Thursday, July 2, 2009


I love Paris in the know the song!
I have never actually experienced Paris in the spring, only in the winter, but I hope to see it at every time of year eventually. I spent about a week in France to top off my European christmassy, wintery adventure.

We spent 2 nights in Annecy, right near the Alps, and a lovely little place it is. Our first meal in France was at a restaurant where we were the only English speakers (as we had wanted), with our very limited French skills and a waiter who struggled to understand aword we said - or so we thought. It turns out that our waiter actually spoke pretty good English, but he was having too much fun at our expense to actually let us know. It wasn't until during our fondue, when I tried to find the words for "Can I please have some more bread?" that he shared his secret. We all had a laugh and the waiter gave us some pretty heavy after dinner drinks, which of course led to some more laughs.

The train to Paris gave us a new food experience - the Croque Monsieur. The Croque Monsieur is basically a ham and cheese toastie, with a bechamel sauce, in most cases. In Australia, we don't really have much in the way of train food, only on certain trains, and normally pretty gross. In Europe, it is incredibly common, and this particular trip I was amazed. How does a train toastie taste so amazing??

In Paris we dined on crepes from little store windows, while our hands were so cold we thought they'd drop off, mussels and chips (where a French woman showed me how to really get a waiters attention, and then have it backfire on her), and steak and chips (real steak and chips). Even the potato seems to taste nicer in France. The quality of the produce is just lovely, and in Paris, food matters.

Our first cold Parisian night was spent in a Tibetan restaurant near our hotel, which I loved, but my partner didn't. I could have had pitchers of the butter tea (traditionally made with Yak butter, not sure if ours was).

A trip to a great little brasserie, Brasserie Balzar was a must. I could have gine back again just to see the waiter with the handlebar moustache. The food was good, honest French food.

We had brunch at Angelina on the Rue de Rivoli. It is famed for it's hot chocolate, and also for the fact that Coco Chanel used to frequent it every day in her later years. It is also widely known that the waitstaff are incredibly rude. Utter rubbish!! The waitstaff were lovely, and our waiter was joking and laughing with us the whole time. We tried the Croque Madame, which is a Croque Monsieur with an egg on top. It was nice, but the star of the brunch was definetly the rich hot chocolate. The decor is lush too.

New Years Eve was spent at Le Train Bleu, where the courses came out almost as often as the champagne, and the noise of people yelling "Bon Annee" or "Happy New Year" could be heard all around.

New Years Day was spent having lunch in the Eiffel Tower, in a restaurant called Le Jules Verne. Perfect. Sublime. Incredible. The service was impeccable, the food was wonderful, and the views.... who can find words for that?!?! It wasn't cheap, not at all, but it's not every day you can dine in the Eiffel Tower. What a special day.

I love Paris. I love wandering the streets and taking in the sights. I love the smell of crepes cooking, the sweet aroma calling me through an open window. I love listening to the accordion players on a bridge. I love the people.

I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles...

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Zermatt - home of the Matterhorn, in the Swiss Alps. It happens to now be one of my favourite spots in the world. If anyone reading this is going to be visiting Zermatt and wants the names of some really great restaurants, let me know.
Swiss food is up there on my list as one of my favourite cusines, especially the hearty, honest food from the mountains.
If someone even mentions Swiss food, my mouth is watering and my heart is singing (cheesy but true). I immediately think of veal with a white wine and cream sauce, cheese, corn-fed chicken, Escargot, chocolate, the best sausages in the world, and Fondue (both cheese or meat ones - where the whole table is loaded with things to dip in and cook).

Nearly every meal I had in Zermatt was sheer heaven. We wandered along some of the winter walking trails (and got lost very often) to reach some of the restaurants geared towards the hungry skiiers (or walkers), as well as eating in some of the pretty restaurants in the village. I will also hungrily remember the stall set up on the main street, outside the butchers, with a man frying up some really incredible sausages, including big, juicy veal sausages, served with crusty bread and a big dollop of mustard. We paid him a few visits of course.

The scenery of Zermatt is breathtaking. I spent a week there over christmas, and can't wait until I can do it all again. Everywhere you turn, the mountains are looming, lots of snow and ice, sleigh bells, the zoom of electric taxis (no real cars allowed in Zermatt), and the Matterhorn. Oh, and as an added bonus (if the rest isn't enticing enough), the people are kind and beautiful.

I could move to Zermatt in a second. It would be very difficult to do this, but if someone gave me the opportunity, I'd be there. I can't wait to go back and I missed it as soon as I had left. My skiing skills (even after lessons) are poor to non-existent, but I made up for it with my enthusiasm for the food. Oh please go and do the same! If you have been, please tell me if you know how to make a dessert that involved Emmental meringues.


Venice is a special place. It's old, it's dramatic, and it's so beautiful it almost hurts to be there.
The food ranges from ordinary to sublime. Venetian food is wonderful and varied, from Sarde in saor (sardines in vinegar and onion), rice and peas (risi e bisi), real Venetian pasta (Bigoli), to so many things I didn't even have time to try. The reason I say it can be ordinary is that there are many tourist trap restaurants in Venice. To discover something authentic you need to delve deep into the Venice maze of streets and canals.
I really enjoyed the pizza in Venice, though I know it's not part of original Venetian cuisine. A dinner of pizza and Prosecco was probably my favourite meal in Venice. I have mentioned I love pizza, haven't I?
I went for a touristy and expensive Bellini at Harry's Bar (where the Bellini was created), and it was lovely, although I am still trying to block the cost of this drink from my memory.
Venetian food shopping is fabulous too, as is all Venetian shopping. Winding streets and alleys create a paradise for shoppers, I only wished I had been equipped with more room to buy and pack all these lovely goodies.
I loved Venice and I can't wait to return. My hotel was a small and quaint one, and was both friendly and personal. I had warm croissants of a morning, brought in by a local bakery, with lashings of butter and Nutella. Over croissants, one of the owners of the hotel told us that his business was in danger of closing, as were many other hotels in Venice. We were there during one of many floods, and it is those floods and extreme weather conditions, as well as the current economic situation, that might close some of those business after all.
It makes me sad to see this happen, and it can only be changed if people continue to go and see Venice, and fall in love with it. Regardless of the weather, it isn't hard to love Venice. I would urge anyone to see Venice, even just once. If I could love it even with it's flooded streets, and raised walkways, I'm sure others could too.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


After Munich, we arrived in Salzburg, Austria. We also spent some time in Vienna and Innsbruck.
I loved Salzburg, I really loved it. The people of Salzburg are warm and delightful, and I found them to be very welcoming. I did the cheesy tourist thing, and went on the Sound of Music tour around Salzburg and the surrounding hills, which has long been a dream of mine, and I loved every moment of it. My only regret was that I didn't get to spend more time in Salzburg, but I will definetly return. I was upset to leave, which was surprising after such a short amount of time, but I just felt like I was supposed to go to Salzburg. I still miss it a lot. The food of Salzburg, and Austria in general, was lovely. Huge schnitzels, shredded pancakes, strudel, more hearty christmas market food, rich Goulash - so unlike any of the watery and bland dishes I have previously met, that also claimed to be Goulash. Imposters! The spaetzle served with the Goulash was tasty, and the Salzburg Nockerln is a dessert that completely blew me away. It is a giant souffle-type dish served as a set of 3 on a plate, with warm, pureed raspberries served on the side. For the two of us, it seemed like a bit of overkill, but I can proudly claim (or should it be shamefully?), that after a full meal, we still managed to have one of the Nockerln peaks each, and shared the third. I have a couple of recipes for this ones, so as soon I can muster the courage to try making it, I will post the results for everyone to see.

I wish I could say as many positive things of our time spent in Innsbruck. It's a beautiful city to look at, and I hate to say it, but I will never return. I found the people to be very cold towards us (even though we did try and speak as much German as possible) on numerous occasions, and it ruined the whole experience for us. Even the Swarovski Crystal World was a let down, just a few boring old displays, and a huge gift shop, though I did enjoy shopping there.
The one saving grace would have to be the Alpine Zoo. I came closer to so many beautiful alpine animals than I would ever have thought possible. I wish we had spent all of our time in Innsbruck here.

Vienna was ruined for me due the location we were staying in. A sleazy, seedy area and in a hotel that I stupidly chose because it looked quirky and it has featured in many Inspector Rex episodes. The staff (owners I think) were rude, the place reeked of cigarette smoke (including the breakfast area and lobby) and we were a long hike from anywhere even slightly decent. It was a doomed visit from the start, and I think I didn't give Vienna the time and attention it might have deserved. I will go back someday, and this time I'll even try to like it.


German food has a reputation for being nothing but a big bowl of stodge. So wrong!! German food is hearty, and definetly geared towards a healthy meat eater, but it's tasty and comforting, and really sets you up well for a day of travelling.
Last christmas, my boyfriend and I started our first real European journey (as adults anyway) in Frankfurt. We moved from there to Nuremburg to visit the famous christmas market, then onto Munich (for my beer-obsessed man), before heading out of Germany to Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France.
My main experience with German food was the sort you eat when wandering at the markets, when you're almost turning blue from the sort of cold you've never experienced before...
Nuremberg sausages with bread (mit brot) and sauerkraut, Mulled wine (Gluhwein), hot potato cakes with sour cream or apple sauce, and piping hot mugs of hot chocolate (heisse schokoladen).

The bier halls too were pretty incredible, with wonderfully large plates of sausages, dumplings, pretzels, pork belly, or pork anything really!
I've been craving really good sausages since we returned home. And not the dodgy supermarket ones either, full of gristly nasty stuff, but real ones - the juicy, melt-in-your-mouth variety. I've heard of a place in Sydney that stocks them, so I think I have a day trip planned in the near future.
I would urge anyone to go and visit the European christmas markets, especially the German ones. They are special and magical, especially very early in the morning, when the vendors are first setting up, yelling "Morning" (or Morgen - in German) out to each other. Listening to them, and smelling the morning's first sausages sizzling away, whilst gripping on to my mug of hot chocolate... that is how I will always remember Germany.

Monday, May 18, 2009

New blog name

Yes, I had to be difficult and change my blog name. Why 'The Dancing Shortbread'? I used to make these disaster christmas star-shaped shortbready cookie-ish things and for some reason, I would roll the dough out to be too thin and long, and to make them fit on the baking tray I would squish the edges up in places, so they all looked like awkward dancing stars. My best moments in the kitchen. Truly they were! I strongly suspect they might have been how I won over my boyfriend...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New York Food

New York City must be THE food capital of the world. I'm drooling over my keyboard just remembering everything I ate in NYC (and oh yes, this is no lie - I normally have a dodgy memory, but there's always room for food).

I can still smell the chestnuts roasting on an open fire (okay not so much roasting, and not so much an open fire, more of a heating in a street cart, but let's not ruin the picture here), and I can still taste that very first bite of a genuine New York City pizza...

Speaking of Pizza - my very first, very freezing, night in New York was spent at Joe's Pizza on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. Ohmygod I didn't know pizza could taste that good! The guy who served us was a little horrified when my boyfriend and I ordered two pizzas for just the two of us, and I think we were even more horrifed when we saw the size of these monsters upon arrival at our table, but you know what? We ate the whole lot. We had come off an evening flight from Sydney, via a horrible transfer in LA, and we were hungry! We were also cold, and excited to finally be in good old NY. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!
This pizza was so good that we went there three times in three weeks, and it will be my first stop on my next trip back. The meatballs on the pizza, the pizza sauce, cheese, everything - wow! Is it obvious I like pizza?

For steaks - Peter Luger's Steak House in Brooklyn is a carnivore's dream!! The steaks are huge, and aged, with an amazing steak sauce. I'm planning to order some of it, but don't know if my sad, little steaks cooked at home could possibly do it justice.

Churrascaria Plataforma in Times Square is a Brazilian style grill restaurant that has a great little system that works with a little disc sitting on your table. When you want them to bring meat to your table, flip to green, and when you're stuffing your face and your mouth is so full of food you can't speak to a waiter, flip to red. There's also little yummies like fried plaintains and cheese bread constantly on the way to your table, and a few self-serve bars with salad and seafood, all sorts really. A word of warning - those Brazilian drinks can pack a mean punch. We saw tables of four getting into the jugs of these fabulous drinks and figured the two of us could manage it. Oh wow, where did my legs go?!? The service here was fab, despite some reviews I had read that stated otherwise.

Balthazars in SoHo is great for a big winter breakfast before braving the city. We got to see Ben Lee walking out just after us. Typical, I go all the way to New York, hoping for a bit of American celeb spotting, and all I get is an Aussie!!

Being a fan of the movie Serendipity, I had to visit Serendipity and it's famous Frozen Hot Chocolate. Hours of lining up, and we finally made it in. It's a fun and quirky looking place and the food and frozen choccy were good,but I don't know if it was worth the extreme lines, the whole experience left me a little too exhausted to enjoy it properly. But hey, we did get to sit in the same seats, at the same table they sat at in the movie. I am so sad!!

Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes, yes I know everyone raves over them, and I expected to do the same, however I thought they were such a let down! So disappointed. The staff were rude, the cupcakes pretty dry, the icing was nothing to write home about, and the range was pretty uninspiring. Cupcakes on Pitt here in Sydney is much better!

To get in touch with the inner-child, a trip to Peanut Butter & Co is in order. Peanut Butter Sandwiches come in many guises here, and are best washed down with a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff milkshake. All sandwiches come with a side of potato crisps too - fun!!

Saving the best for last (I couldn't mention every place I liked), the best restaurant I have ever been to is The River Cafe in Brooklyn.
It wasn't cheap, but we had a Boxing Day dinner here (our anniversary) and will never forget it. Pear and parmesan salad, lamb rack with merguez sausages, and a chocolate Brooklyn Bridge dessert (with a chocolate plaque emblazoned with 'Happy Anniversary'), not to mention a wonderful wine list,and we were in heaven. We also had a window seat, and got to spend our dinner looking over at the Manhattan skyline.
This place is so special, and if I could only ever have one more dinner in a restaurant for the rest of my life, it would be here. I'm getting teary just thinking about it.

So between eating my way around New York, and shopping for more food at the fabulous Dean & Deluca, I became a bit of a blimp, but it was worth it.
The foodie bug had hit...