Le Bistrot, Aix en Provence, France

The weekend that we were in Aix, the city was overflowing with an extra several thousand people, there either to perform in the Half Ironman or cheer someone on. To top it off, many of the restaurants were for some reason closed on the Saturday night (?!). We got on Trip Advisor and were able to book something that looked okay… and were pleasantly surprised!

List of things not to be missed in Aix en Provence! And the menu… very cool, as each dish has a fun name… usually a French expression. Less funny was listening to the poor waiter explain the menu in English to some American girls, three times…

Finally, I went for the pate de campagne, served with a huge vat of cornichons, and Andre had the foie gras. Then, I had the special of the day, the curried monkfish with rice, while he had the beef.  All delicious, in a very charming setting… and a huge cheese trolley for the end of the meal – I would definitely come back and try some of their other dishes!

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El Magatzem de la Bodegueta, Barcelona

After our late afternoon (7pm tickets, don’t you love Spain!) visit to the Sagrada Familia, we had a bit more time before needing to head to the airport. So we went back to a recent favourite for a second meal.

The Friday night, when we got into Barcelona and finally got to dinner, it was almost midnight, and they were only serving their cold tapas, none of the warm ones anymore, as the kitchen was closed. And looking at the menu, it was such a tease, as all of the hot tapas looked amazing… so back we came on Sunday night!

We started with some croquettas – they were good, but at this point, we had had quite a few versions, and these weren’t the best we’d had…

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Some pan de coca (or, pan con tomate, as they call it in Spanish)… perfect, lightly grilled with garlic, olive oil and tomato… and my favourite, padron peppers, which were slightly over-salted, but great otherwise – nice big ones, perfectly blistered.

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And then, the dishes we had been dreaming about since Friday night… the grilled solomio topped with sauteed onions and foie gras (oh wow. great meat, grilled to perfection, topped with large chunks of foie gras… also tenderly cooked… and the grilled onion. wow.)

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And then, finally, as we were an an amazing ingredients kick… the fresh porcini mushroom tarte (on a nice, flaky crust), also topped with foie gras and tiny shoe string potatoes…

The porcini were incredible, and it reminded me that it had been ages since I had had fresh ones… fantastic. With the tenderly grilled foie gras on top, I was in heaven…

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So was it worth going back again? Definitely? Did we start feeling super nauseous at the end, with all the meat, bechamel, and foie gras? Also a definite yes. But what a delicious place, with a huge menu that we hardly made a dent in… definitely one to go back to!

Restaurant de l’Abbaye, Le Buisson-de-Cadouin, Dordogne

Ah, the Southwest of France. I may be (a bit) biased, but it has some of the best comfort food in the world. Cassoulet, magret de canard, foie gras… I love it all.

I spent a long weekend next to Bergerac with friends, and one night, sick of cooking at home, we went out for dinner. As many of the local places were already booked up (apparently you need to book early!), we picked a place randomly that had a few, but good, reviews on Google Maps. A complete shot in the dark.

Cadouin was a 15 minute drive from the house, and a very pleasant surprise, when we arrived. The restaurant was the abbey restaurant… and did look out over a beautiful abbey, which we checked out on our way home.

The restaurant had a number of different prix fixe menus, so some of us got them, and others ordered off the a la carte menu… as we ended up sharing anyway.

The girls started off with the foie gras… very thin slices, served with toast and a side salad. The slices seemed thin, but they were rich enough that we didn’t need more between the three of us… and then a small side salad with your typical French vinaigrette and walnuts. Delicious.

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Then, I had the entrecote, rare. It was served with a parsley butter on top, popped potatoes (see how they’re kind of puffy?), and a courgette crust-less piece of quiche. All very good, the steak was especially tasty and HUGE. I almost ate the whole thing, but not quite.

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Next on someone’s prix fixe, the cheese plate. Three choices each, but the lady gave us four, as we were salivating… so we shared eight in all. I can’t begin to remember what there was, apart from a Camembert, a Tome and an Epoisse, but they were all delicious. The five of us share this and didn’t finish…

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And finally, for the dessert stomach, an apricot tarte tatin that I shared with Leigh. We managed to finish this pretty quickly…

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So, the overall consensus on this shot in the dark restaurant? What a great find! We were lucky to find it, and I would go back in an instant the next time.

IMG_2230The last treat was the abbey and church lit up on our walk back to the car…

 

Pinxtos in San Sebastian, Spain

One of the most fun things to eat in San Sebastian are pinxtos, the Basque version of tapas. The two nights that we were in town, we went on tapas crawls… and had our last meal (an early dinner) in the old town of the city tapas-hopping as well.

The thing about the pinxtos in San Sebastian is that they’re all quite creative… this one below is their version of a burger, with a small patty, baguette bread (what almost all pinxtos are served on), ham and ketchup.

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Hanna had tried one and said that they are pretty good.. keeping in mind that they’re served cold!

 

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A number of our other options… again, mostly served on baguette.

 

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This pinxtos joint was right next to the big church in the old town… And typically serves a number of seafood specialties. Hanna and I each got the gulas (basically, baby eels, but in reality, the fake version of baby eels… the real ones cost a fortune) wrapped in smoked salmon – yum. Light and flavourful.

She followed that with the “pico de gallo” mussel, while I had the pinxto with and anchovy, blue cheese and a roasted pepper. All three flavours were strong, but worked well together.

And, finally, Gandarias. We went to Gandarias our first night in town, for lunch on Monday, and as a last meal Monday eve before leaving. We each got a croquette… I got a mushroom one and Hanna got a regular ham one. Both great. I then got the foie… a pan-fried piece of foie gras, one of my favourite things… as you can see, it was a bit oily, but I got over this pretty quickly as I bit into the soft, tender meat. Mmm.

 

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Hanna, trying to be adventurous (maybe that’s the lesson, don’t be adventurous at Gandarias, stick to the basics!) went for the ox cheek with a side of puree. As you can see, the ox cheek was swimming in a pool of sauce… maybe the same brown sauce that my cod had been served with at lunch? And the puree, while fine, didn’t add much… Good to know, stay away from the ox cheek!

 

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But overall, we had a great time pinxtos hopping, going from bar to bar and seeing ones with modern interpretations versus ones with traditional tapas. What a great way to spend the evening!