A Blend of Culinary Delights from Europe: I AM CALGARY’S Summer for 2019
Food! Glorious food! There’s no doubt about it, one’s vacation culinary experiences is one of the key factors in creating a successful holiday. Food, along with accommodation, transport, the company you keep, and the weather, of course. Eating can be both a noteworthy highlight as well as a haunting lowlight. It can enhance an occasion or it can ruin a day.
🔤 Our ABC’s
Since Christa and I became engaged, every travel experience we’ve enjoyed together has seen us compile an ABC-list of our highlights and lowlights from that trip. As we return home from our holiday we work through the alphabet, generating an intentional brain-dump of our trip’s memories. We’ve done this from the time of our first road trip to Vancouver via our favourite cottage in the BC woods, our camper van holiday in California and, of course, our cycle safari in Botswana, to name but a few.
So, it seemed appropriate to create an ABC title for this blog.
An alternate title option might have been “Another Banquet of Christa and Derek’s Experiences”. I know there have been reality TV shows and stories written of people who have tried to eat their way through cities, countries and continents. That was not the aim of our Summer 2019 Europe holiday. However, when we did eat – which was often – we definitely tried to make it memorable, unique or, at the very least, representative of a local experience. We enjoyed some very noteworthy meals. What follows is a collection of these highlights.
💬 Some Assumptions
In compiling this list, I recognize that one’s interpretation of “the best meal” or “the best restaurant” is super-subjective, driven by a multitude of variables. Three of the most significant drivers that might have influenced my choice of awards were
- our hunger level at the time;
- our desire for “culinary adventure” in that moment; and
- the warm fuzzy emotions that the location evoked.
Enjoy tracking with us as we recount our gastronomical journey from England to Guernsey, France to Germany and Switzerland, and then backtracking to France and England. We’re eager to hear if you’ve been to any of these places, or might be tempted to visit there now that you’ve seen our list.
🇬🇧 United Kingdom (England & Guernsey)
First meal on our Europe vacation, enjoyed with great company: The Royal Foresters, Ascot, England
Best Sunday Roast: The Stag Pub, Ascot, England
Cool country pub desserts: The Barley Mow, Englefield Green, England
Favourite fish & chips deal: The Talbot, Stow-on-the-Wold, England
Best (actually, our only) Banoffee Pie: Windsor Castle Pub, Windsor, England
Best road trip spontaneous wholesome lunch-stop: The Potting Shed Pub, Crudwell, England
Best Cornish Pasties: Boscastle Bakery, Boscastle, England
Best Pub Burger & Calamari to share: All Bar One Waterloo, London, England
Best Indian cuisine: Tandoori Chophouse, London
Best Mexican Street Food: Buho, Fermain, Guernsey
🇫🇷 Brittany, France
Best moules et frites (€10.60): le Mole, St Malo, Brittany, France. I don’t mind fresh muscles. I wasn’t quite expecting to have to devour over 140 of them in one sitting!
Best salted caramel butter crepes (€4.50): le Mole, St Malo, Brittany, France
Best galette (~€13.00): Hôtel Restaurant Eugénie, Pontorson, Brittany, France. We both had a phenomenal dinner here. I chose the Chevretine Galette with goat cheese, pear, smoked magret, salad, goat milk ice cream, raspberry sauce inside a buckwheat pancake. Christa avoided the goats milk products and chose the Estivale Gallet with balsamic pickled bell peppers, duck filet, red onion, and sun-dried tomatoes inside a buckwheat pancake. Eat your hearts out! They were amazing. The coffee and caramel butter crepe for dessert was also a winner.
✏️ What is the difference between a crepe and galette, you might ask? Read more about this fiery Brittany debate here.
🇩🇪 Germany & 🇨🇭 Switzerland
Coolest café art décor: Café Miss Gugelhupf, Kandern, Germany. Our brief tea and scone meal here was pretty low key, but the décor, made by the owner, is truly neat art and worthy of the mention!
Best Black Forest Cake: Schloss Burgeln, Germany
🇫🇷 Paris, France
Best late-night date-night dessert trio: le Mistral, Paris, France. We enjoyed soaking up the nightlife sounds and sights before popping in here after our Seine sundown river cruise then catching our train back to our hotel. We had to add a caramel butter crepe to the mix, of course!
Inexpensive authentic French food – Escargots beurre persillé (les 6) (€7): Bouillon Pigalle, near Montmartre, Paris, France. Recommended to us by a local tourism office as being a new, popular and inexpensive destination at which to enjoy French cuisine.
Most convenient tourist Parisian brunch (€7.90): la Ville de Provins, near Gare de l’Est, Paris, France. We had been staying at the Holiday Inn nearby, so this was a brilliant little brunch stop to recharge and to avoid the €15 hotel buffet. The service was ultra-friendly and we were made to feel like long-lost friends.
A welcome street café tea break: Le Corner, Avenue Kleber, Paris, France as we sauntered from the Arc de Triomphe to the Trocadero.
Much-needed pizza snack stop: la Terasse des Vedettes, near the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France. After a long day of walking the streets and soaking up the atmosphere sometimes all you need is a wholesome pizza to share. This did it for us before we spontaneously climbed the stairs of the Eiffel Tower.
Last meal of our vacation: full breakfast with surprisingly decent coffee at Sonoma, Gatwick Airport, England. Sadly, the powerful airport air conditioning that I’m sure was located directly above our table chilled our breakfast spread before we could do it any justice.
✏️ Vacation go-to drink of choice: Rekorderlig cider. We were introduced to this Swedish-origin brand of ciders on the first night of our holiday at The Royal Foresters in Ascot, England. We subsequently sought it out at every opportunity when a refreshing drink was needed. We enjoyed discovering the available selection at a supermarket in Guernsey and subsequently dragged a few bottles around with us that we ended up relishing on our sundown river cruise on the Seine and then again on our last vacation evening on the banks of the Seine. There’s a unique selection of fruity mixes: Strawberry-Lime; Wild Berries; Apple-Guava; Mango-Raspberry; Premium Peach-Apricot; Passion Fruit; Pear. And a botanicals range including Rhubarb-Lemon, Wild Apple-Elderflower and others. Our two favourites were Strawberry-Lime and Passion Fruit.
✏️ Most appreciated confiscated drink: A 1-litre glass bottle of Jacoby apple juice that had been given to us as a welcome gift from our hosts in Germany. We carried the unopened bottle with us back to Paris. I carried it around in my backpack on this particular day that we went to Sainte-Chapelle. Upon passing through security it was discovered that I was unsuspectingly concealing a glass bottle in my day pack. Short of being arrested or made to drink it on the spot I back-tracked out of the 30-person lineup, returned to the street, approached a nearby restauranteur who somehow understood my gesticulations. I attempted explaining what had happened and asking whether he’d babysit my bottle of juice. He very kindly obliged. Our bottle of juice was still there when we returned from our two-hour excursion through Sainte-Chapelle. We retrieved it and drank it right there on the sidewalk in front of the brasserie across the road from where I’d been publicly shamed earlier in the morning. Never did Jacoby apple juice taste so good. Come to think of it, never before had we even had Jacoby apple juice!
🏆 The Friendliest Customer Service Award goes to …
🇫🇷 France 🇫🇷
Are you sure? Yip, isn’t that a surprise? It was for us. We were expecting to be dismissed and marginalized at every turn. But that anticipation couldn’t have been further from our reality. And we didn’t just experience this once. We experienced – and enjoyed it – everywhere!
Bravo la France!
✏️ PS …
Don’t be fooled, we also had some less-than-stellar culinary encounters during our vacation that are memorable for different reasons. We’ve elected to remain diplomatic and not share those here.
Featured image courtesy of Laurence Ellison