With over 20 countries under my belt (half of which I credit to Semester at Sea; that's what really ignited my international interest), Europe had somehow escaped me and was calling my name. Plus I was in need of some inspiration for a new Global Grub kit... sounds like a good excuse to go, right? And with that, our mission was set: eat our way through Europe, with our 1-year-old in tow (that's a whole different story that you can read about here). With travel days factored in, we only had 8 days to complete our mission.
First stop: Barcelona. I wish everyone adopted the idea of tapas, small plates so you can have a little bit of this and a little bit of that. One of our best meals of the trip was at Restaurant Rene, a little gem with nostalgic decor in the Eixample area. We ordered too many tapas to list, but here's what stood out the most: the melt-in-your-mouth trumpet mushroom croquette, Catalan cheese plate including the "best burrata I've ever had" and last but not least, seafood paella of course. We had to wash this all down with a bottle of Spanish wine (reasonably priced at 20 euro). This feast took place around 10pm; eating at this hour is pretty common there. Besides this unforgettable meal, we did a lot of window shopping, aka gawking at food that was often beautifully displayed, like cases filled with flakey, chocolately pastries and an array of prosciutto prominently lining entire walls.
After a quick 36 hours, it was "Adios" to Spain and "Ciao" to Italy!
Pizza and pasta were on our minds as we made our way to Naples. Our taxi driver navigated us to this quaint little seaside restaurant. Adam ordered a classic margarita pizza, which to me, is hard to mess up but can easily fall into the mediocre camp. This pizza definitely passed the test. It was the best of both worlds: delicate thin crust on the bottom, making it feel "light," but with a thick and crispy crust, just the way I like it. Notably, this large size personal pizza was only 5 euros. I got the pasta with mixed seafood. It was really fresh and high quality, but l seemed to be munching more from Adam's plate (do you do that to your significant other too?).
We had to rush off to get to our next gluttonous stop: GELATO! I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, me or my baby boy. This was the start of an unhealthy food habit that followed us around for the rest of the trip. The colorful mounds of lemony, pistachioy, chocolatey goodness were nearly impossible to pass up (especially for my dad who seemed to give my little one a gelato cone every time I turned my head).
Now I must tell you about my favorite day of the trip: our visit to Florence. We took the most memorable and authentic private cooking class, Let's Cook with Jacopo. Instead of a traditional cooking school, Jacopo's class takes place in the home he grew up in, a charming apartment with the most lovely well stocked kitchen (that's also conveniently located a mere 15 min walk to Duomo/Republic Square). We started the day by walking to the local market to pick up some of the freshest ingredients in season. Then we went back to Jacopo's and rolled up our sleeves. The day's menu included a carpaccio artichoke salad, spinach and ricotta ravioli, and gnocchi in tomato and basil sauce. We were all ears to Jacopo's tips and tricks along the way.
We honed our ravioli craft with new techniques from Jacopo, like what flours to use, how to best knead and using fresh sheep milk ricotta for the filling (so much sweeter than regular ricotta), to name a few. The carpaccio artichoke/celery/parm salad was surprisingly delish. I never had raw artichokes before but they were perfectly in season, thinly sliced and simply dressed in olive oil, parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper. We also tried our hand at gnocchi for the first time. Like ravioli, it required some TLC to shape each gnocchi with a folk but was fun to do and the outcome was extremely light tender pillows. The fresh tomato and basil sauce made me never want to use the store bought stuff ever again.
Great news, Jacopo agreed to share his gnocchi recipe straight from his kitchen in Florence, just for you! I gave his instructions a lil Global Grub touch for some extra help.
After class, we headed to the Duomo/Replica Square area for a little stroll. We ended up at Caffe Concerto Paszkowski, a local's recommendation that we're so glad we followed. My mom proclaimed it was the best coffee she's ever had... considering they were established in 1846, it's safe to say they've had time to master it. The beautifully displayed sweets didn't disappoint either.
Last but not least, we had a short half day in Cannes, France where yachts and designer stores line the waterfront. Adam and I shared a panini and crepes. I said I'll take whichever crepe is the best and this beauty arrived at our table minutes later. Let's just say I ordered an extra crepe to go.
Well, that's the scoop on my 8 ravenous days in Europe. Mission achieved, and a new Global Grub kit is in the making. No doubt I gained some weight on this trip but "when in Rome," right? Let me know if you've eaten something unforgettable in Europe or if you have plans to do so soon.
PS - You're might be wondering how the heck we hit up all these places in 8 short days. We went on a cruise which proved to be a great way to "sample" various countries. If you want to hear more about the cruise itself, cruise on over here).
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