Prague. Letna Park has space to run, walk skateboard and in-line skate, if you can still move after climbing the several hundred steps to get to the top! If you can't - it is also a lovely place to simply relax. The park includes several places to eat and drink including the small restaurant in the Hanavsky Pavilion. As you walk up to the top of the steps (directly above the north bank of Pa_í_ská Bridge and marked by the massive metronome that over looks the city), turn left and walk for about three minutes. You will come to a beautiful neo-baroque building with cast-iron detail. This building, the Hanavsky Pavilion, was originally created as a ceremonial hall for the Prague National Exhibition in 1891, and today is a bar and restaurant. Good prices, indifferent service, but a beautiful view over the southern side of the city, which makes the climb worthwhile.
Letenské sady 173, 170 00 Praha 7
+420 233 323 641
The agritourismo Il Piastrino is a family run B&B on a Tuscan farm with apartments and rooms. I recommend it because it is a family run agriturismo, where all food and produce come from the family's farm and the surrounding area. Nothing was too much trouble as they prepared a wonderful Tuscan meal including hams, cheeses with honey, melon and other traditional Italian foods for nine people on very short notice. Furthermore they arranged taxi transport to our next destination in Florence - roughly an hour away. Everything was hassle free. The setting was beautiful among the vineyards and olive groves and the outdoor pool was great to cool off in. It is also a short bicycle ride into the town of Vinci the birthplace of Leonardo Da Vinci.
For a more authentic Tuscan experience, go to Siena in winter. With far fewer tourists, you can see the sights without the crowds and although it's quite cold, the days are usually clear and crisp. Typical Tuscan food is more suitable for winter too - ribollita (vegetable and bread soup, far more delicious than it sounds), pici (local pasta, rather like fat spaghetti) and bistecca alla fiorentina will keep you full and warm for hours. The atmosphere before Christmas is magical - the streets are festooned with garlands made from fir trees and oranges while on New Year's Eve, the Piazza del Campo, filled with revellers of all ages, plays host to a free concert with stars from the Italian music scene.
Piazza del Campo, Siena
Google map: bit.ly/iP31vP
An amazing restaurant with rooms in a valley near to Cortona. The setting is stunning and the pool is to die for. However the main reason to go here is for the food - either a meal in the restaurant or a cookery lesson with Alberto. We learnt how to cook a four course Italian meal (salad, pasta, main, pudding) and then sat down to eat it with Alberto, his lovely English wife and their daughter. An amazing experience, we can't wait to go back and have a full on meal in the restaurant. Prices are very reasonable too.
It's a very good French restaurant. Firstly, I can pronounce his name without shame.
His food is great and people are so nice and lovely.
And last but not the least, the ice creams are awesome!
5 rue des Teinturiers, 84000, Avignon
+33(0)8 99 23 02 18
Google map: bit.ly/isytlj
Ok, so a trattoria just off the Florence-Siena motorway may not sound like the most picturesque spot for lunch, but don't be deterred. Bar dell'Orso offers up a classic take on the best of Sienese cooking. Take a seat on the terrace with a view of the perfectly preserved medieval walls of Monteriggioni, and feast on an antipasti plate of cured Tuscan hams, followed by homemade pici - a long, square-edged, thick pasta - covered in a tomato and garlic or pecorino and black pepper sauce. Walk off lunch by taking a long leisurely stroll to the nearby Romanesque church of Abbadia a Isola (for directions have a copy of James Lasdun's excellent 'Walking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria' to hand).
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