All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Eat your way round the world

Koshary: Egyptian FoodImage by mnadi via Flickr
When you travel, the guide books tell you about transport, hotels and restaurants, but if you want a real sense of a place, it's the food that matters.

I've found this on so many holidays....the recommended restaurants dull, or over priced, or just plain rip offs.
So much better to follow the locals at lunchtime...see where they eat, and, more importantly, what they eat.

Now there's a site to help you.

Click on a city...and you'll find a local dish.

Why not contribute suggestions from your own region? Just click on the site and take a look.

I've put this on my Costa Rica blog....but with a good thing like this, it's impossible to over egg the pudding.

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  1. Fantastic site. Can't wait to try and make some of these myself. Merci!

  2. Another Day of Crazy..great, isn't it!
    Pass the word.

  3. Too right. One of the biggest delights of visiting Florence was heading off the beaten track at lunchtime and doing as you say, followin the locals. We were never disappointed and it was a holiday marked by glorious eating.

  4. Steve, and you bring back so many ideas for cooking at home after that, too.

  5. I first escaped off to France without paternalistic protection whence I was 18, armed simply with a Michelin camping guide, a small map of the world…and an Olympic class appetite. Probably the most intelligent original decision I ever made in my life to that point was to write down the following phrase on a piece of paper – “Où aimez-vous de manger la plupart de tous ici, s'il vous plaît?’’ - Where do you like to eat out most of all around here, perlleeeeze? And so my never ending journey began.

    First thing I ever do, ever do, ever do, without fail, fail, fail…ever, ever, ever, when I arrive at a new destination is to scout out and interrogate all humanoinks within a one mile radius, for their best suggestions of places to eat. I don’t even wait to unpack. Then I spend the next hour in great sufferance and angst trying to summon the courage to ‘make a decision’ on where I’m going to go first. That’s the only part I don’t really like very much.

    Did the same as Steve a few years ago too, in Florence. Arrived in hotel near Ponte Vechio, asked the only important question of hotel manager and thus set off south back over the Ponte Vechio to an off piste Italian eatery tucked away in a quiet little piazza where all the locals eat together…sans touristes. Spent about 40 euros each on one of the best eating evenings we’ve ever had, including booze, with an incredibly warm, friendly and varied crowd of born and bred Florentines. Over dosed on laughter with them all night. Perfecto.

    P.S. – Help Wanted: I’m currently hunting down recipes for ‘how to make’ the best rich and syrupy strawberry balsamic vinegar. I’ve been buying it from the brilliant ‘Oil & Vinegar Co’ in the Uk, but unfortunately their franchises keep closing down due to the tough economic times over here. I’m hovering up various methods via Google, but if anyone reading this already has ‘the know how’ please get in touch. A fresh green leafy rocket salad without a dressing of sweet strawberry balsamic mixed with good olive oil and fresh mint is taste for the gods, and I’m fresh out of stock.

  6. An interesting site. There's nothing for Montpellier and quite frankly I'm not sure there'll ever be as we don't have a speciality here. Can't have everything I suppose. :)

  7. Phil, we've had the best meals of our lives by following the right horde...the local one.

    Sarah, it seems the site is very new...and I think the idea is to contribute if you live in an area it doesn't yet cover.
    How close is Pezenas to Montpellier?
    I seem to remember some meat patties from there which were gorgeous.

  8. Message for 'Sarah' down in Montpellier: Hi Sarah, hope you pick up this message – very envious of where you reside down there on the Languedoc coast. Read your comment about Montpellier signature dishes etc. I also ‘ditto’ Fly’s comments re the ‘Patties’ pies from Pezenas from which they are famous. Pezenas is a lively old sprawl of a town besieged by stunning rolling tracts of countryside covered in endless blankets of green vines. I’m sure you know it very well just north west of you. Try searching out these dishes which all boast a belonging to Montpellier and your neck of the woods.
    Rouget Grill Beurre Nantaise - Red Snapper With Butter Nantaise.
    Pave de Dorade a la Provencale
    Anything shellfish – Coquillages.
    Seiches a L’Armoricaine – Cuttlefish.
    Bouillabaisse Montpellier – and to hell with the Marseille version, go draw a line in the sand.
    And every two years down there, Montpellier hosts a food festival called ‘Aux origins du Gout’ – The origins of taste. Part organized by the ‘Slow Food Association’. I think there is one due in 2011 though I’m not sure when or if it’s already been and gone.
    And and…I have a big favour to ask of you – truly – will you please make every effort to book a successful reservation at Olivier Bontemps restaurant ‘Bontemps’ in the little hilltop village of Magalas, just twenty minutes west of Pezenas and due north of Beziers. My own mission to eat there ‘bombed’, even though I was staying just 200 metres down the road. He’s booked up months in advance, although his prices are not stupidly over inflated at all. He’s a brilliant young chef with a smart but unpretentious restaurant tucked away in the back streets of uptown Magalas.. and his food looks and smells exceptional. I tried every devious trick in the book to get a stool here but alas all I achieved each night was to perch myself outside and dribble at the dishes that were being presented to the lucky local diners.
    Please let me know if you make it here:
    Bon Chance!

  9. Some of the best food I've had in Turkey has been found in the small family-run lokantas, mostly frequented by Turks. Tasty and very cheap.