Friday, September 17, 2010

Europe - Point and Shoot - Food Gyan

While at the University of Sussex, I had the chance to meet a number of Europeans. Mostly, the discussions would veer towards food. Need I say, Brit bashing, then becomes the norm? Well Brit bashing, I must roughly define, is a game of one up-manship where you come up with the lousiest examples of British cuisines. Using vile adjectives don’t win you any points, but if you manage to elicit a shudder in remembrance from one or more members of the group, then your example was successful.
 So there, I have set the context...We started our two city Europe adventure with little expectations...When you race to Gatwick at 4.30 in the morning to catch a flight, food isn’t foremost on the mind. 

Food Funda(FF) 1: If you choose wisely, then each meal can make you feel like you died and went to heaven..Even before we caught the train to Amsterdam Centraal from Schipol Airport, we had our first taste of heaven – Stropwaffels..So what are they? Tiny, crispy discs of waffles with loads of sugar and butter in it – with or without chocolate and other fillings. Felt like a taste of heaven( a view that I kept amending every half a day as we had a new meal, till by the end, I wasn’t even inspired to get a packet of stropwaffels back home to UK with me!)

F F2: It is better if you aren’t a vegetarian in Europe, for it limits your food-orgasms drastically. But if you travel with friends who eat anything that does not talk back or bite them, then you will be able to at least report on how good the food is! In Amsterdam, the check-in times are usually around 2PM, which meant that we had to while quite some time away in other places.

FF3: I wouldn’t suggest you walk into a ‘coffeeshop’ the first thing in the morning. If you do, you might not walk out for the rest of the day. Plan your trips to the coffeeshop, would be my wise advice. So after chucking a couple of ‘wholesome breakfast’ options at coffeeshops, we finally walked into a cafe that served us some wholesome food indeed...I twisted my tongue over ordering a chicken schnitzel sandwich( try it, try it casually and see if it does not go schnizhhhul, snitszhul and stuff..or maybe I was in sleep-deprived semi-coma!) but the world righted itself, after the first cup of a great cappuccino and the sandwich. 

FF 4: Amsterdam is great for food. Especially when you arrive here from the UK, the food feels delicious and under-priced. Never thought I’d say that about any place in Europe. But then, Paris began punching massive holes into my Euro wallet. The only consolation was, I was paying good money for some great food!

FF 5: We followed our brunch with a hearty snooze and then began planning our food stops even as we tried to find our way across Amsterdam. We ended up at a Bagel chain ( I forgot the name – it was a clever one) that we girls thought was a Quaint Cafe discovered by us. We hadn’t gone two streets down after having some yummy bagels with exotic cream cheese and one sweet one ( apple and cinnamon bagel with butter and chocolate sprinkles) when we noticed just another similarly ‘quaint cafe’. The realisation hurt, but what the heck, the stomachs were singing with pleasure. The hot chocolate with cream (seen here along with a fruit explosion) also helped ease the hurt!

FF 6: Travelling to Spain didn’t materialise, but we had some gorgeous Spanish Tapas. Tapas is typical Spanish fare which is served in small portion. So you might need about 6 dishes to feel kind of close to satiating your hunger. If you ever get to do it right, don’t miss the chance. And boy, did we do our meal right or not...A jug of Sangria –that is red wine with orange and apple rinds and a dash of orange juice to make it cocktailly – set the mood. Some of this yummy bread dunked in olive oil, with the tapas – ahhh...another slice of heaven. And between the three of us, the meal was about 42 euros only!!! In the UK, you’d easily shell out that amount for a meal for two without the wine and I’d not take wagers on the food.
FF 7: If you are ever in Amsterdam, don’t say no to their breads or stuffed pastries. The Dutch bake like a dream and when you pay under 1 Euro for most of these concoctions, you feel like you are getting great value for money. However, a Europe trip straight out of India’s cheap food prices might bring on a mini heart attack at the cost of everything in this part of the world!

FF 8: On one of our padayatras through the myriad –straats along the canal, we had seen a tiny shop called the Pancake Factory. A little searching online revealed that it was the most popular destination for all kinds of pancakes, crepes and what not. So we kept aside a considerable amount of time on the last day in Amsterdam for sampling their fare. Travelling with good friends make your food journeys cheaper. Between the three of us, we ordered up all the house specialities – pommefritjes (remember I told you about that in the last post?) with chocolate and cream and honey and mandarins and a savoury pancake with chicken and cheese. We had to wait for our seats and for our orders to be taken. But it was worth the wait, I say!

FF 9 : The stereotype about Parisienne food was created because there were enough people who endorsed it. We joined that rapidly increasing group. The Indian girl who travelled with me – a hardcore carnivore said she’d died and gone to heaven after her first encounter with a French steak. So much so that she willingly offered herself for a high cholesterol death by ordering different versions of the steak at the various meals in Paris. Must I say much about the wine and cheese? Though I must admit here, that we had by then started going cheap with our selections as the wallet began getting lighter faster than we anticipated.

FF 10: Don’t eat by the eateries near the Eiffel Tower if you are the kind to feel the Euros pinch. Save your hunger for the smaller, lesser known bistros along Montmartre regions. The food is equally luscious – my personal favourites – a salad with grilled goat’s cheese on tiny squares of toasts and a divine dressing and a chicken leg with French fries dunked in a glorious mushroom sauce cooked with wine. It set us off by about 20 Euros every meal – the food and wine together, but you wouldn’t regret it!

FF 11: In France, also remember to try the chocolate ├ęclairs and the simple croissants for breakfast with a dash of butter and some jams. The French, I think say some secret chant, as they cook their food. It just refuses to turn out bad!! Ohhh..and did I mention the simple crepes at roadside eateries? They seem like our dosa stalls – they are available just about everywhere...While you are at it, order the one with the Nutella and banana..and tell me if you saw heaven too?!! J
I’m now back to English realities and sandwiches with no salt or pepper. The last baguette that I had packed from Paris before boarding my bus – I remembered how I tried to make it last longer by taking smaller nibbles. The bread alone would have been worth the 5 Euros I paid!!


  1. Yummm...slurp...slurpp...ain't the most dignified way to start writing but you've just got me insanely hungry. Not quite's more craving. If there is something as 'horny for food', then that's me Now!
    Sights and sounds of places are exciting to read about, but food is my ecstasy. Lovely post or shud i say hauntingly delicious post.

  2. That was nice, exploring and experimenting with the variety of food. Sounds delicious, sans the pinch in the purse. Now I can hear the growls. So gotto go & have some tea at least....

  3. Great guide. Funnily I have always had better Italian food in Paris than in Italy. Could never understand that.

    As a Brit, I can agree that British cuisine is bland and boring. However, due to high levels of immigration and a legacy of the colonialism, London has some of the best restaurants in the world!

  4. As a full blooded Brit, whilst I appreciate there was some truth to the idea that food in UK is not good, I don't believe that it has been the case for at least 20 years though. We do still have some terrible places but e.g. Brighton's very own Casa Don Carlos offers some of the best Tapas I have ever tasted in Spain, France or elsewhere. I think the secret of eating out in UK is to either keep it very simple e.g. fish and chips or eat cuisine from elsewhere... Where else in Europe could one choose from; Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Spanish, Italian, Greek, North African... ?
    The only exception I would make to this simple rule would be the ancient Scottish dish... Haggis Neeps & tatties (Haggis - a rare flightless Scottish bird cooked with alot of spices, turnip with oats and pepper and potatoes mashed with butter) eaten on a cold evening with a nip in the air or even better snow on the ground.

  5. To hear Robbie Burns Ode to the Haggis...


  6. Coffee Cup: Can't tell you how much of a foodgasmic trip this was...wonder how long it will take for me to burn off the lard!!

    RGB: I can still taste the crepes

    John and NRI: I must say I agree with you wholeheartedly. One point that I didn't make clear here is that the variety of food we can try in London thanks to its cosmopolitan culture is immense. Like my American friend was talking about how Spanish, Chinese and even Indian cuisine tastes great in America thanks to the immigrants creating a great gastronomic culture there. My grouse with the UK, I think is over the lack of value for money for cheaper food - you just get used to the packed sandwiches that taste like cardboard and the wraps that have exotic names but little flavour. And then you go travelling out of UK, pay cheap, expecting the same shit, but are surprised. I guess that's where the over-the-top praise for them emerged..:)

  7. Btw, John: that description of the Haggis made me drool, though I'm not much of a meat eater...:)

  8. Nice post...mouth watering post! :) A big foodie myself I love experimenting with all forms of food and am so glad Australia is multicultural and we are lucky enough to experience all kinds of food.

  9. Made for a delightful, delightful read.

  10. Get hold of the French!
    French food and wine is fantastic!
    The best I have had in all of my one month in Europe thus far.

  11. Wow! I am tremendously enjoying the series so far! Amazing post!

  12. You spent a lot of Euros but how many pounds did you put on? LOL
    They do eat a lot of sweet stuff, don't they?