Food. There are those that eat to live. Then there is me – I live to eat.
Food is, like music, one of the things that bring back memories. It evokes the sounds, smells and sensations of my travel past. Simply by recalling a special meal, I am transported back to the place where I first had it, or where it was the best I ever had.
Here are the 5 favorite meals of my life, in the places I had them.
Steak-Frites at Relais L’Entrecote in Paris.
You could look at the menu but why bother? The only decision you’ll need to make at any of the locations of this mecca of Steak-Frites is rare, medium or (don’t do it!) well-done. A simple green salad and the house red wine go perfectly with the steak and fries. And the sauce! I swoon with every bite – but don’t ask what’s in it; it’s a secret. The first time I ate here, years ago, I was transfixed. I never go back to Paris without eating here, and every single time it tastes exactly like the last.
There are 3 locations!! No reservations, no menus, no excuses.
Meatballs at Osteria Bella Donna in Florence.
OMG, if you are a meatball fanatic, like me, this is where you want to eat them. Located just in between Via Tornabuoni and the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Belle Donne is cozy and you may end up sharing one of the wooden tables. It’s a good place for a lunch break, especially on a cold or rainy day when you might like a bowl of the traditional ribolita (Tuscan bean soup) or pappa pomodoro (bread and tomato soup). The waitstaff is warm and welcoming, but it’s the polpette (meatballs) that draw me back every single time I visit Florence.
Pasta with cream and peas at Locanda Cipriani on Torcello (one of the islands of Venice).
This is one of those meals I’m talking about. On my first trip to Venice, I was visiting the islands of Murano and Torcello. I’d read that Hemmingway had written “Across the River and Into the Trees” while staying at the Inn. It seemed the perfect place for lunch – a small, quiet dining room in a 6 room inn on an island. The dish in question was so good it almost brought tears to my eyes. I have never been back, but 30 years later I still remember this meal.
Tapas anywhere in Barcelona
This is one of my favorite ways to eat; a little of this and a little of that, giving you the opportunity to sample more than just one or two dishes. Tapas bars are everywhere in Barcelona. Here are a few of my favorite items you will almost certainly find wherever you go:
Pan con Tomate: The epitome of Catalan tapas. Toasted bread rubbed with tomato and drizzed with oil and salt. A perfect accompaniment to the rest of your tapas. But beware, it’s addictive.
Patatas Bravas: The Spanish equivalent of fries. Small deep fried cubes of potato served with two sauces – alioli (a garlicky mayonnaise) and a spicy tomato sauce.
Croquetas: Often made with ham and/or cheese, they are breaded and deep fried and sometimes served with a sauce.
A picnic of meats, cheeses and bread purchased from any open market in any country.
Turn me loose in a local market from Nice to Florence to Bayeau and in 30 minutes or less I will be armed with a baguette, salami, cheeses, and anything else that I cannot resist. A quick stop in the nearest wine shop (if there is not a booth selling in the market) and I am off in search of the picture perfect place where i can enjoy another of my favorite meals.