When we’re in Barcelona for the summer, we always visit Blai’s extended family out in a village in the Alt Penedès. It’s wine country and everywhere you turn you’re surrounded by vineyards, vines dripping with white or red grapes. Quite often we’ll eat in Cal Padrí, a restaurant we’ve seen rise from what was originally a large chicken shed, and we’ve seen the restaurant grow in popularity since it opened, both with locals there for the weekday menú del dia or non-locals out for a special day with a special menu or lost tourists who are looking to retrace the cava route they planned. Yeah, I wasn’t there but Blai had to help out some lost tourists while he was having lunch there one day; lots of the wineries in the region now welcome visitors. And Cal Padrí is indeed a lovely place to stop for lunch if you’re in the area.

On our last visit, it was a Sunday and hence the menú del dia wasn’t available. There was a weekend menu or what we all opted for, the menú degustació. This tasting menu consisted of three first courses, two second courses and two desserts…and all for €26,50. And that included bread, water and the house wine. Definitely a bargain as you’ll soon see. And not everyone at the table even has to order it.

We started with a little snack of pa de vidre (rubbed with tomato and oil for pa amb tomàquet naturally) and topped with slices of fuet. A good and classic start.

Pa de vidre amb fuet

Then the tasting menu began proper. Amanida de perles de foie amb maduixa i reduccio de vinaigre – A salad of foie pearls with strawberry and vinegar reduction. I’ve never thought much about strawberries in salads but they were perfect in here, a lovely fresh and slightly sour foil to the rich foie.

Amanida de perles de foie amb maduixa i reduccio de vinaigre

Coca de farigola amb seito i ceps confitada – A thyme coca with anchovy and confited porcini mushrooms. This was wonderful. I love flatbreads and flatbreads topped with delicious things are always welcome.

Coca de farigola amb seito i ceps confitada

Raviolis de mascarpone i alfabrega amb daus de tomaquet fresc – Mascarpone and thyme ravioli with diced fresh tomatoes. Those tomatoes are certainly fresh as they have a kitchen garden on the other side of the parking lot!

Raviolis de mascarpone i alfabrega amb daus de tomaquet fresc

Llom de bacalla amb crema d’Idiazabal i patata xip violeta – Cod with Idiazabal cheese sauce and purple potato chip. This was one of my favourite dishes with lots of creamy cheesy sauce with the mild cod.

Llom de bacalla amb crema d'Idiazabal i patata xip violeta

Anec mut del Penedes criat a Cal Padri rostit amb prunes i pinyons. KM0 – Roasted Muscovy duck from the Penedès with prunes and pine nuts. This is the signature dish of the restaurant as it uses ducks they raise on the premises (the farm has been there for years). The cooking style is very Catalan – the duck is roasted in pieces in its own juices along with the fruit and nuts. It’s simple but very satisfying. The ‘KM0’ denotes the distance the ingredients have traveled!

Anec mut del Penedes criat a Cal Padri rostit amb prunes i pinyons. KM0

And then there were desserts! On the left is Copa de mousse de xocolata blanca amb gelatina de mango – A homemade cup of white chocolate mousse with mango jelly. On the right, “Ou sorpresa de Cal Padri” – their “Surprise Egg” of meringue with vanilla ice cream. Both simple but both good.


Overall, a tasty tasting menu and quite a fun way to dine if you’re here on a weekend.

I’ve been a few times already in the past and each time I’d had their menú del dia, the lunch menu of the day – made up always of two dishes (the first is usually a vegetable/rice/pasta and the second usually a meat/fish) plus dessert, bread, water, and wine. I’ve just highlighted some of the dishes they offer here. This is all very typical everyday Catalan eating and it’s all very well cooked here.

A typical Catalan amanida (salad)


A saltejat (think stir-fry or saute) of green beans with piquillo peppers

Saltejat de Mongeta Verda amb Pebrot Piquillo

A simple but typically Vilafranca/Catalan fideuà


Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil

Spaguetis amb Tomaquet Xerri i Alfabrega

Chicken wings with garlic and potatoes

Alas de Pollastre al Allet amb Patata

Stewed lean beef with mushrooms

Daus de Carn Magra amb Bolets

Homemade yoghurt cake with chocolate sauce

Coca D'Iogurt amb Salsa Xocolata

Crema Catalana

Crema Catalana

Now there’s the matter of actually getting there. Cal Padrí’s address states that it’s in Castellvi de la Marca, which is really a municipality in the Alt Penedès. Technically, it’s in a village that’s really only made up of three houses. The proprietor said that everyone really finds the restaurant using Google Maps. And so I’ll recommend that too. Also, you’ll need a car or a taxi.

Cal Padrí

Cal Padrí
Masia Cal Gori s/n.
08732 Castellví de la Marca

The closest large town is Vilafranca del Penedès.

I wish we were back in the Vall de Boí. But we’re not – we’re back in the swing of things at work and I’ll just have to make do with photos and memories. This somewhat epic post is where my blog treads the line between food blog and travel blog as, in addition to all the food we ate, I’ll also give details of hotels, public transport and sights for the region. We don’t drive and depended on public transport, taxis, and our two feet to get us around and we did brilliantly. I highly recommend it.

But where do I begin? The idea of our spending some time walking in the Pyrenees had been in our heads for a few years and as we weren’t particularly organised this summer (no long train trip this year), we decided to just fly into Barcelona and then go from there to the Pyrenees. But where in the Pyrenees? The Vall de Boí! This is a beautiful valley (vall) on the edges of the Pyrenees and is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its being the home of a significant number of beautifully decorated Romanesque churches. There are 9 in total and on our short trip, we managed to visit six and see one from a distance. It also borders Catalonia’s only national park – Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici – and we spent one of our days there too.


On Tuesday morning, we caught a 09:00 bus (ALSA, tickets bought in advance online) from Barcelona Nord bus station to El Pont de Suert, the largest town closest to the Vall de Boí. The ride was 4 hours long, inclusive of a 30 minute break in the pretty town of Balaguer, close to Lleida.

We reached El Pont de Suert at 13:00 and spent the time before lunch looking around its mediaeval buildings. The bridge for which it was named disappeared about 50 years ago but there’s still enough to see in a short amount of time.

For lunch, we happened upon the Restaurant Cotori, connected to the hotel of the same name. €18 would get us the usual menu of two dishes, bread, wine, water and dessert. This lunch included our first taste of the fresh river trout that we’d encounter all through the region – the rivers must be full of these delicate and delicious fishes; here our trout was panfried and topped with bacon and vinegared onions. The ugly dessert below was a fantastic slice of fresh pineapple topped with crema catalana!

Truita de riu de la Ribagorça amb reducció de Ratafio de la Vall de Boí amb ceba

Pinya natural amb crema catalana cremada

From El Pont de Suert, we went to the tiny taxi rank next to the bus station (equally tiny) and grabbed a taxi to Barruera, our first destination in the Vall de Boí. We got our first good look (exterior only) at one of the famous Romanesque churches; this was Sant Feliu de Barruera.

Sant Feliu de Barruera

This is where we discovered that the walking/hiking trails in the region are extremely well marked and we found our first route just behind the church, by the river. We were walking from Barruera to Durro, where our first booked hotel was located.


See that bridge above? We crossed that…and then it was straight uphill the whole way. Oof. After that sweaty endeavour, we arrived in Durro, one of the prettiest villages I’d seen in a while. We checked in at Casa Xanet, one of only a scattering of hotels in Durro. The village is very quiet and there are also only a couple of bars and restaurants. We felt like the only tourists staying in the village that evening; most come for the church and then stay elsewhere.

We had a little walk around the village and visited La Nativitat de la Mare de Déu de Durro, the first Romanesque church we entered. Of all the churches we visited, this was probably the least impressive on the inside – most of the interior decorations were Baroque and not many of the original Romanesque sculptures or paintings remain.

Nativitat de la Mare de Déu de Durro

Ah well, at least the village did turn out to be the prettiest! And the view of the village was indeed very pretty from the top of the bell tower.


From a distance, we spotted L’Ermita de Sant Quirc de Durro, another of the churches, but we never got a chance to walk up to it.

L'Ermita de Sant Quirc de Durro

That evening, we ate dinner at our hotel (really more like a bed and breakfast) and we had a wonderful homecooked meal of escalivada, grilled lamb ribs, and another brilliant truita de riu. Here’s the only photo I got that night – a slice of homemade flam de cafè, one of the best flams I’ve ever eaten! It’s flavour was gorgeous and it was so utterly smooth.

This was a fantastic homemade flam de cafè tonight! We're certainly not going hungry here.


After a great night, we woke up to an equally fabulous breakfast – perfectly fried eggs (with crispy frilly whites, just the way I like them) and very flavourful bacon. We were set for the day!

Fantastic eggs and bacon to see us through the morning! The eggs were local and had the most golden yolks.

Casa Xanet

I highly recommend staying at Casa Xanet if you’re visiting the Vall de Boí, especially if you have a car. The owners made us feel utterly at home, the rooms are clean and comfortable, and the food is wonderful.

In Durro, we headed to the parking lot/playground and found the path to Boí. It’s a bit uphill at first but then you walk along a natural ledge on the mountain and you get glorious views of the entire valley. We probably took twice as long as one would normally take to walk this route since we spent lots of time stopping to take in the view.


Into Boí we went and it was here where we discovered all the tourists. The majority come to this village as there are special taxis that go to the national park from there (more on that later). We were there that day to see Sant Joan de Boí, another of the Romanesque churches.

Sant Joan de Boí


There are beautiful replicas of the original paintings inside – and do look out for the original carved graffiti on the outside!

For lunch, we grabbed some baked goods from a bakery/supermarket (things cost approx twice as much as in Barcelona – this being the middle of nowhere) and found a little picnic area to dine. After we regained our energy, it was onto Taüll, which we discovered was a couple hundred metres in elevation above Boí. While the road winds up the mountain, the walking path cuts through in a straight line – up we went!

When we got to the top of the hill, we went straight up even further to first see Santa Maria de Taüll, one of the Romanesque churches of the town but located higher in what appeared to previously be a separate small village.

Santa Maria de Taüll

The church had been lovingly restored and replicas of the paintings lined the walls (many of the originals are currently in Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) in Barcelona). Beautiful!


After this, it was down to the main centre of Taüll where we checked into our hotel for the next two nights – Hotel el Rantiner. It’s a larger hotel, one of a few in the town; there’s much more accommodation here than in any other village in the Vall de Boí as it’s also closest to the nearby Boí-Taüll ski resort. After a bit of a rest there, we walked down to see Sant Climent de Taüll, probably the most famous of all the churches in the region.


Sant Climent de Taüll

It’s the largest of church of the region and its painting of the Pantocrator one of the best preserved. Of course, the original painting is now in MNAC in Barcelona but there are remnants of the original paint still on the walls. There’s also a bit of a light projection to show you what the original looked like. However, I would highly recommend (as it was highly recommended to us by one of the women working there) timing your visit to coincide with one of the ‘video mappings’ they show. Get in about 10-15 minutes prior to one to secure a seat and then a beautifully created show formed of multiple projections will take place for about 10 minutes; they show how the paintings would have originally looked when they were created almost 1000 years ago. It’s really worth the wait.


Dinner was at the nearby Hostal Sant Climent – they just managed to squeeze us into a table in the corner. The entire big restaurant had been fully booked! (Book your restaurants in advance – this is our main take home message and I repeat this at the end of this post.) The food was exactly what we needed on this trip – hot and plentiful. While the starters were nothing to write home about, the main courses were excellent – grilled beef cheeks and roasted pork ribs. Desserts too were absolutely massive, with Blai’s mel i mató twice as large as anything you’d find in a Barcelonan restaurant.

Grilled Beef Cheeks

Pork Ribs with Apple Puree

Mel i Mató


We started the day at the breakfast buffet at the hotel. This was a proper spread: bread, proper tomatoes for rubbing, hams, cheeses, cereals, jams, yogurt, fruit, juices, coffees, teas, chocolates, sweets, etc, etc. One could also order fried eggs and bacon or eggs any way. We filled up as we were expecting to do a lot of walking that Thursday.

Breakfast for a long day ahead! Pa amb tomàquet i pernil.

After breakfast, it was back to Boí this morning to queue for one of the 4×4 taxis that would take us deep within the Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes. Regular cars are allowed only up to a certain point; to go further, only these taxis have the permission and the ability to drive up one narrow road. You end up in the middle of the park and there are many walking paths from there.



We had packed sandwiches from a bakery in Taüll as well as packets of nuts we’d brought from Barcelona and we tucked into them when we reached the Estany Llong, a long lake where everyone seems to stop. We were planning to go further but a hiking boot emergency put a stop to that.


After some general wandering around and taking a slightly different route back…



…it was near 17:30 by the time we caught a taxi back to Boí. We then booked another taxi back to the hotel. We were shattered!

We did manage to call and get a table for dinner at Restaurant El Caliu though. Like all the restaurants we encountered in the Vall de Boí, this one offered a set menu both at lunch and dinner time (the latter is uncommon in Barcelona) and this was always the best deal with, yup, two dishes plus dessert, bread, wine and water. The food here was fine but nothing special; perhaps the best thing was the crema de llimona we had for dessert. Particularly unique to me was a stew made with horse meat!

Horse Stew


Crema de Llimona


Goodbye, Taüll and Hotel el Rantiner! The hotel was clean and the daily breakfast was excellent but I will never miss the noisy chickens directly under our room’s windows. Gosh, they’re noisy! I remember lying in bed in the very early morning while it was still dark and wishing that I could cock-a-doodle-kill them all.

Stupid Chickens

We were going to be walking today. Back down to Boí we went and then crossed the village to continue on, crossing the river, to Erill la Vall, a very pretty village just a little elevated above the riverbed. It’s quiet, perhaps not as quiet as Durro but certainly more peaceful than Boí or Taüll. There appear to be a few hotels/rental apartments and quite a few good looking restaurants.

Our final Romanesque church on this trip was Santa Eulàlia d’Erill la Vall, the only church in the valley with an exterior arched porch region (portico?) and the most beautiful wooden sculptures above the altar (replicas of course – the originals are partly in MNAC and partly in the Museu Episcopal de Vic).

Santa Eulàlia d'Erill-la-Vall

Santa Eulàlia d'Erill-la-Vall


Erill la Vall is also home to the Centre del Romànic de la Vall de Boí, where you can learn a bit about the history of the region. There’s a very good short video that should be viewed if you’re there – and they have it in English too.

We were hoping for an early lunch but the restaurant we wanted to dine at, Hostal La Plaça, only opened at 13:30. No matter, they reserved us a table and it turned out to be a good thing – almost all the other tables in that very big restaurant were reserved! Again, book all your meals in advance in the Vall de Boí!

We started with a shared first dish of faves (broad beans) with botifarra negre (black sausage) – delicious! There was yet another truita de riu, here served with the very Catalan combination of pinenuts and raisins, and another fabulous coffee flam. Overall, there was some excellent cooking going on here.

Faves i Botifarra Negre

Truita de riu amb pinyons i panses

Flam de Cafè

This was one of our favourite restaurants on this trip – highly recommended! What a good one to end on.

After lunch (no lingering as there was a bus to catch later that day), we left Erill la Vall to follow the river to Barruera. It was a very pleasant walk, very flat all the way as we were down in the bottom of the valley.



From Barruera, we called for a taxi to take us back to Pont de Suert for a rest and a drink. And then it was back to the bus station at Pont de Suert to wait for our evening bus back to Barcelona. Turn the bus around – I want to go back!

Tips for the Vall de Boí:

  • It is possible to get to all the churches by car. Actually, most tourists drive up there; we seemed to be the only people getting around primarily by foot.
  • Make all hotel bookings in advance.
  • Make reservations for lunches and dinners, even if they’re only 10 minutes prior to opening.
  • The best ticket deal for the Romanesque churches is the one for all the churches, the Romanesque visitor centre, and a ticket for MNAC in Barcelona (to see many of the original paintings and sculptures). The MNAC ticket doesn’t have any use-by date. If you’re there for the churches, you’ll easily see most of them.
  • There are no facilities for food/toilet/etc available at the national park. There are some water fountains but they are few and far between. Pack sensibly.
  • To book a taxi ride within the Vall de Boí, call the Asociació de Taxis de la Vall de Boí.
  • Finally, look out for truita de riu (river trout) on menus – they are truly fantastic. Also amazing are the potatoes, the eggs and bacon, and the flams.

It was a fantastic, though short, trip. All my photos from our trip to the Vall de Boí can be found in this Flickr album.

By the way, if you’re reading from Catalonia today – bona diada!

We finally made it to Breizh Cafe on this Paris trip; this restaurant specialises in the galettes and crepes from Brittany and is probably on everyone’s list of places to eat in Paris. I’d recommend getting there soon after their opening time for lunch if you’re trying to get a table without a reservation; and even if you have a reservation, don’t be surprised if you’re seated in their shop next door (it’s perfectly normal though we saw some tourists leave in a huff when presented with that option). We got there about 15 minutes after they opened and got a prime table on the sidewalk; soon after, the entire restaurant was full.

It took us a while to choose the fillings for our savoury buckwheat galettes – everything on the menu looked incredible. I knew that everything would be good – the restaurant is known for the quality of the ingredients it uses. A Galette Bretonne was filled with creamy mushrooms with cheese and smoked ham and the buckwheat galette was fabulous, all flavourful and crisp at the corners. (A neighbouring couple who left their “galette crusts” made me quite upset.)

Galette Bretonne

A Galette Artichaut was the classic complète – ham, cheese and egg – with the addition of artichoke hearts. Perfect.

Galette Artichaut

Of course, we couldn’t leave without a sweet crepe. After a long deliberation, we finally decided to split a Crepe Quimperone – a crepe filled with apple puree, drizzled with the cafe’s salted caramel sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream. Yes, it was as incredible as it sounds.

Crepe Quimperone

I see now why there’s always a crowd here! We’ll be back.

Breizh Cafe
109 rue Vieille du Temple
75005 Paris

We spent last weekend in Paris – it was a much needed break from work though it did feel like we traded one city full of tourists for another. That said, I love the change of culture, of language, of scenery. On Friday evening, we caught a Eurostar train to Paris, checked into our hotel in the 11eme and then headed straight out to find the nearby Les Niçois, a bar/restaurant that brings the French Riviera to Paris.

It was crowded on that Friday night but we just managed to find the last two seats in the place. We also managed to order food just before the kitchen closed and we dined on an Assiette Nissard, featuring a variety of Niçoise specialties: pissaladiere, pizza nissarde, panisses, tapenades noire et verte, anchoiade. With a basket of bread, this was a perfectly sized sampler of fantastic treats from the south for one person.

Dinner at Les Niçois in Paris on Friday night. The place is brilliant! You can play petanque in the basement!

But we were two and we needed a couple other light dishes. Croquettes were filled with a vegetable mixture similar to ratatouille, the flavour of which was very reminiscent of the south of France.

Dinner at Les Niçois in Paris on Friday night. The place is brilliant! You can play petanque in the basement!

I couldn’t leave without an order of grilled sardines. These little oily fish were perfect. Just perfect.

Dinner at Les Niçois in Paris on Friday night. The place is brilliant! You can play petanque in the basement!

As it was close by to our hotel, we even dropped by for a drink on our last day, prior to picking up our luggage and heading to the train station. It was quiet on a Sunday afternoon and they were preparing for the barbecue they hold every Sunday evening.


I’m leaving what’s possibly the best for last! They have a games room in the basement, complete with a petanque court!

Basement Petanque

It’s a seriously fun place!

Les Niçois
7 Rue Lacharrière
75011 Paris

My last few days in New York were mainly spent at a work conference in Brooklyn. There were still a lot of opportunities to dine well though!

Lunch one afternoon was at Hill Country Chicken, next door to Hill Country Barbecue Market. Their fried chicken was good but not a patch on that at Pies ‘n’ Thighs. I’ve been told I should just get fried chicken at Popeyes rather than these ‘fancy’ places though!

Hill Country Fried Chicken

That night, I made my way to Chinatown where I went in search of a branch of Xi’an Famous Foods. Their famous liang pi cold skin noodles were excellent and the kind of light comfort food that was just what I needed. The slippery noodles had been tossed with a vinegary chilli sauce with lots of shredded vegetables and bits of gluten.

Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles

I also ordered a spicy cumin lamb burger, another of their popular dishes. It was quite spicy but I felt that the lamb was a bit on the dry side; I would have preferred a bit of fat in there to give it all some moistness.

Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger

The next night, I was looking for a real New York institution as I was taking a guest out (hi, A!) and Katz’s Delicatessen came to mind. I’d not tried it and we were not disappointed! That pastrami was excellent!



For me, I chose a soup and half sandwich combo. For the sandwich, their pastrami reuben, with plenty of pastrami topped with sauerkraut, melted cheese and Russian dressing. It nearly defeated me.

Half a Pastrami Reuben

On the side were two pickles – a very sour dill pickle and my preferred half pickled but still very crunchy pickle.


My matzo ball soup was just ok – its chicken broth was just good enough. I had to leave most of it.

Matzo Ball Soup

We clearly over ordered. We ordered fries and I think we only had one or two. To drink, I had my very first chocolate egg cream, that fizzy concoction of chocolate syrup, milk, seltzer and no eggs. They featured heavily in the books that I read when I was younger and it was a bit of a thrill to finally taste one (it tastes exactly as you’d expect of the sum of its parts).

Chocolate Egg Cream and Fries

Dessert was easy enough; we just crossed the street to an extremely crowded (it was Friday night) Il Laboratorio del Gelato. Their gelati do change often so not all of their 200 flavours will be available. My Greek yoghurt and lemon ginger were very refreshing and my taste of their olive oil flavour…well, tasted of exactly that!

Greek Yoghurt and Lemon Ginger

Don’t forget to get a ticket as soon as you get in there or else you’ll be waiting for ages!

For lunch the next day, I brought another old friend and colleague back to Hill Country Barbecue for a brisket sandwich. A soft potato bun attempted to sandwich together a mound of peppery chopped brisket (both lean and moist) with lots of barbecue sauce. Good stuff.

Brisket Sandwich

That night, I met up with Diana and Michele and we had dinner at Cocoron which specialises in homemade soba. Homemade soba! I’d certainly not tried that and it sounded excellent.

To start though, we split a couple of cold appetisers: spicy cucumber…

Spicy Cucumber

… and a refreshing off-menu homemade tofu.

Homemade Tofu

The soba! I chose a cold dish for that abnormally hot day; this was their sansai soba, which came with a whole myriad of vegetable toppings.

Cold Sansai Soba

I poured the dipping sauce on top, mixed it all together and slurped down the delicious and surprisingly al dente noodles.

Cold Sansai Soba

For my very last lunch in New York, prior to my evening flight, I went with a suggestion from Diana, who proffered the name of El Tenampa when I told her I had a hankering for Mexican food. I took a subway train further into Brooklyn and got out at what appeared to be quite a suburban neighbourhood. After walking a few blocks, I found El Tenampa, a Mexican shop (‘supermarket’ would be pushing it) with a cafe in the back.

I arrived just before its noon opening time and so sat waiting in the dark with a couple of Mexican families. At noon, the lights were turned on and we queued to order at the counter. When our food was ready, we’d either be shouted at or pointed at if we were watching and it was up to the counter again to pick up your food. When you’ve finished eating, it’s back up to the counter again to settle your bill.

The best and most stressful part of the whole experience was the trip to the salsa bar! What should grace the top of your tacos? There was green salsa, red salsa, radish slices, lime wedges, pickles and, rather amazingly, guacamole. Guacamole at a help-yourself salsa bar. Of course, I guac’ed up all my chosen tacos: lengua, cesina, chorizo, and pastor.


These were some legit tacos. I also had a tamal de mole. I love tamales and this was my first filled with the classic mole poblano sauce.

Tamal de Mole

To my surprise, there was a half a chicken thigh in there too, bone and all! And this was one fine tamal.

Tamal de Mole

I’ve read good things about their cemitas and soups too. And one couple I saw had a brilliant idea: buy some of the fresh chicharrones at the front of the shop and bring it to the cafe to eat with lunch. I wish I had an El Tenampa near me!

Hill Country Chicken
Hill Country Chicken on Urbanspoon

Xi’an Famous Foods
Xi'an Famous Foods on Urbanspoon

Katz’s Delicatessen
Katz's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Il Laboratorio del Gelato
Il Laboratorio Del Gelato on Urbanspoon

Cocoron on Urbanspoon

El Tenampa
El Tenampa Deli Grocery on Urbanspoon

And that’s it! That was our big trip to New York this year! As usual, all our photos can be found in this Flickr photoset.

The morning of the third day started with a visit to Lincoln Center, the arts and culture hub I missed seeing on my last trip. It’s certainly a beautiful space – lucky New Yorkers!

Metropolitan Opera House

After a bit of wandering (and a disappointing avocado toast at ‘wichcraft), we found yet another Dean & Deluca where this time we tried a peanut butter and jelly doughnut from Doughnut Plant.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Doughnut

Mmm…now I’ve heard great things about the doughnuts at Doughnut Plant, and especially about this particular doughnut, but it was just too much. The dough itself was overshadowed by too much peanut butter, too much jelly. Perhaps I chose badly.

Onwards we went to 5th Avenue, down to Rockefeller Center where the Easter decorations were still up…

Easter Bunny

… and then down to Bryant Park and the New York Public Library where my favourite reading room was closed that day! A shame, I love that place.

Bryant Park

Lunchtime! We caught the subway from there to somewhere in East Manhattan to visit Momofuku Ssam Bar for lunch. I’d visited on my last trip to NYC and I wanted to return to try their lunch menu; ok, I was mainly there for their rotisserie duck.

But first, their famous steamed buns again. I think what makes them stand out from other pork belly buns are the not one, but two thick slices of braised pork belly. Indulgent!

Steamed Buns

And that rotisserie duck! I would have liked more of it… but what we had was excellent. This is not your ordinary roast duck as in between the breast and skin was tucked some pork-based forcemeat. This is truly the mutant animal that would be welcome at my celebration table (bah to the turducken).

Rotisserie Duck over Rice with Chive Pancake

We got it with all the fixin’s available: the chive pancake above (only ok), the bowl of lettuce below (we weren’t entirely sure what to do with it and tried eating the duck ssam style), and an excellent broccoli salad with dried bluefish (below that).


Broccoli Salad

For dessert, we split a Thai Tea Pie, which whilst not tasting particularly strongly of Thai tea, was a delightful ice cream pie and a complex tang provided by a tamarind sauce.

Thai Tea Pie

Afterwards we walked over to Momofuku Milk Bar which had not yet opened when I was last in New York. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy any of their sweets (I tried a few over a couple days). Their cookies (compost and corn) weren’t great to me and their cake truffles were bleh (dulce de leche). Perhaps I should have tried their soft serve. Their bagel bomb (a round bagel filled with savoury cream cheese) was quite good though.

And then onwards we went to the Flatiron Building and where I spotted the city’s Eataly, that huge emporium of eateries, delis and shopping all direct from Italy.

Flatiron Building

The sunny weather necessitated a gelato and we queued up to try that at Eataly. I mean, it’s from Italy so it has to be good, right?

Gelato at Eataly

Wrong. The flavours were muted; the texture wasn’t great. Boring. Oh well, the rest of Eataly looked exciting.

We didn’t have anything planned for the rest of the afternoon but we did want to see a few more galleries at the Met so back up on the 6-train we went. It’s impossible to see everything there in only a day or two and I wish we had a whole week for its!

Later that evening, we headed back to the East Village (fast becoming my favourite place to eat in Manhattan) and while we first thought about pizza, the place we had in mind was extremely crowded. We turned the corner and headed for some American-Italian food at Parm instead.

We started with some vegetables – spicy rabe was actually pretty spicy (to our surprise) but this heat paired well with the slightly bitter greens.

Spicy Rabe

String beans oreganata were grilled until the beans were tender and will black grill marks and they were tossed with a spicy breadcrumb mixture. These were brilliant – I know I’ll try throwing green beans onto the barbecue this summer….when I get a barbecue.

String Beans Oreganata

Of course, Parm specialises in anything parmigiana, i.e. anything topped with red sauce and cheese and it’s all melted together in the oven. We had a couple of small sandwiches.

The chicken parm roll was breaded chicken with tomato sauce and melting cheese in a soft bun.

Chicken Parm Roll

Inside the Chicken Parm Roll

Eggplant parm (that’s aubergine if you’re not familiar with the Americanism) was silky slices of eggplant layered with the sauce and cheese. Both parms were excellent.

Eggplant Parm Roll

Inside the Eggplant Parm Roll

After dinner, we ended up walking past the pizzeria again and this time it was empty. And open (ok, it was still very early in the evening). And that meant getting a slice. This was Prince Street Pizza, a tiny place that sells pizza by the slice – we were there for their square slice with spicy salami. As recommended by Serious Eats, I asked for our slice to be extra crispy, meaning that it just spends a bit more time in the oven during reheating.

Square Slice

A most excellent Sicilian slice this was – and we loved the crispy base.

To make up for our crappy gelato earlier in the day, we walked around the corner from the pizzeria to AB Biagi‘s yet again! Here’s strawberry and a vegan almond. What made it vegan? Almond milk! It was fantastic.

At AB Biagi's again!

It was a good end to the day!

Doughnut Plant
Doughnut Plant on Urbanspoon

Momofuku Ssam Bar
Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

Parm on Urbanspoon

Prince Street Pizza
Prince St. Pizza on Urbanspoon

It’s difficult to believe that we were in New York City last week! It was only my second time but Blai’s first time and we were gonna hit all the high spots and, of course, eat well! We flew American Airlines direct to JFK and I was pleasantly surprised by how much space we had and quality of the food provided. What wasn’t so great was the flight taking up most of Friday, which meant that we landed mid afternoon Friday, checked into our Airbnb apartment in downtown Brooklyn, and then went directly to find dinner.

My friend Diana had sent over a huge list of delicious places and one really jumped out at me – Yemen Cafe & Restaurant on Atlantic Avenue, only a 15 minute walk from where we were staying. As soon as we sat down, we were brought a huge round of warm clay oven bread, lemon wedges and zhoug, the fresh green and spicy sauce served with Yemeni food.

Warm Clay Oven Bread, Lemons, Zhoug

Two bowls of lamb soup were also presented to us. It smelled very lamby but its flavour was much gently than that which its scent hinted.

Lamb Soup

And a plate of salad! This, we think, accompanied our main course and was brought as a sort of starter.

House Salad

Being somewhat wary of American portion sizes and not wanting too much waste on our trip, we ordered only one main course and one appetiser to split between us. Weirdly, we wanted something quite comforting and ended up with hummus! It was excellent homemade hummus and we ate probably way too much of that round of flatbread with it.


And then our main course, the Yemeni national dish saltah, arrived. This was a hot stone bowl of a thick, slightly gelatinous vegetable stew topped with a frothy fenugreek sauce. We stirred our bubbling bowl hesitantly…and ate a little with rice. Then we tried it with bread and knew that we were onto a winner. It really is best with the warm flatbread – somehow the stew (with okra being the thickening agent) went amazingly well with it. I need to find saltah in London!

What we should have done was follow the lead of the Yemeni guy at the next table who dumped in a couple spoons of zhoug and stirred vigorously before tucking in with his wife. He was impressed by how we cleaned our bowl though!


The saltah came with a portion of their lamb haneeth, a falling off the bone chunk of tender spiced slow roasted lamb. The rice we ordered as a side dish and that highly scented pile of spiced basmati came with a little drizzle of saltah sauce on it.

Lamb Haneeth and Rice

And to drink? Iced Yemeni tea, which hit the spot.

Iced Yemeni Tea

Our first proper day in the city started early… like 6am early. Jetlag had hit us a bit and we used that early morning to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.


After walking for a bit (and having a bit of tea somewhere), we found ourselves in Chinatown and we headed for a place on my list for cheap dumplings (also, it opened at 7am, which was useful) – Vanessa’s Dumpling House. One order of fried pork and chive dumplings and a veggie filled pancake (a thick wodge of soft bread) saw our tummies filled for under $4. Bargain.

Dumplings and Filled Pancake

Then it was catching the 6-train and visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of my favourite places in the city and where we spent most of the day.

Temple of Dendur

All that walking through the galleries builds up an appetite! We walked (some more) to a nearby Papaya King and grabbed hot dogs to eat in Central Park. On the way, we also ran into a Dean and DeLuca (the upscale grocery store) and picked up a doughnut from Dough.

It’s here I need to mention the fantastic weather we had during our week there. Thumbs up!

Two Papaya King Hot Dogs

Dulce de Leche doughnut from Dough

Anyway, lunch was great! Papaya King’s hotdogs were excellent (no, I couldn’t tell any difference from Gray’s Papaya from my last trip) but as for topping, I don’t really get the New York onions, a stewed mixture that hints of cloves and cinnamon. I preferred the relish – pickle relish mixed with mustard. Their corn dogs and curly fries are excellent too. And that doughnut! Oh, it was brilliant – this was a dulce de leche one with icing that wasn’t too sweet and topped with lots of toasted almond slices.

After lunch, we returned to the Met again! And still, after spending most of the day there, we didn’t ever make it to the second floor!

All that walking around the Met was killing our feet and we needed another sit down mid afternoon. Tea and a snack then and that snack was our very first black and white cookie, a New York classic. It was alright (soft cakey cookie with icing) but I didn’t see the great appeal of it.

Black and White

One final round through the Oceania galleries (fantastic) and it was time to go. Dinner, as is normal for any jet-lagged traveller, was required a little earlier than usual. However, our chosen restaurant, Ootoya in Times Square, had a one hour wait for a table (it was Saturday night). No matter – we waited in the Starbucks next door. When we finally sat down, we were ravenous.

My kaasan ni set was a stoneware bowl of chicken katsu in a soy-dashi broth topped with lots of grated daikon and a poached egg. I ordered this as a set, with rice, miso soup, steamed egg, and pickles.

Kaasan Ni Set

Blai’s buta shio koji with negishio was fantastic – the pork belly had been marinated in shio koji before being grilled and were then topped with sliced spring onions that too had been in shio koji. It was so utterly savoury and moreish.

Buta Shio Koji with Negishio

Altogether it was a lot of food! I only just about managed to squeeze in some warabimochi (another big portion!) at the end!


And that was only our first 1.5 days in the city.

Yemen Cafe & Restaurant

Yemen Café and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Vanessa’s Dumpling House

Vanessa's Dumpling House on Urbanspoon

Papaya King

Papaya King on Urbanspoon


Ootoya on Urbanspoon


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