joearay@gmail.com / +1 206 446 2425


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Monday, December 28, 2009

Who Needs Teeth In A Half-Cellar of Goodness?

I reconnect with the city a few steps below street level.
We share a little plate of artichokes hearts that are drizzled with olive oil and spritzed with fleur de sel. They’re so tender, you don’t need teeth.

There’s also a little wheel of oil-bathed goat cheese that’s somehow has the wonderful tang of cheddar. We get a bacalao-tomato dish with olives and a separate plate of olives that I’m supposed to share. Oops.
We wipe up our fingers with the ubiquitous useless napkins and wash it down with vermouth and seltzer water.
It’s good to be home.

Count on about 10-20€

La Bodegueta – MAP

Rambla de Catalunya 100

Barcelona

+34 932 154 894



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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Catalan Christmas Wishes, By Way of Sicily

As a holiday card, I had this odd idea of setting the camera on the tripod and hefting the lit Christmas tree so all you’d see would be my arms and jeans, with Guido’s painting in the background. Luckily, I remembered the Catalan Christmas connection with La Boqueria Market, which regularly graces the front page of many newspapers here on the 25th.
It also makes a much nicer photo.

Time for a Turkey.

(No, not me, the one in the oven.)

Ho, Ho!

Joe

P.S. - For a Christmas-esque message of peace from Guido, click here.



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Monday, December 14, 2009

Au pied de cochon

PARIS

The “Run Away!” category was designed for meals like this.

A rainy, hungry cold and dark afternoon in Paris called for something warm and reassuring. We almost went for pho in Belleville but my visiting friend suggested soupe à l’oignon (French onion soup) it seemed perfect.

Le Pied de Cochon is a Paris classic dating back to when Les Halles was the mammoth food market I’d give my pinky to have seen, not the current resident: a subterranean shopping mall that both houses and smells like a swimming pool. Restaurant names from the market period were designed with its oft-illiterate workers in mind. If you were looking for the boss who was cutting a deal for broccoli or tossing a couple back, he would be at the Chicken in The Pot, the Bell, The Drum or…the Pig’s Foot.

I was reassured that though the tourists were making up a majority of the customers - particularly as it was only four in the afternoon - there was was also an older, distinguished looking gentleman eating by himself and reading Le Monde dated the following day.

Waiters and waitresses buzzed around, giving the restaurant a wonderful, busy feeling and when the soup arrived, and we breathed in its wonderful smell - a bit reminiscent of Mom’s chicken pot pie - we felt like happy and lucky little kids.

We should have stopped there. The soup tasted like soap.

At least the broth did. I nibbled my way dutifully through the cheese on top, hit the broth, winced, tried again, tried my friend’s broth and then just stopped eating.

I never stop eating.

What’s worse is that this is the traditional food for served in Les Halles, arguably the birthplace of soupe à l’oignon. I tried distracting myself by thinking of the word Francois might use when confronted with something like this, but in the end it was all mine: atrocious.

We split duck confît that arrived cold and limp and when we sent it back for a warm-up, it came back lukewarm and limp.

That was enough. We left.

Count on around 15-30 euros better spent elsewhere.

Au Pied De Cochon - MAP
6 rue Coquillière

75001 Paris

+33 1 40 13 77 00

www.pieddecochon.com



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Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Consecrated Onion - The Great Rioja Tapas Crawl Part III

LOGRONO, Spain

“At El Soldado de Tudelilla, get the tomato salad and the little sardine sandwich with sport peppers,*” says Artadi.

We do.

The notes for the little sandwich (a pincho) say “Why don’t we eat more sardines in the U.S.A.?”

The question floats into space as I take a bite and flag the stout-bellied barman for a tomato salad which turns out to be the star of the show.

Said barman makes the salad on the bar beneath our noses by plucking a tomato from of the cooler with the wine and the onions and cuts it into bite-sized chunks with a pocket knife. He does the same with the onion.

“This is not just any onion,” he says, “This is the white onion of Fuentes de Ebro,” which, we’ll learn, is more mild than a Vidalia.

“It is a town consecrated to the onion,” he says.

He adds a can of still faintly-pink tuna to the plate and drops a few olives over the top before giving the whole thing a shot of vinegar, a 15-count drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of gros sel.

It’s a little mountain on a plate that disappears in a heartbeat.

“We’re going to be late,” I say.

“I don’t care,” comes the response.

Perfect.


Count on about 10 euros for salad, sardines and a glass of wine or two

El Soldado de Tudelilla MAP
C/ San Agustín 33
Logroño, Spain
+34 941 209 624

*Truth be told, he said “guindilla.”



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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Cebas, C’est Bon! - The Great Rioja Tapas Crawl Part II

LOGRONO, Spain

“At bar Cebas, get everything,” says Artadi.

Pressed, he mentions a tortilla and the anchovies and the chroizo I immediately burn my mouth on when we get there.

“It’s hot!” I warn my friend before burning myself again.

The tortilla is fantastic, I even had a lamb’s ear sandwich (!), but the sublime star is a toothpick with a pair of olives and a pair of anchovies sandwiching a guindilla – a pickled green pepper folks in the Midwest would call a sport pepper.

There’s vinegar, spicy heat, salt and texture, all at once – it’s mind-blowing goodness, especially when coupled with any of the wines on their wonderful list (just scan the wall – it’s somewhere near Artadi’s picture with the owners).

Count on a few well-spent euros for snacks.

Bar Sebas - MAP
Caille del Albornoz, 3
Logroño, Spain
+34 94 122 0196



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