Friday, May 29, 2009

Pulling on hats and scarves

Winter has the ability to change more than just the reading on the thermometer. Any venture out of doors turns into a parade of half the wardrobe with all accessories; one drink at the pub turns into four as rain prevents quick departures; bar hopping turns into an elaborate rigmarole of dressing and stripping; and on this particular night, it magically transforms a dinner for two into a mass gathering of eight.

There's a gravitational pull in winter, towards big and hearty; towards outdoor heaters and indoor fireplaces; towards warmth and groups. And this night we're pulled up the escalators of The Galeries Victoria to join the queue at Ichi-ban Boshi for a hot and steamy meal.

Chopstick cover at Ichi-ban Boshi, The Galeries Victoria, Sydney

After the requisite wait we score a quiet, secluded table down the back which feels more restaurant than the food hall feel of the main, brightly-lit dining area. It's less than a minute's scan of the menu before everyone settles on their dining choices, eager for the comforting warmth promised by ramen.


If I admit to having an addiction to rocket, I must also confess some degree of obsession with gyoza and its fried dumpling relatives. The offerings from Ichi-ban Boshi are slender and delicate, sitting in a pool of vinegary sauce and topped with shallots and a blob of thick, deep red sauce. The filling redolent with ginger and the skin pan fried to a golden crisp, these gyoza lack the burst of character normally found in freshly-made in-house dumplings but sate the ravenous as starters.

It's then down to business as the massive, steaming bowls start to arrive, lighting up and widening eyes around the table. There's mutual admiration but no bowl envy - ramen seems to have a strong equalising power.

Negi ramen in soy soup

My negi ramen is pleasing to the eye and nose: a pretty picture of wonderful smells that get the mouth watering. In my choice of soy soup, it features a hefty amount of finely sliced shallots, a thin circle of fat-layered pork, corn kernels and bamboo shoots - the latter of which have a strong preserved taste that's a little off-putting. However, I do very well with the rest of the bowl's inhabitants: the egg-y noodles are bitey and filling; the soup perfectly seasoned, not too salty, and warming; the abundant shallots adding a much-needed lightness to the huge bowl.

I attribute this winter weather with turning my appetite into the massive ramen-finishing, multiple drinks, ravenous beast it is. And the lunch skipping too.

Tokyo ramen

Tofu ramen

Other ramen orders on the table include the traditional looking Tokyo ramen with half a boiled egg, kamaboko fish cake and nori sheet on top of other toppings, and the tofu ramen with delicately fried tofu squares. Regardless of the topping or soup type, everyone looks stuffed to the gills with their ramen orders.

Although that doesn't prevent green tea ice cream for some, or the powerful pull of yet another drinking establishment about the CBD; with hat and scarf routine, fake fireplaces, multiple rounds, outdoor heating and all manner of other wintery Sydney activities.

Ichi-ban Boshi on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On the Marque

The optimist within, supressed as they may be, can be open-minded and hopeful of the unknown. The remainder is swayed from time to time by the optimist but on the whole it would seem that fear rules in unknown worlds. So it's natural that a bit of reckless, letting-the-optimist-out-of-the-cage thought and action is not only fun and a little dangerous, it's also healthy and necessary. And it's just cruel to keep anything locked up unnecessarily for long periods of time.

With out-of-the-cage things happening all round, my excitement is contained somewhat about a planned visit to Marque restaurant in Surry Hills. I was certainly buzzy excited about the degustation, just not to the exploding stage. Be warned: there are some pretty poor photos below (light, dark and just plain bad) but it was really a night about the food and wine - that's how I'm justifying it anyway.

Chaud-froid free range egg from Marque Restaurant

The buzz was heightened on the arrival of the amuse-bouche: an egg. Delicately topless and served with grissini, this free ranger contained more ingredients than I could catch the waitress rattling off - but including cream, maple syrup, vinegar and topped off with finely chopped chives.

The first mouthful of light-as-air whipped cream had the table silenced, eyes wide and nodding while seeking - and finding - all the individual flavours. I eventually stirred the egg yolk into the the overall concoction with my grissini to create a light but rich experience that genuinely danced all over my palate. Chef Mark Best attributes the hot-cold egg to its original creator, Alain Passard.

Bread: rye and white

Bread service was plentiful and popular throughout the evening. The darker rye bread was my pick of the two; both enjoyed beneath a slather of soft butter. The rye was soft and chewy with the distinct flavour of caraway and the not-so distinct "maltiness" of some Coopers ale in the starter dough.

Almond jelly with blue swimmer crab, almond
gazpacho, sweet corn and Avruga

With this first dish, it's degustation away. Again the waitress informs us of the components of the dish - it's a textural journey - but I'm mesmerised by her last words: "popcorn dust". The dish indeed has a strong corn aroma, the almond jelly is subdued, and I quite like the combined subtleties that don't overpower the delicate crab meat hiding beneath the jelly. The Avruga caviar nudges the overall seasoning along as does the popcorn dust. This was served with perhaps my favourite wine of the evening: an Austrian 'Brundlmayer Gruner Veltliner'.

Sea scallop with 'fish floss', scampi anglaise, Campari and turnip

The next dish bears resemblance to an artist's palette, and I guess the comparison isn't really that far off. Paper-thin mushrooms dominate visually but the eyes and ears are drawn to the blushing cubes of turnip with Campari. Paper-thin slices of raw scallop sit gently atop the scampi cream - its shellfish flavour too passive for me - with scatterings of golden-hued, flavour-of-the-sea fish floss. I feared some of the components simply overpowered the scallop, muting its natural sweetness and flavour - especially the wincingly bitter turnip for which a floral New Zealand gerwurztraminer served as recovery.

Cured ocean trout with coleslaw, lemon and dill jelly

Contender for my favourite dish was this generous slice of ocean trout served on top of a (invisible...) coleslaw of julienned apple, nasturtium and something. What you also can't see is a layer of the firmest, crunchiest roe ever - they were briney explosions, to the tooth and beyond - and the fanciful lemon and dill jelly. A thin, rectangular sheet of melt-on-the-tongue jelly, equally strong in fresh lemon and dill, was balanced on top of the roe: stunning flavour on its own and a fantastic mixer-and-mingler in a mouthful.

Duck ham with braised and fresh endive and parmesan

This next dish is still fighting for top ranks on my podium, but it was admittedly met with a bit of a Hannibal Lecter "fava beans and a nice Chianti" moment in my head. I'm not a liver fan, or any other innards for that matter, and it doesn't help when it seems to still be bleeding. The duck ham looked like close relations to prosciutto and there was also a yellow parmesan puree beneath the vegetable, and three delightfully surprising, snow-white parmesan gnocchi.

Fearing the worst I sampled a small section of the rare-cooked duck liver first - saving the better for last was my thinking. Being rare, it didn't have that soft, smushy texture characteristic of most the liver I've tried, and disliked. It had its undeniable metallic iron taste which I then proceeded to almost eliminate with the parmesan puree. The gnocchi were of a much more reserved parmesan flavour, remarkably light and gelatinous.

But on to the star of the plate: the duck ham. The two thinly shaved rashers are a tease - I want more of that dreamy soft, smokey, moist, gamey goodness. Lots more. In fact, a whole plate of it without all the other trimmings and I'd be quacking happy.

Slow-cooked pork jowl with spinach and Pacific oyster

My only knowledge and experience with pork jowl is guanciale, of which I had the fortune of sampling quite authentically in a rustic rigatoni all'amatriciana in Rome (sigh). All discussion about piggies with illnesses aside, I was a little hesitant about the pork and oyster pairing. To be honest, it even looked a tad mismatched with the rich-looking oyster foam beside the fatty, pinky-white pork. I had the Pacific oyster first; slightly warmed and so fresh it could have been alive.

The pork was unapologetically fatty; the fat firm, not at all glue-y but not overly flavoured. I enjoyed the occasional crispened section of the thin skin layer and the contrasting texture with the fat and flesh, but there was almost something missing with the pork. Perhaps it was the oyster. The spinach sprinkled with sesame seeds was good foil for the oyster foam and pork alike.

18 hour Angus short rib with boudin noir,
onion croquettes and smoked onion

The last savoury dish to arrive is delightfully pretty and promisingly hearty. The neat medium-cooked short rib is mostly tender and divine with the jus but almost acts the canvas for the other items on the plate. The blood sausage is served as a mousse - without offending too much. And then there's onion three ways: an intense smoke-inhaled puree, dainty pickled onion rings, and the most exquisitely stunning croquettes.

Covered in a golden crumb, the spherical croquettes shock with their jelly-like inner and astound with their succinct onion sweetness. Lust is probably a more appropriate word than love here, but you never know with these things. I believe I polished off everything bar the croquettes so I could revel in them as my last savoury mouthful of the degustation.

Sauternes custard

Then the switch to sweets but the raptures keep on coming. We're told the pre-dessert is no palate cleanser and its simple appearance belies a masterpiece. Jostling for top ranks in the entire degustation, the Sauternes custard served with caramel blew minds (and limbs) from the first taste. The so-good-but-so-bad caramel hit accompanied the brilliant custard which transported the palate to a glass of sticky dessert wine. I had to resist the temptation to lick out my tiny dish of this simply mind-blowing dessert.

Warm chocolate ganache with hazelnut croquant,
yoghurt, eucalyptus and raspberry

I had severe concerns for the following, proper dessert after the custard performance - but a very different path was cleverly taken. The ganache was a heavenly bitter-sweet dark chocolate pudding-like mixture, served warm on top of cold European-style sour yoghurt. The contrast was quite exciting, accentuated by the adorable side garnishes and flavours of a sugared mint leaf and a dried raspberry. There were a lot of flavours happening here, with even what I recall as curry powder sprinkled over.

Goat cheese marshmallow with candied citrus and sorbet

We also had an additional dessert of the goat cheese marshmallow. I was excitedly anticipating this, having tried and loved the Centennial Parklands Dining (Mark Best consulted) version at the recent Taste festival. Anticipation, expectation and absolute satisfaction. The spherical marshmallow was firmer than the Taste version but with the same sweetness followed by a sharp, sour goat's cheese hit - swoon-worthy stuff.

Salted caramel chocolates and bitter bon bons

We finished with tea, coffees and the final dish which came out celebrating the occasion. We were instructed to just pop the bon bons in our mouths and let it do its thing. Flavours varied to include Campari and artichoke, of which I had the latter. Once the crisp sugar coating dissolved it was an explosion of liquid bitterness which was a little overwhleming for personal taste. The salted caramel chocolate proved just the thing as a 'chaser' to the bon bon - beautifully measured caramel with a hint of salt in meltingly good chocolate - Caramello Koala gone classy.

And so it's come to the end of the meal and night; the unknown and mystique of the degustation uncovered. It's been a wonderful few hours of life and despite the chill outdoors, we're letting the optimist out for a little - a bit of fresh air would do it good.

Marque on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stick the caramel sauce

Winter is undoubtedly upon us (yes, I know it's officially still autumn but try telling my chilled fingers and winter appetite that) and the dinner menu one particular night reads like the perfect traditional winter comfort food: roast leg of lamb served with a balsamic reduction and steamed vegies and sticky date pudding for dessert. Reads well - well, almost.

That is before I've read the recipe for the accompanying - and let's be honest, it's what really makes it - caramel sauce. It's like someone has a personal vendetta against the healthy food pyramid. Cream, butter and sugar - in generous quantities too. No wonder warm caramel sauce is so pleasure-inducing - it's evil.

Softened butter and brown sugar in bowl

I started on the cake, leaving the minature people on my shoulders a chance to fairly debate the "need" for caramel sauce with the pudding. We start with, coincidentally enough, butter, sugar and vanilla. I also cut down on the suggested one cup of sugar - the dates are plenty sweet enough even without caramel.

Egg addtion to creamed sugar and butter

I'm being lazy again and not using the electric beaters and giving my right arm and the wooden spoon a good workout. Beating in the first egg is simple enough; the second doesn't seem to want to cooperate and leaves the mixture a little separated, resembling risotto. It doesn't make that much of a difference once the soaked and chopped dates, accompanying water and flour are added. The mixture seems very watery but perhaps that's the difference between a pudding and a cake.

Date pudding batter

The quick taste test proves my sugar omission to be wise. There's a maple or honey-like sweetness, which must come from the dates, that's quite pleasing to the palate. And since I haven't the patience to bake for 40 minutes or so, it's the muffin tin and liners too. Pre-portioning, to stop me from having too much, I think optimistically.

Baked date 'puddings'

They bake and mingle yummy aromas with the cooking leg of lamb, and when they're ready they've taken on a rich golden brown colour from the dates. They're really light and airy inside, and thankfully not overly sweet with the chopped dates adding natural sugar hits in every bite.

To sauce, or not to sauce

P.S. I eventually succumbed to the power of the caramel sauce. Yep, went out and bought thickened cream and created the evil sauce of innumerable kilojoules and endless pleasure.

Caramel sauce

Caramel sauce on pudding

Steamed pudding with caramel sauce

Sticky date pudding

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Crust revolution

I remember, back in the day, a school friend who used to bring sandwiches to school with the crusts chopped off. Just a personal preference, I suppose, and catered to by mother dearest every day. I, on the other hand, enjoyed my crust as it was the slightest of variations on a dependably mundane sandwich. That is, the crust provided distraction to the same-old peanut butter on white, or ham and lettuce on white. That's not to say that the odd seagull, or entire flocks of pigeons, didn't benefit from my eternally boring sandwiches.

There's nothing boring or bird-charitable about Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar though. It's all stylish, fresh and about as far away from a ham and lettuce sandwich as possible - thankfully. We hit up Crust in Surry Hills on another one of those awkward in-between meals, most likened to afternoon tea on this occasion. Almost forcing ourselves in the door to a just-opened store, the menu is quite a new and different pizza experience for the Crust uninitiated.

The variety of base sauces alone is staggering - your standard tomato and barbeque for sure, but olive tapenade, refried bean, pumpkin, and satay? I need to sit down. Luckily, Crust have done most of the work in putting together combinations and slapping on a straightforward, no confusion and indecision-reducing name along the lines of prosciutto, pepperoni, peri-peri chicken, tomato or smoked salmon.

Pizza box from Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar, Crown Street, Surry Hills

Decisive one chooses; indecisive one agrees; animated chatter; presentation of pretty pizza box - it's the natural cycle of ordering takeaway pizza. With news and sensation surrounding swine flu all but disappeared, we're unintentionally heading on a flavour trip to Mexico.

Mexican pizza

One look at this crazy melange of toppings and the tastebuds are watering. The first thing that hits, other than the headily tempting aroma, is the liberal squiggle of green sauce - as if someone went a little over the top with silly string. A quick menu check reveals that it is in fact fresh avocado salsa. We're game and dive in, me studiously avoiding the jalapenos.

Up close with the Mexican

I don't think I've ever had such a topping-rich pizza, supported most capably by the base. On that, the Crust crust is definitely up there with the best - thin, golden, crisp and crunchy - giving even traditional Italian bases a good run for money. There's no throwing away of these crusts. On this Mexican pizza we have the refried beans base, which is an interesting first but nothing to write home about. There's the perfect amount of stringy cheese covering thinly sliced spicy chorizo, slivers of Spanish onion and roasted red capsicum, and easily sighted and picked off jalapenos.

The combination of toppings meld together well, the avocado salsa working surprisingly hard in tempering the overall spiciness of the pizza. There's a good ratio of chorizo to vegetables though somewhere during my third slice I begin to wish for a tomato sauce base instead of the heavier refried beans.

The Heart Foundation-approved Crust pizzas

I also note that some of the Crust pizzas have the Heart Foundation tick of approval. Quick scan - not the Mexican. It's pretty impressive anyway for something that's traditionally lumped in with the fat fast food files, but then again I think even McDonalds has some ticks on some menu items.

Well, I'm not eating pizza for a health kick, my point driven home by the quick stroll up the road to the Dolphin Hotel for a drink by the fireplace - pizza that good deserves a beer and those pesky seagulls to be kept far away.

Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 21, 2009

European memories - Part IV

For the final part of the wistful look back at Europe it's the first stop of Italy the second time around: Milan - fashion and finance capital of the country. That makes perfect sense as some of the designer shopping to be had requires a sizeable personal loan, massive credit limit, second mortgage and the like.

Il Duomo di Milano, Italia

Milan is also home to the insanely extravagant, and my favourite church/cathedral throughout the entire trip, Duomo di Milano. It's so pretty it hurts.

Dessert one lunch in Milan

After lunch one day in a random, hideaway trattoria (risotto Milanese, I think it was) I was keen for a light dolci and the waiter had just the thing for me. A little dish of fresh blueberries, blackberries and raspberries served with lemon and a sprinkling of sugar. I remember being very happy with the simple dessert and quite stoked to have found a little gem of a trattoria.

It was then to two amazing weeks on a farm in the Apennine Mountains, which was disgustingly idyllic in comparison to any other life I know. Views of mountains and valleys all round; mild summer weather; and loads of Italian home cooking. Too many favourite meals to recall, including a soup of white zucchinis from the garden, risotto with four mushroom varieties from nonna's garden, and a simple lunch of a ball of buffalo mozzarella with rosemary potatoes, head of butter lettuce from the garden, home-baked bread and olive oil.

Home woodfired pizza

Plenty to go around

The pizza day was plenty fun, starting with the largest pile of dough I've ever seen in a home and culminating in short burst cooking in a woodfired oven that had been burning for a few hours beforehand. Toppings were plain cheese or olives with mozzarella.

Ciliege - cherries

It was our luck in that it was also cherry season and we had free reign over fruit straight from the trees. Every afternoon became cherry time where we'd pick and eat as we stood under the trees. You could not get fresher, sweeter fruit though I didn't need the ant that came with a cherry one time.

Fragole - strawberries

There were even strawberries growing by the mountain roadside; minute in size but adorable and a yummy addition to the American-style pancakes we had for breakfast one morning.

Boys in Bologna

A day trip to nearby city Bologna was an adventure and a half. After sightseeing and some shopping we settled into a wine bar in a laneway, where a dashing waiter seemed to ply us with wine and free nibbles for hours. We saw these young boys and couldn't help but smile and take a sly photo of their brightly decorated drinks. The journey back to the train station after a couple of bottles was amusing, to say the least, and the ensuing adventure was ridiculous, irresponsible and so very funny.

Makings of insalata Caprese - in Atrani

From memory, restaurants were a little more scarce in Amalfi and tiny neighbour Atrani, so I hit up the village grocer in Amalfi one night to DIY. Much fun going from grocer to fruit and vegie stall to the wine shop, where the guy kindly uncorked my bottle of a local red wine to go. Above I have a bunch of basil, a tomato, a bag of buffalo mozzarella, and some mini bread sticks on the side. And of course, the vino.

Insalata Caprese - hostel style

There was a lot of creativity in the process of making the salad in a kitchen-less hostel room. The drinking glass became servingware; the bathroom sink became washing, prep and cool storage; and plastic cutlery accumulated from the trip proved invaluable. I had two glasses of my insalata Caprese and the same amount of wine.

Atrani turned out to be the perfect pinnacle and end to the trip but not so great in that I didn't want to leave. Imagine leaving a tiny, sunny beach village on the Amalfi Coast for cold Sydney winter. It didn't seem fair, and it still doesn't.

Atrani - sigh...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sweet as

Rediscovery is such a wonderful thing. Like when you find a pair of shoes in the cupboard that you haven't worn for ages, it's like getting a new pair all over again. Or when you rediscover a lost passion - one that's been lost in a time-poor, money or career-oriented world.

I recently rediscovered my love for Thai food, having been on somewhat of a Thai hiatus of late. And where better to reawaken my appetite for Thai than at Sugarcane - a new-ish venture in Surry Hills of the Longrain ilk (it's headed by ex-chefs) which I'd been really wanting to check out pre-hiatus.

Located in a quiet street not far from Central Station nor Chinatown, Sugarcane has a quiet, to the point of shy, facade that opens immediately into a small dining space with open kitchen set in the back. There's some funkiness about the room and staff, but I can't help but feel like I'm in a canteen. A nice, funky canteen though.

The menu is fairly succint and travels through South East Asia like I can only wish and dream of at the moment. There's also a brief and very reasonably priced wine list and a couple of specials which entice, so it's orders away while the restaurant fills with mostly small groups.

Prawn on rice cake with caramelised sugarcane at
Sugarcane, Reservoir Street, Surry Hills

In an ode to the betel leaf, Sugarcane tries and succeeds in a new and different variation. A cooked prawn sits on top of a cake of crisp puffed rice, and then piled with finely shredded greenery (kaffir lime leaf, possibly) plus coriander, lime, chillli and caramelised sugarcane pieces. It's a slight challenge to consume in the one mouthful but there's no other option. The flavour explosion is just like that of betel leaf offerings: sweet, sour, spicy and all round delicious. It adds an extra tantilising element in the different textures: crunchy rice cake, firm prawn and soft, fresh herbs. It's a shame I only had one.

Stir fried soft shell crab with chilli, tumeric,
snake beans and holy basil

Next is the soft shell crab and not in a fried, salt and pepper form - imagine that. The crab is stir fried in a thick sauce and hidden under a stack of beans and fried holy basil among other vegies and herbs. The flavours are big and I especially like the beans and basil with lots of steamed rice. Unfortunately the crab doesn't quite hit the mark; not tasting as fresh as possible, although I guess most (all?) soft shell crabs are sourced frozen.

Green papaya salad of crispy pork hock, mint and lemongrass

The papaya salad is an immediate favourite for all the right reasons. The stack of julienned green papaya is scattered throughout with coriander and mint leaves, and sprinkled with roasted peanuts and halved cherry tomatoes. It conceals a treasure trove of crispy caramelised cubes of pork with layers of five spice-infused skin, fat and meat. It's simply blissful and a perfect contrast to the tartly dressed salad. The cracker is embedded with black sesame seeds and is almost the third wheel to the rest of the salad but provides another contrasting texture.

Indonesian style fish special

The final main is a special of Indonesian style fish cooked in banana leaf. It's a thick fillet of white fish topped with a mildly spicy curry paste - a satisfactory dish but nothing to blow us away, especially as the flesh is a touch overcooked. But never fear, the generously-sized salad is there to save the evening and reason enough for a return visit.

The two option dessert menu doesn't quite get the sweet tooth tingling, so we venture out in search of sweetness beyond Sugarcane. The recommendation is for some green tea/yoghurt/ice cream concoction which sounds bizarre but worth a try for that reason.

Mixed plain and green tea frozen yoghurt with Tim Tam's
from White Apple, Regents Place, George Street

Looking very much a franchised store and beacon of flourescent lighting, White Apple offers an extremely limited menu focused around green tea frozen yoghurt, soft serve style. Add to that the option of chocolate, nut and fruit toppings - so many that I can't seem to recall any just now. I elected Tim Tam's, being pretty sure that chocolate and green tea were an ideal mix. They were, and for anyone's information, hazelnuts aren't really. The green tea and plain frozen yoghurt mix was a pleasing treat - light and not too sweet with a definite, subtle green tea flavour.

Sweet teeth soothed at a surprising new discovery, old flames reignited at a new rediscovery - it's cheers all round, and a few more to follow.

Sugarcane on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 17, 2009

European memories - Part III

Continuing the memory lane stroll, Amsterdam was one of the final destinations of the tour but not even half way on my European adventure. Amsterdam was essentially the last place where I would be looked after, so I felt it my obligation to let loose like a local and have fun with abandon.

Stroopwafels from convenience store in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

One of my first tasks was to seek out stroopwafels, as highly recommended by a friend. These Dutch biscuits are simply to die for: think cinnamon-spiced caramel smothered between two thin, chewy waffle biscuits. Sweet as all hell but crazy addicitive. I think I ended up with three packs: one for consumption, one I left with a mate in London and one I sent home. I was rather distraught at coming home to be told they'd all been eaten.

Fondue set-up at restaurant in Amsterdam

We also chanced upon a charming little restaurant in the infamous Red Light District, amid coffee shops and sex shops. We went for dinner one night and returned for a fondue lunch the next day. It was probably the single richest meal I've ever had, despite intentions to tone it down with raw vegetables, bread and even a few Grolsch.

Cheese fondue

I remember this fondue selection was 'Napolitana' inspired and so incorporated sun-dried tomato, basil and fetta cheese to the gooey melted cheese fondue - which included gruyere and some other cheese. I think we spent a good few hours with this pot, a couple baskets of bread rolls and a few re-orders of vegetables. Even then I think we barely made a dent in it and we stumbled out richly full and probably not needing dinner.

Cheese, The Netherlands

By this stage we were probably a bit weary of cheese, but this was a sight. Row upon row, shelf upon shelf of hard cheeses aging. We unreluctantly tasted a few but didn't feel the need to purchase a wheel to add to our suitcases.

Dinner in one night in Nice, France

A hop, skip, bus to Paris, Eurostar to and from London, overnight train to San Sebastian and then Barcelona a few days later, I'd made my way - in one piece - to the French Riviera. This particular evening I was keen to escape the tourist life for a little and found relief in an upscale supermarket. I may have spent an indecent amount of time perusing aisles for fun but did come away with half a barbequed chicken, a wedge of brie, a packet of 'roquette', a baguette (of course) and a mini bottle of French sparkling. All of which made for a delightful dinner and lunch baguette the next day too, travelling back to Italy for the next and final four week instalment.


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