We have been back for a couple of weeks now and have been trying to catch up on a lot of things. We know how anxious some of you are to see what we stuffed ourselves with in Europe, right? Well, I’ve finally found a spare moment to blog about all the great eats we had while vacationing in France and Italy. From the foie gras in Paris to the homemade gnocchi in Venice, we were satisfied beyond our imaginations; and very few in between did not live up to our expectations. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience in Europe and we hope you can live vicariously through the pictures, as if you were sitting right next to us enjoying the hot plate of goodness.
We spent 4 glorious days in Paris visiting famous monuments like The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and Arch de Triomphe (as shown). Paris was my favorite city because of the picturesque landscape, the easy transportation system, and simply the serene romanticism of being in Paris.
Our first night in Paris, we didn't know where to eat, so we walked around the back streets near the Pantheon and came upon this quaint little eatery called Perraudin. This was a prix fixe menu that included the appetizer, main course, and dessert. So what did I choose? Escargots (otherwise known as snails). It had a nice pesto flavor on it, so I thought it was good. Daniel chose foie gras (duck liver). I think this was the moment I became a fan of foie gras and was desperately wanting more!
For the main course, I got Beef Bourguignon - just to compare it with the one we made at home! I would have to say the one in Paris was the winner - can't compete with real French chefs! Daniel opted for Duck Confit and he enjoyed that as well.
To finish off our fabulous 3-course meal, we got the Hot Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream and Nougat Ice Cream with Raspberry Sauce. Can you say yum?
The next morning, we had lunch at Cafe Marly, which is situated right at The Louvre with great views of the museum and pyramid. Cafe Marly was actually recommended by one of my co-workers and I was definitely pleased with the quality of food and service we received. For my meal, I got the Filet de Bar Grille with Beurre Citronne and he got Steak Tartare. The weather was a bit chilly and rainy, but we enjoyed dining outside with the fresh air.
We spent one of the days in Paris taking a bike tour of the city which was a lot of fun. Our tour guide that day recommended a hole in the wall restaurant that specializes in fondue. I've always enjoyed fondue, so why not try the real thing in Paris? Hmm, let's just say it's not what you think it is. The place is called Le Refuge des Fondues and apparently a ton of locals and tourists adore this little tiny restaurant. We sat down and instantly we got 2 baby bottles of red wine (which we drank out of the nipple, of course), and we got a plate of small appetizers. The owner who was serving us only spoke French and very little English.. so he asked us beef or cheese? We said beef, and apparently we got two portions. If I had known, I would've asked for 1 beef and 1 cheese. Bummer.
So this is how Parisians do fondue: in OIL. That's right - you dip your raw beef into hot oil. Gross! I am used to a flavored broth, so having to have my beef drenched in a fatty oil was making my stomach nauseous. Needless to say, I didn't have a very satisfying dinner. Daniel felt sorry for me and after dinner, we walked to a nearby bakery and I got myself a chocolate eclair.
On our last night in Paris, we went up the Eiffel Tower and decided to have dinner at 58 Tour Eiffel, located on the first tier of the tower. We thought the ambiance and view would be fitting to spend our last night in France. Since I have been dying to eat more foie gras, I made sure I ordered this as the appetizer - Duck Foie Gras, onion, and blueberries marmalade. I wasn't disappointed, but at the same time, I think I had too much duck liver and felt like my arterties were getting clogged. I knew then that I wouldn't be having foie gras again for awhile...
As you can see, the presentation was beautifully done! By far, this restaurant was the most "fine dining" we did! We enjoyed the Duck Breast Filet with Baked Fruit and the Roasted John Dory Filet with Crispy Vegetables. It was literally like eating art!
The next stop was Rome, Italy! This city definitely had the most history and ancient ruins to prove it. We spent 4 nights here and had an awesome time learning about the history and culture of the Romans. One of my favorite pictures is the one where we were both enjoying the sheer amazement of the Colosseum at night. Rome was a great city and we walked everywhere! I guess all roads do lead to Rome, huh?
Our first night in Rome, we went to a restaurant recommended by our friend Joyce. La Taverna degli Amici was located in a small alley on Piazza Margana, which was like a 15-minute walk from our hotel. We ordered the Octopus Salad with Potatoes and Olives as our antipasti. When your eyes roll in the back of your head, you know that you're in heaven.
For the secondi (main course), we had Parmigiana di Melanzane (eggplant lasagna) and Ossobuco Agli Ortaggi (marrowbone with vegetables). Both were ridiculously good and satisfying. All we could do was say "Thank you, Joyce!" This was hands-down our favorite meal of the entire trip!
The following day, after our Ancient Rome tour, we had lunch at Vinando. I ordered the Trofie Con Pesto Alla Genovese (Pasta with basil sauce, potatoes, french beans and pine seeds). Daniel had the prettier plate - Ravioli di Pesce Spada con Salsa di Scampi (Ravioli stuffed with swordfish and prawns). The first few bites of my dish was good, but then I got bored of the flavor, so I started eating Daniel's meal which was so much better!
That night for dinner, we went to a restaurant that our tour guide Richie recommended - Navona Notte. The fact that we had to wait almost 30 minutes to be seated just solidifies the fact that this is a high-traffic restaurant and locals and tourists alike are vying for the chance to dine here. After patiently waiting for our table, we eventually got seated by a very animated waiter and ordered Spaghetti Cozze e Vongole Veraci (spaghetti mussels and clams) and Carpaccio di Manzo (raw beef and rocket salad with parmesan cheese). Mmm mmm good.
If you're looking for a quick bite to eat during lunch, then look no further. Just steps from St. Peter's Square, you'll find Pane e Dolce, a very small sandwich shop. The lady who owns this was so sweet and accomodating! We shared the Porchetta sandwich, which basically consists of roast pork between two halves of a bread roll. The pig is roasted whole over wood and is heavily salted and stuffed with garlic, rosemary, and other herbs. Daniel knew it was love at first sight.
Since we didn't want to just walk around Rome and stumble upon a good restaurant, we asked our tour guide Richie to recommend one of his favorites. He knew about our food blog and he said that if he told us about this restaurant, we had to swore to secrecy that we didn't advertise the name and location on our site, since he didn't want it to turn into a mainstream tourist attraction. We agreed. Hence, we got the opportunity to dine at this tiny restaurant in the back alleys of Rome. Our choices for dinner: Pasta alle Melanzane (tomato, eggplant, cheese) and Polpette (meatballs). We both agreed that we never had any meatballs that was this moist and flavorful! I was also in love with the pasta and eggplant and vowed that I would try to replicate this dish at home since we grow our own eggplant.
On our last night in Rome, we wanted to eat in the Jewish Ghetto neighborhood. So in order to find a decent restaurant, I turned to my Italy for Dummies book! It recommended Giggetto Al Portico D'Ottavia. I knew that I wanted to try risotto in Rome, so I ordered Risotto alla Pescatora (rice with seafood) and Daniel had Cannelloni Ripieni. Both were very tummy-satisfying! The book had suggested to order the Carciofo alla Giudia (fried artichokes jewish way) and although we ordered it, we were highly disappointed. It was basically an artichoke that was deep-fried and that was it. It was hard to eat and had little to no flavor. Apparently it rocks other people's boats, but not ours.
After Rome, we took a train to Florence and spent 3 nights in the city. What stood out the most was our full-day tour to Tuscany, an hour outside of Florence. We visited Siena, San Gimignano, and Pisa - where you'll find the famous leaning tower. Tuscany was absolutely gorgeous and we were thankful for the nice weather we had which provided spectacular clear views of the Tuscan hills.
During one of our nights in Florence, we happened to walk by Ristorante Ciro & Sons. It intrigued us to stop and look at the menu, only to find out they were an award-winning restaurant! We dined here that night and ordered Fettucine Saint Vincent (Pasta with garlic, olive oil, chili pepper, shrimp, arugola, and cherry tomatoes) and Carpaccio di Manzo (beef with arugola, parmesan, and citronette sauce). We enjoyed the ambiance, the company of 2 cute Australian girls, and of course, the food.
On our last day in Florence, we had lunch at Osteria Dell Agnolo because we were starving and didn't want to be too picky. Besides the fact that my pizza took forever to come out, it turned out to be a decent meal. Daniel ordered gnocchi (potato dumplings) served with sausage and truffles and I had the Quatro Stagioni pizza which is topped with mozarella cheese, ham, olives, mushrooms, and artichokes. Apparently my pizza looked good because two other tables had asked me what I ordered!
Florence is known for their steaks, so obviously we had to find a restaurant that had good steaks to satisfy Daniel's carnivorous appetite. One of our blog readers, Joline Chan, had emailed us during our trip to recommend a restaurant she adored in Florence. We couldn't pass up the opportunity to try one of our readers' requests, so we tracked down the restaurant - Trattoria da Benvenuto. We shared the Risotto alla Fiorentina (rice in meat sauce and peas) for our antipasti. Wow - absolutely delicious! I really didn't want to eat too fast because I wanted to savor every bite!
Joline highly recommended the Lombatina alla Casellana (veal steak with mushrooms, ham, and mozarella) - so of course, I ordered it! Daniel devoured a gigantic piece of steak, the Bistecca alla Fiorentina. It was simple, yet succulent. Joline, thank you so much for taking the time to email us about this restaurant! We definitely enjoyed the meal!
Our last city of our trip was Venice, Italy - the city on water. We didn't spend a lot of time in Venice, but at the same time, it's a very small city so we were content with our experience there. This is a picture of the Grand Canal during our gondola ride. Our gondolier didn't belch out a song of "Mi Amore" which was perfectly fine with us!
The most memorable meal we had in Venice was our dinner on our last night. We ate at La Piscina, right next to the water. We cheered to a great trip with our white wine while sharing the antipasti of Gnocchi with duck, radicchio and ricotta affuicata cheese.
I selected a very interesting dish: King Prawns with Rice and Curry sauce. I had no idea my rice was going to be black! Daniel chose to feast on Swordfish and scallops kebab with aubergines (eggplant). We couldn't have asked for a more pleasant and memorable final dinner in Italy, right by the canal. Venice was such a pretty city and we wouldn't mind coming back here to visit in the future.
Wow, I finally finished blogging about 2 weeks worth of dining in Europe. Whew! Let’s just say that I knew this post would be a challenge to complete. You don’t understand how relieved I am to finish this and to finally share with our readers the food experience we had in France and Italy. We hope that through this post, you could find some great recommendations to eat while in these cities. Feel free to email us if you want a more detailed description of our food experience! Traveling is truly the epitome of indulgence… and this is just the beginning of a lifetime of travels and food adventures! Cheers to France and Italy for being great destinations!