It's hard to believe that it's been a week already since I returned from Europe. This trip included adventures in London and Paris. Adventures with an incredible amount of amazing food, which is the topic of this post.
There was just one restaurant on my must-visit list in London: Ottolenghi. I had read about the quartet of London restaurants on several blogs and upon checking out their website, confirmed I needed to try one for myself. So on a chilly Wednesday evening after a day of museum exploration, I found myself trekking by tube and foot to Islington, north of London, with high hopes for a memorable meal. I was not disappointed.
The meal at Ottolenghi was one of the best meals I've eaten.
While waiting for a table to open up, I occupied myself admiring the daily cold specials and pastries, my mouth watering more and more at each new treasure I observed.
What caught my eye most were the meringues: grapefruit-sized, stone-shaped objects in the flavors of chocolate, raspberry, and hazelnut. I chatted with the chap who was preparing takeout orders; he said without hesitation that hazelnut was his favorite, as it was soft in the middle with cinnamon inside that "tastes like Christmas".
But first, dinner.
All of the menu items are tasting portions, which was lovely, as it meant that between myself and my dinner companion (a fellow foodie, so I was in good company), we were able to try a number of delicious dishes, including: roasted aubergine, thinly sliced tuna wrapped in nori with a wasabi-panko crust, beef carpaccio served with an amazing sweet-tangy cilantro dipping sauce (I'm not sure how I misguessed on the sweetener - I was sure it was agave, but upon asking learned it was maple syrup, which I use so often I should have definitely identified), a dish with salsify, mushrooms, and quail egg that might be the single best dish I've ever enjoyed, and a red wine too perfect to even attempt to put into words.
Desert consisted of a blueberry cupcake. A blueberry cupcake that served as the foundation for the best buttercream frosting I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Yes, the combination of sugar and butter typically yields good results. But this was beyond good. The cupcake itself was incredibly moist, with blueberry marmalade cleverly baked into the bottom of the cake.
I took the hazelnut meringue to go and enjoyed it the following morning with a cafe latte while waiting for a train to Paris. It was a little like eating sweet air with a bit of a crunch to it - until arriving at the middle, that is, which contained all of the warm spice of Christmas, as promised.
It's interesting to me that a London meal tops the list from my culinary adventures (not a city known for its great food); the rest of the highlights are from Paris:
Turkey pie (left, with cranberry sauce) on my Thanksgiving Day train ride to Paris.
French onion soup at another Paris cafe.
Tomate, fromage, jambon crepe enjoyed in a warm cafe near Sacre Couer as it began to snow outside.
Macaron chocolat enjoyed with an espresso in Gare du Nord.
I continue to be enamored with Europe and am already starting to think about my next adventure: to Italy in the spring, if not sooner...