food travel

Tokyo vs. Paris, Japan vs. France, from a food point of view

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Is Tokyo really a better place for a tourist to visit than Paris? As a Tokyo-native and current resident of France, I may have a few thoughts on that. ^_^ continue reading...

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Monday photos: New York cravings

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When in New York... continue reading...

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Monday photos: Coffee break in Japan

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In Japan, coffee is just as ingrained in everyday life as tea. continue reading...

Monday photos: Hotel Le Royal Lyon

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A delicious, tiny morsel from a most elegant French hotel. continue reading...

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Monday photos: Yuzu miso container from Yaosan, Kyoto

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A container that reveals what lies within. continue reading...

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Kyoto jo-gashi (wagashi) and iced matcha in the Japan Times

Kagizen Yoshikusa, Kyoto

This month’s Japan Times article is about Kyoto sweets. continue reading...

Organic and natural farming article in The Japan Times - how/where to shop (including Michi no Eki)

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This month’s Japan Times article by me is about organic and natural farmers and retailers in the Kanto region of Japan (that’s the area that includes Tokyo), including the thorny subject of how they are dealing with radioactive substance contamination on their crops. Because of space constraints I had to leave a lot out of course (that’s the nature of newspaper articles) so here are some supplemental things. continue reading...

A visit to Obana, a traditional Edo-mae unagi-ya (old Tokyo style eel restaurant)

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A little slice of old Tokyo in an out-of-the-way area of Tokyo, Obana is an unagi-ya (eel restaurant) that even someone who’s not an unagi fan can love. continue reading...

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A visit to the Shin Yokohama Raumen (Ramen) Museum

Scenes from the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum (新横浜ラーメン博物館)

A museum that pays homage to a single type of dish? Why not - this is Japan after all. continue reading...

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Postcards from Kyoto - Surfaces, Keibunsha and conclusion

Tsubaki (camellia) 'fountain' at Honen-in, Kyoto

The final post in my Postcards from Kyoto series, with some reflections on what Kyoto stands for, plus more shopping and food. continue reading...

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Postcards from Kyoto - Misuyabari and Hakotou, for lovers of sewing and handcrafts

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This edition of the Postcards from Kyoto has no food in it…but if you’re a fan of handcrafts and sewing and the like, read on… continue reading...

Postcards from Kyoto - Nishiki Market, Masugata Arcade and the traditional sho-tengai

This is the third in my Postcards from Kyoto series.

The traditional center of life in a Japanese town is the sho-tengai (商店街), a street or collection of streets where all the local shops congregate. Often it is wholly or partially covered and made into a indoor shopping mall or arcade.

The most famous sho-tengai in Kyoto, and arguably in Japan, is Nishiki Ichiba (or Nishiki Shijo - the word for market, 市場, can be read either way) or Nishiki Market (錦市場), which proudly calls itself Kyoto’s Kitchen. Although it’s called a market, it is a sho-tengai really rather than a market in the European sense; it’s a narrow, covered street lined with small stores.

Nishiki Market, Kyoto continue reading...

Sakura, Sakura: My ohanami (cherry blossom viewing) at Sankei-en, Yokohama

Cherry tree blossoms (sakura) at Sankei-en, Yokohama

I will get back to my Kyoto Postcards, but I wanted to talk a little about cherry blossoms first, before April ends.

I have written about the ohanami, or cherry blossom viewing, culture in Japan previously. As I wrote back then, one of the things I miss about not living in Japan is the cherry blossoms in the spring. For this trip back home, I wanted to be sure not to miss the cherry blossoms. continue reading...

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Postcards from Kyoto - Tofu from bean to plate: Kamo Tofu Kinki and Sosoan Restaurant

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When you go to Kyoto, you must have at least one tofu meal. It’s just the way it is. Fresh tofu in Japan is far better than it is anywhere else, and the tofu in Kyoto is generally held to be the best in the country. This is generally attributed to the skill, refined court and/or temple-influenced culture and the quality of the local water. Whatever the reason, to most Japanese people Kyoto means tofu, and vice versa. A visit to a fine Kyoto tofu restaurant is very likely to convert even the most die-hard carnivore into a tofu fan.

During my week in Kyoto, I was able to pursue one family business’s vision of what tofu should be from beginning to end. Kamo Tofu Kinki, a company that’s been in business since 1834, makes tofu and related products in two tiny workshops located in the Gion Kiya-cho area of Kyoto. Later on, I visited Sosoan, the tofu restaurant owned and operated by Kinki for a multi-course tofu feast. continue reading...

Postcards from Kyoto - Sweet destinations: Kagizen Yoshifusa and Inoda Coffee

Kuzukiri at Kagizen

Kyoto, the former imperial capital, is the top tourist destination in Japan for many good reasons. A lot has been written about this city already, and it’s impossible to describe in a few sentences - so I’m not going to try to. Instead, I’ll share some of my favorite destinations in a series of pictures and short descriptions — as postcards if you will. Here’s my first postcard from Kyoto.

Kyoto is a city that hits the sweet spot for me in more ways than one. It is dripping with history, has fantastic shops, great art and craft galleries, and so many places to have a wonderful meal. It also has a lot of literal sweet spots. Perhaps because of its history as the seat of the imperial court, where ladies influenced much of the culture, there are many amami dokoro, or places to enjoy a bite of something sweet, both traditional and modern. continue reading...

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A visit to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo

Approaching the Ghibli Museum

Back in early February, my sister Mayumi and I went to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, a suburb of Tokyo. Here’s a brief report, with practical details as to how to get there and so on. I know that many Just Hungry readers are Ghibli fans, so I hope you find it useful. continue reading...

A tour through a fabulous Japanese department store food hall - Yokohama Takashimaya

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One must-do in Japan for anyone interested even remotely interested in food is a visit to a depachika(see footnotes), or department store basement food hall. One of the more impressive food halls that I have seen is in the Yokohama branch of the Takashimaya department store. I recently had a chance to tour of the Yokohama Takashimaya food halls.

Warning: Lots of mouth-watering pictures to follow! continue reading...

Cool stuff from Japan: Soy milk that's an instant tofu 'kit'

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During my stay in Japan, I thought I’d feature some cool stuff (or things that you all may find cool) that I’ve seen. Here is a bottle of soy milk or tounyuu (豆乳) that I got at a shop in the local Tokyuu line train station (or in other words, it’s not like a special brand or anything). continue reading...

In Japan!

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I’m in Japan! I’ll be here for the next three months. I am here primarily for two reasons: My mother is in hospital; and the bento cookbook photoshoot will commence next month. But of course I’ll be filing plenty of reports on what I’ve done, not to mention eaten, here! I’ll be taking and uploading photos every day, which you can follow here on flickr.

The photo above is of dinner last night with family - a seafood nabe and a sashimi assortment. Delicious and so simple, and not at all easy (or inexpensive) to recreate properly outside of Japan!

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It really has been quite a year....with more to come

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How has the year been for you? 2009 has been a year of change and turmoil for me. It looks like 2010 is going to be just as exciting and turbulent as 2009 was. There’s a lot to look forward to though!

For New Year’s Eve, we are just going to have a quiet evening in, with some sparkling cider from our old home town. Tomorrow we’ll be having ozouni. We still don’t know where we are settling yet — it may be France, it may be Switzerland, or…somewhere else. I still have a lot of work to do, on the bento book and other things, and I am leaving for 3 month stay in Japan in 2 weeks. That will be the longest time I’ve spent there in ages, and I’ll have lots to report on from there.

In any case, thank you so much for your continued support of Just Hungry and Just Bento this year. :) Happy New Year!

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Another New York roundup: From Bagels to Madison Park

Russ & Daughters, Lower East Side, New York

I still consider myself to be a New Yorker (technically I am) and go back there at least once or more a year. So I don’t write about my trips there all the time. This time I did have more than a few notable food encounters, so here is a not-so-short roundup. continue reading...

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Postcards from Southwestern France: Gazpacho or cold soup, Cassoulet, Albi, Moissac, Conques

Conques, France

We left Provence this week for a little trip to the Midi-Pyrénées in the southwestern part of France. We’ve been trying to save money by cooking at home most of the time since we started our nomadic existence in France (see previously; not that that’s much of a hardship, since the produce and other foodstuffs in Provence are spectacular). But this week we’ve been staying in an apartment in a 17th century townhouse right around the corner from the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum in the heart of Albi, the capital of the Tarn Department. Since there are tons of great little restaurants here, we’ve been indulging ourselves a bit. continue reading...

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Borough Market, London: A Very Literary Food Paradise

Borough Market, London

When I found out that I’d be in London this week for a couple of days, my thoughts immediately turned to what food-related things I could fit into my schedule. Tea and scones, check. Curry, check. A visit to Japan Centre, check. But at the top of my list was a proper roam around Borough Market.

Long time readers of Just Hungry may know that I absolutely love markets, and go to them whenever and wherever I can. One big reason I’ve decided to move to the south of France is because of the wonderful markets here. So, how does London’s oldest market compare to some of my favorites? While Borough Market is not the biggest market, nor does it have the widest selection, or even the best selection, of foodstuffs, it’s a very special place. In my opinion, it’s simply the most intellectually pleasing market there is. continue reading...

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A Frugal Eats blitz through Düsseldorf's Japantown

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I’ve long been intrigued by the famed Japantown or Japan Quarter area of Düsseldorf, Germany, but haven’t had a chance to go there. It’s about a 5 hour drive from Zürich, and there was no work-related excuse to go there - until last week that is. So, following up on my mostly Japanese frugal eats blitz through Paris, here is my 2-day all-Japanese blitz through Düsseldorf. continue reading...

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Workshop Issé: Purveyor of the finest Japanese food and sake in the heart of Paris

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From the outside, Workshop Issé looks like just another unassuming little Japanese grocery and gift store. There are quite a few stores of this nature scattered about Europe these days. But inside this little boutique in the heart of the Japanese quarter in Paris, you can experience something quite special: A crash course on top quality artisanal Japanese food and drink. continue reading...

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A Frugal Eats (mostly Japanese) blitz through Paris

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Pursuing cheap Japanese (and other) eats in Paris. continue reading...

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A followup report on being vegan in Japan

Asha, the reader who sent me the question that inspired me to write Japan: A Survival Guide for Vegans has sent in a great follow-up comment. I’ve posted it here so you won’t miss it. She found it a lot easier to follow her vegan regime in Tokyo than in Nagasaki, where she has been living. That makes sense I thin: any major metropolitan area these days is likely to have many people who are vegan or at least interested in a vegan way of eating, while the same might not hold true for more regional towns (Nagasaki has a long history of being a very international city, but is much smaller than Tokyo of course.)

What follows are Asha’s words. continue reading...

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Kitchens out of the past

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House-hunting, and encountering old, vintage kitchens. Fun! continue reading...

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Japan: A Survival Guide For Vegans

At the moment I’m sitting in a cottage in France (recovering from a cold, but that’s another story), a land notorious for not being so vegan friendly except in the larger cities. The native cuisine is generally not vegan - even vegetable dishes often use things like dairy products or animal fats or stock in the cooking process, which can make things difficult. But if you are a vegan you probably know about this, and come prepared accordingly. (I think it’s a lot easier for lacto-ovo vegetarians in France; you could live on the delicious bread and cheese.)

If you are going to Japan, you might think that being vegan would be a lot easier. Japanese cuisine has a reputation for using lots of vegetables, seaweed and other vegan-friendly products. There is even a particular kind of cuisine in Japan called sho-jin ryouri (精進料理), a mostly vegan temple cuisine, with a long and highly regarded tradition.

But as a reader who emailed me recently found out, being a vegan in Japan is just as hard as it is in Europe. continue reading...

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Mochitsuki in your neighborhood?

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Mochitsuki photo by Ivva continue reading...

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Oahu, Hawai'i Part 2, Waikiki, Farmers' Market and Beyond

Hotel balcony, Waikiki

This was the vision I had of a hotel in Hawai’i! continue reading...

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Oahu, Hawai'i Part 1, North Shore: Kahuku Shrimp and Shave Ice

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The joys of shrimp and shave ice on the North Shore of Oahu. continue reading...

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This was me, yesterday.

I am mostly a plan-ahead, cautious type of person. But once in a while I like to do something just on a whim. Usually these whims turn out to be wonderful. (Sometimes not.)

Anyway, a couple of days ago, near the end of a rather difficult business trip, with my wrist/hand/arm still feeling stiff and wonky and feeling rather sorry for myself, I logged onto my [insert frequent flier miles program name] account and saw that I had a whole bunch of miles nearly expiring. And I decided I needed to spend them. Now. continue reading...

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Romancing the truffle in Richerenches, Provence

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Originally published on December 9, 2006: We won't be able to go to Provence this winter because of work, but I still dream about it, and plan for the next trip hopefully in the spring. Here is an article from our trip last year, about a wonderful truffle market in northern Provence. I hope you enjoy it!

The lady vendor with the intense blue gaze and the black beret on her head looks a little like a French Resistance worker from an old movie. She gestures with her hands as she talks, occasionally taking one of her wares gently in her slender fingers. Around her a curious group of people gathers, looking and sniffing intently, asking questions. I slowly inch my way to the front and look into the bowl, then up to her face, my meager French deserting me. She smile and tells me to pick one. continue reading...

Some thoughts on the vegetarian experiment in Provence

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For the last two weeks I was in the Provence, I tried a short term experiment of cooking vegetarian dishes only. Here are some thoughts on that experiment.

As I’ve stated here before, I’m not a vegetarian though proportionately I don’t eat much meat. Therefore, I thought that the experiment should go quite easily. It was easy in some respects, due to the easy availability of an abundance of fresh produce. continue reading...

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Salty bread and salty tears

monsegur-lostsign.jpgThe sign that is no more.

As we approached the tiny hilltop village of Montsegur-sur-Lauzon in northern Provence, my mouth was already watering in anticipation of the bread at the one and only boulangerie (bakery) there. I’d been looking forward to this for months, ever since last November, when we’d made one last stopover to load up on bread to sustain us for the long drive back home and a couple of days beyond.

I’ve written about my love for this boulangerie before. The bread there was the best I’ve ever had - bursting with flavor and character. Even when the loaves turned a bit stale after a couple of days, they were still so good. I was convinced that if the baker, Monsieur Metaud, was in Paris, he’d be world famous.

It was a Sunday, and there was a small queue of people waiting for their bread in the tiny store. Neither of the two people behind the counter, a young man and a middle aged woman, were Madame or Monsieur Metaud, but that didn’t concern us - they had other people selling bread there before, especially on weekends. But as we shuffled closer to the front of the line, something seemed a bit off. The collection of exotic teas that used to line the wall shelves were gone. The pretty display of confections was quite pared down. continue reading...

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Back! Apologies, and a mystery

I’m back home from Provence, both in the physical sense and the interweb sense. I actually lost Net access for the past two weeks (we thought we had something more convenient but it turned out we needed to drive 30 minutes one way to get to a WiFi spot, and well…other things sort of took priority). What I need to get into my head is that in this day and age, being offline for so long is not a good thing. It’s sort of like being MIA, for a lot of people that know me. Yes, I confess I didn’t even check my email for two weeks. So…if this affected you in relation to your food related questions and so on, I apologize. Next time I go away I’ll make sure I can at least get online once a day.

I’ll have a lot, lot more to say about my trip later on, but in the meantime, here is a little mystery. Can you identify these? (Click on the image to get a bigger view. RSS readers will have to go to the site to do this.) I’d never seen them in this state before.

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While the food in Provence is glorious - the freshest vegetables and fruit ever, tons of fresh garlic, and delicious cheeses, fragrant herbs - I really, really missed Japanese food. I did bring a (very small) bottle of soy sauce with me, but no rice or any other ingredients. (Curiously I found nori and soy sauce at the local hypermarché, but no Japonica rice, or most other needed ingredients. So I’m not sure what rice the people of Provence make sushi with.)

Last summer, I had to make an emergency stop at a small Japanese-Korean restaurant in Aix-en-Provence to take care of the withdrawal symptoms, but this year I toughed it out for three whole weeks. But anyway, the first thing I did when we got home last night? Make a potful of rice and have a bowlful with an umeboshi. I think the older I get, the more Japanese I’m getting. If my long term plans to Get A Place In Provence work out, I’m definitely going to have to sort out the Japanese food supply situation. continue reading...

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The vegetarian experiment

The comments on the post about whether vegetarian restaurants should only be reviewed by vegetarians have been really interesting - if you haven’t read them yet, please take a look here. This has made me decide to do a small experiment. I’m here in Provence for three weeks, and I’ll be cooking most of our meals (that’s why we like to rent a place with a kitchen whenever we come here, as I wrote about last year). So, I’m going to make all of our meals in-house vegetarian. Lacto-vegetarian to be precise, since not having any of the delicious cheeses here would be too much of a sacrifice and the self-proclaimed ‘bovo-vegetarian’ in house will rebel before we’ve even started. We will be giving up eggs though (a hardship in itself since I love eggs), and meat and fish. (We might have a bouillabaise once at a restaurant.) I’ll also try to stick as much as possible to locally produced food, though I’m not going to be as strict there. (E.g. I will use spices and things like lemons from elsewhere.)

Admittedly, here with all of the glorious locally produced fresh produce it should be a breeze. I doubt it will change my palette much but it will help me concentrate on coming up with different and tasty vegetarian dishes. The better results will be posted here of course!

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From a place in the sun

We drove all day on Saturday and arrived late at night to a place that is quite close to my idea of Paradise.

We’re in Cassis, a small jewel of a town on the Mediterranean coast of France. Quite close to Marseilles, but worlds away in all other ways. Chic yet a lot more laid back than the Cote d’Azur.

(warning: big photos below) continue reading...

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Cassis, France (1)

Cassis, France (1)
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Zürich Culinary Snapshot up on thepassionatecook

Johanna of the passionate cook has been running a series called Culinary Snapshots, of cities around the world. The Culinary Snapshot of Zürich that I wrote is now up there. (The pictures there were taken in late March by the way, when it was warm enough for t-shirts!) Re-reading it now I think I may need some armor against proprietors of Asian-Fusion restaurants in town. :) continue reading...

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Encore Provence

Speaking of travel…we’ve paid in our house-rental deposits now, so once again we are going to be spending the better part of a month of our summer in Provence. We’ve been there at least once a year for the last few years, and no matter where else we go I just have to go there or I don’t feel my year has been complete. Last year we even went twice, for a total of six weeks. (Thank goodness for broadband or our clients would just fire our asses. :) ) I’m not sure we can manage that again this year but at least I will have my Provence fix.

To see my way of experiencing Provence, start with A Food Lover’s Way of Exploring Provence. This year I plan to do a bit more around the coastal area to the east of Marseilles - I fell in love with the small resort town of Cassis in November, and want to see it in its summer glory. Otherwise it’s going to be markets, vineyards, and as many visits as we can squeeze in to my favorite bakery in the world. Ah, heaven.

Are you making your summer travel plans already? Where are you going? Do you let your tastebuds and stomach guide where you go as much as I do?

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Two food travel related links

People email me about their food sites and blogs all the time. I don’t mention those that I don’t find interesting or think would interest any Just Hungry readers, but here are a couple that came in recently that did catch my eye.

  • Foodtripper is a new site that reviews restaurants and food shops. What makes it stand out in this very crowded category is that they seem to have a European outlook on things, that aren’t limited to the usual places. I found several unusual and intriguing places listed, such as a restaurant in Pompeii that takes its inspiration from ancient Roman cuisine (though hopefully they don’t have authentic garum) and a chestnut factory in southwestern France.
  • If you’re visiting a major food-obsessed city where you don’t know anyone, finding your way around can be a bit daunting. A culinary tour may be one way to get your bearings. Zerve.com offers walking and noshing tours of New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and New Orleans. If anyone’s gone on one of their tours I’d be interested to hear your impressions.

A typical Swiss farm shop (Food Destinations #5)

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For Food Destinations No. 5, the theme of which is “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”, our first inclination was to pick a restaurant we go to often. But while we have some favorites, we don’t really go to any one restaurant more than once or twice a month on average, since we like variety when eating out. On the other hand, there are a couple of food stores that we shop in almost every day, where they truly know our names. One of our favorite haunts is our very typically Swiss local farm shop in the suburbs of Zürich. continue reading...

links for 2007-01-19

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  • Take a week of cooking lessons in La Pitchoune, Julia Child's Provencal house...in her kitchen! (via chicagotribune.com)
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A further education in truffles

A jar of truffles

A few days after visiting the truffle market in Richerenches, we were staying in the medieval town of Uzès in the Gard. While the Gard is technically part of the Languedoc region, it feels very much like Provence. continue reading...

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Is it possible to have bad food in France? Of course it is.

I think I'm guilty of waxing too lyrical about the food in France sometimes, and I'm certainly not alone in that. If you believe some people (many of whom have a vested interest in upholding the myth) you may think that French people eat delicious, fresh, well-prepared gourmet food and heavenly pastries all the time. That's just not true, of course. I'm just back from a two week stay in Provence, and while most of the food was wonderful as usual, there were some definite low lights. continue reading...

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Impressions of England, strictly food-related

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tavistock_bobscafesign.jpgI am back from England. As is usual when I go there, in a food sense it was a mixed bag. On the positive side, I got to experience two real, unique - and very different - highlights in The Pudding Club and The Fat Duck.

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