Eat here: S.Forno Panificio, Florence, Italy (bakery)

S.Forno Panificio
Via Santa Monaca 3r, Florence
http://t.ilsantobevitore.com

My auntie is a wonderful artist; she often travels to Italy to paint (because it’s impossible to not be inspired by such a gorgeous country), which means she has plenty of opportunities to find some real hidden gems. When I told her we’d be visiting Florence again, she told me I had to go to S.Forno. She was right.

The beautiful little bakery we found actually looked like it’d be more at home in Fitzroy or Collingwood than a tiny side street in Florence, but the retro decor and feel isn’t just fabricated to be reminiscent of the past. This is actually an old bakery that’s been rescued from certain doom by an enterprising  group of people…

The space has been a forno (bakery) for over 100 years. For the past 40 years, baker Angelo has walked into the store every morning to prepare freshly baked bread for the local Florentines. But something happened lately. After years of 7-day weeks and 18-hour days Angelo needed time beyond the bakery business and local restaurant team behind the successful Il Santo Bevitore came to the rescue. Partnering with Angelo, they have brought the business, but kept the baker, to ensure its place in the neighbourhood is secure for the future.
                                                                            – Lost in Florence

The daily offerings were written up on a chalkboard behind the counter, and assorted baskets were filled with loaves of bread. The front counter’s display case was filled with a mixed bunch of cake trays topped with an assortment of sweet treats, and the air smelt like freshly baked bread. Heaven. Husband and I were told the food was delicious and it didn’t disappoint; we ate cauliflower quiche and a prosciutto-topped slice of foccacia for lunch, and they were divine. While we ate, we watched customer after customer come through the door and leave with arms full of fresh bread.

We weren’t ready to leave after lunch; the atmosohere and people watching was too good. Sitting in there felt like total immersion in Florentine life, and we couldn’t have been happier to be sitting in the middle of it. Also, the sweets looked too good to leave without sampling.

Just to be clear, this is not a coffee shop. There’s no fancy espresso machine or 2 page caffeine menu. The focus is on the dough. But they are kind enough to offer some self-service, stock-standard American coffee and boiling water for tea, so we grabbed some of that and chose two typically Tuscan desserts – a baked rice cake, and a piece of castagnaccio, made from chestnut flour, rosemary, pine nuts and raisins.

Don’t be fooled by the nondesctipt façade; the service and atmosohere are both so warm and welcoming, and the food is some of the best in the city. It seems that they’ve arrived at the perfect balance between old traditon and new innovation, and that should earn them a visit when you’re next in Florence!

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Eating the city: Paris, France

The food in Paris is good enough to require no preamble, but the city is a labyrinth when it comes to actually finding the best spots. This is by no means an exhaustive list of what to eat there (so if you’ve been to Paris, please add your recommendations, too!), but I think it’s a pretty solid start to your French food experience!

 

Pistachio choc chip escargot

Why get it:
Because honestly, it’s probably the best pastry in the city. There was a constant, unrelenting stream of people rolling like tidal waves through the place, and most of them were walking away with an escargot pastry if some variety. But Rachel Khoo said she gets the pistachio, so that’s what we got, and that was absolutely the right choice! Perfect in every way.
We got ours from: Du Pain et des Idées, 34 Rue Yves Toudic

 

Savoury crepes (galettes)
Why get it: Paris has a tight Nutella crepe game, but did you know their savoury ones are just as amazing? Usually made with buckwheat flour, they can be filled and/or topped with just about anything, but I’d recommend getting some cheese involved; the porous nature of the galette means that when it hits the hot pan, the melty cheese starts o seep through and caramelises on the grill. That’s why you should get it.
We got ours from: Le Comptoir du Commerce, 1 Rue des Petits Carreaux 

 

Deliciously fancy cakes

Why get it:
It’s not all croissants here – there are some ridiculously good cakes, too! You’ll see lots of little individual cakes, because they’re incredibly rich, and more than a few bites could leave you with diabetes. But they’re the ultimate fancy, elegant treat to accompany your tea or coffee.
We got ours from: Le Valentin, 30 Passage Jouffroy

 

A proper, classic French meal
Why get it: French food has a reputation for a reason, but there are a lot of tourist traps in Paris which don’t really live up to the expectations of visitors. If you can get a proper classic French meal, though, you’ll understand why people go so crazy for a real tarte tatin and a beef bourguignon – the flavours are incredible!
We got ours from: Le P’Tit Troquet, 28 Rue de l’Exposition, where a three course meal will cost you around €35.00

 

Steak frittes

Why get it: It’s one of those meals that should be so simple, yet it’s rarely done to perfection. If you’re willing to spend a little money and eat a little further away from the Eiffel Tower, you’ll find some really fantastic steak. Don’t be scared to order it medium-rare; when you’re dealing with high quality beef, anything more than a few minutes each side will take a lot of the flavour away. Oh, and chips.
We got ours from: Le Café du Commerce, 51 Rue du Commerce

 

Perfect, buttery croissants
Why get it:
Because it wouldn’t be a trip to Paris without a truckload of these! Honestly, I didn’t eat a bad one over there, not this time and not the visit before in 2013. It’s always a good idea to take a sight seeing pit stop for a pot of tea or cup of coffee with a croissant in Paris!
We got ours from: Maison Morange Côté Bio, 113 Rue Mouffetard – we got way more than this one, but it was the unanimous favourite for best plain croissant!

 

Eat here: Genji Soba, Osaka, Japan (noodles)

Genji Soba
4-5-8, Namba, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Japan
http://genjisoba.co.jp

An unfortunate incident involving a too-milky matcha latte had me feeling a little unwell on our last night in Osaka, so dinner had to be something plain and simple. The husband quite enjoyed his first soba experience, and wanted to go for more, so a quick Google hunt led him to Genji Soba, only a few streets away from our Airbnb.

Tucked away down a quiet alley with no big A-frame, no blinking neon lights and no real signage, this little 18-seat restaurant is one of those places you’d never know was there unless someone has told you to check it out. And I’m telling you, check it out!

We were quickly greeted and seated, and given menus with English translations. They’re known for soba, so that’s what we went with! I was looking at the soba with daikon, but the little lady running the show warned me that it was “very strong.” I asked if by that she meant spicy, and with English words failing her, she busted into the kitchen and back out again with a little dish containing a pinch of daikon and a spoon, so that I could try it myself. Turns out we were both right; “strong” equaled spicy!

I ended up going with the plain soba, made from a mix of 80% buckwheat and 20% flour. I was instructed to either dip my chopsticks into the pinch of salt before reaching for the noodles in order to balance out their natural sweetness, or add some onion and wasabi to the dipping sauce, or, combine the lot should I so wish. That dipping sauce was pure umami magic, and my long, thin noodles were delicious!

Husband ordered the 100% buckwheat soba, which were thicker and chunkier than mine, with a richer, nuttier flavour. They were nice and chewy, just as they should be; cooked just to the right point.

Following dinner, this sweet little lady was back again, with a red, square tea pot and two fresh tea cups in hand. She proceeded to pour some of our remaining dipping sauce into each new cup, and topped them up with the contents of the tea pot – the water in which our noodles were cooked. As she added the cloudy, hot water to the dipping sauce, she explained that was the correct way to finish your meal of soba, by drinking the cooking water with some sauce, like a soup. She was spot on; I drained two cups.

After our umpteenth tea refill, we finally made to leave. Our bill was promptly brought over by the young man (around AUD$20.00 for two noodles and husband’s 500ml beer), and the lady of the house followed hot on his heels with two notebooks; would we be so kind as to leave a few nice words in their guest book? Most definitely! And could they also take our picture for their photo book? Absolutely! And with that, we were walked to the door with a flurry of bows and thanks, a small gift of an origami Geisha, and an insistence of helping me put my coat on, despite her being a foot shorter than me.

This is what it’s all about. Yes, the food was outstanding, as demonstrated by the stream of locals filing in and out while we were there. But it’s the people that make it an experience you won’t forget, and Japanese hospitality is absolutely on another level.

Oh, and if you want to find this place when you visit Osaka, this is what you’re looking for:

Eating the city: New York City, USA

In a city as big as New York and a stomach that can only physically expand so much, it’s impossible to eat everything. So, in order to save precious gut real estate for the good stuff, let me run you down the goodies you need to save space for when you visit.

 

1. Walnut chocolate chip cookie from Levain Bakery
Multiple locations
https://www.levainbakery.com

Not particularly cheap at USD$4.00 but they’re the size of grapefruit, FULL of melty chocolatey and nutty goodness, and can you really put a price on happiness? If you want to eat in, get there early or prepare to wait around – it’s a tiny space, so it fills up and the line ends up out the door pretty fast!
Read more here

 

2. Patrami & mustard on rye from Katz’s Deli
205 E Houston St
https://www.katzsdelicatessen.com

This is one of the classics of NYC, and there’s a good reason for that. Family run for several generations, they’ve served everyone from Harry & Sally to NYC Mayor de Blasio and Senator Bernie Sanders (I know that because they were sitting at the table next to us a few weeks ago!). And if the USD$22.00 price tag puts you off a little, remember how much you’d pay for that much meat at a BBQ place – just because its between bread doesn’t mean you’re not getting your money’s worth!
Read more here

 

3. Brisket and burnt ends from Mighty Quinn’s BBQ
Multiple locations
http://www.mightyquinnsbbq.com

Tender, juicy meat with soft, melty fat… and those perfect burnt pieces off the ends to finish it all off. Heaven! These guys know how to make meat perfect, and don’t forget some mac & cheese on the side. Prices vary depending on your order, but it’s good value for money for such high quality.
Read more here

 

4. Any and all of the pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn
439 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn
http://www.birdsblack.com

Brooklyn’s amazing, but even if it wasn’t, it’d still be worth going to just to get your pie fix from these guys. They have a sweet little pie shop on a street corner, with a chalkboard hanging over the counter announcing the day’s offerings (around USD$6.00 per slice), and REAL tea and coffee to go with it!
Read more here

 

5. A salmon & cream cheese bagel from Russ & Daughters
179 E Houston St
https://www.russanddaughters.com

This is the bagel dreams are made of, in whatever combination you decide on. I can’t go past the scallion cream cheese, and while it’s damn near impossible to narrow down the fish, I’d strongly recommend the cured Scottish salmon and the smoked sable. Prices vary depending on your fish, but they’re kind enough to slice off a bit for you to taste before you commit.
Read more here

 

6. Hot dogs from Papaya King or Nathan’s Famous
Papaya King: 179 E 86th St
http://www.papayaking.com

Nathan’s Famous: Coney Island or at a Bulls game at the United Center
https://nathansfamous.com

Two NYC stalwarts, two great dogs. From Papaya King you’ll be wanting the two hot dogs with sauerkraut & mustard and a papaya drink combo. I wasn’t sold on the papaya juice drink with a hot dog, but its actually a weirdly good combination! And at Nathan’s, you just want a dog with a little ketchup and mustard. Amazing!
Read more here and here

 

7. Tea and scones at Alice’s Tea Cup
Multiple locations
https://alicesteacup.com

I’m a big fan of Alice, so I was stoked to find this wasnt a completely tacky themed cafe. They do breakfast and lunch, too, but I was there for tea and sweets. You can get a large pot (6 cups) of tea with two scones of your choice (they have a rotating selection daily) for USD$20.00, and they’ve cleverly switched to a tip-included-in-the-price system to make things even easier. Selecting you tea is the hard part, with dozens to choose from – I like the Mauritius black tea with a hint of vanilla, and of course their signature Alice’s tea; you can also purchase any tea from their menu to take home!
Read more here

 

8. Deli sandwich near Sunset Park, Brooklyn
5th Avenue between Green-Wood Cemetery and Sunset Park

It doesn’t really matter where you get it from or what’s in it, the whole walk up 5th Avenue to Sunset Park is lined with these little delis. It’s a bit of a climb to the top of the park, so grab some sandwiches on fresh bread piled high with just-sliced deli meats for a picnic in a spot that overlooks the Manhattan skyline.

 

9. Noodles and dim sum in Chinatown

Let’s be honest; where there’s a Chinatown, there’s good food. And New York’s is no different. Get yourself over there and just start walking. It’s just like being in Asia, which means the menus are often difficult to decipher, and there are more options than you’ll know what to do with. And, it’s cheap. Enjoy!

 

10. New York Cheesecake from Eileen’s Special Cheesecake
17 Cleveland Place
https://www.eileenscheesecake.com

Because how can you possibly go to New York without trying the namesake cheesecake?! You can get a little personal one for yourself (USD$5.00), or a nice big one to share (or, for yourself, no judgement), and in all sorts of flavours as well as the original.
Read more here

 

11. Crack pie & birthday truffles from Momofuku Milk Bar
Multiple locations
http://milkbarstore.com/main/

We live in a time where sugar’s been proven to be more addictive than crack anyway, so may as well skip the drugs and go right for the sweet stuff! The pie is basically pure butter and sugar, and the truffles are sugar with sprinkles, but they taste so damn good you just can’t help yourself!
Read more here

 

12. Bomboloni from Sullivan Street Bakery
533 W 57th Street
http://www.sullivanstreetbakery.com

Soft, airy, pillowy balls of dough, fried to golden perfection and filed with silky smooth custard. Off you go.
Read more here

 

13. A bit of everything from the Chelsea Market
75 9th Avenue
http://chelseamarket.com

There’s a whole basement full of food here, from vegan sushi to Aussie sausage rolls, herbal teas to artisan pastries, pizza slices to microbrew beer. If you can’t find something here you like, there’s something wrong with you!
Read more here

 

14. Gyro platter from The Halal Guys
Multiple locations
https://thehalalguys.com

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and a gap in the market for halal food in NYC led to one of the city’s greatest creations in the Halal Guys. The meat (served street side from a cart) is probably better than any you’ve had in a restaurant, and starting at around USD$8.00 for a platter, you won’t even need dinner later!
Read more here

 

15. Burgers! Fancy ones from Five Napkins, simple ones from Shake Shack.
Five Napkins: multiple locations
https://5napkinburger.com

Shake Shack: multiple locations
https://www.shakeshack.com

I’m a real burger lover, and my two NYC favourites fall on both ends of the spectrum. For something a bit fancier, try the Original 5 Napkin with gruyere and caramelised onions (around USD$17.00), and for a quick and cheap option, get yourself a ShackBurger for just USD$6.00. Both amazing. Just get both.
Read more here and here

Stay & eat here: Moraine Lake Lodge, Alberta, Canada

Moraine Lake Lodge
1 Moraine Lake Rd, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
https://morainelake.com

5 hour layover in Seattle? Perfect time for a blog post! We’ve been on the road for a week so far,  and I’ve slipped back into travel life likea duck into a pond 🙂 We spent week 1 in Alberta, Canada, and I think I can pretty confidently say it’s the most beautiful place in the world. I’ll have a longer post coming on how to DIY road trip the Icefield Parkway so you won’t have to join the hoards of buses doing the rounds, but for now, a quick look at our one night of fancy accommodation for the trip, at Moraine Lake Lodge!

I, like many others, had the dream of spending a night at the Fairmont Lake Louise, and was prepared to shell out a bit of money for the honour. Until I saw that the $800 or so for a lead in room type was one of the crappy out-the-back no view rooms, and we’d have to pay more for car parking and breakfast. Ummmm no. I started hunting for an alternative and found Moraine Lake, with the Moraine Lake Lodge coming in at the top of my searches for lake view cabins in the area. And as far as alternatives go, this was perfect.

 

Location?
Right on the lake. As in, any closer and you’d be in the water. Moraine Lake is completely breath taking, the most perfect shade of blue you could possibly imagine, and surrounded by mountains and trees. As you can see from the shot below, taken from our balcony…

 

Rooms?
We stayed in a Lodge Queen room, which was located on the second floor. No TVs in the rooms to encourage you to really switch off and relax, but there is free wifi available to guests if you get desperate. We also had a gorgeous antique gas fireplace, a nice big balcony, complimentary tea and coffee, and a nice big bathroom.

 

 

Amenities?
– Free parking in a private guest carpark, away from the day visitor lot
– Complimentary buffet breakfast
– Free wifi throughout
– Complimentary tea and coffee service in the Library each afternoon
– Guided hikes and canoe hire

 

Cost?
It varies depending on time of year and room type, but we paid around AUD $475 for one night. We thought it was money well spent; the location was beyond anything I could have imagined, waking up and being able to walk straight up the top of the path to look out over thr lake with hardly anyone else around was priceless, and the service was so friendly and professional all at the same time – we even had a bottle of bubbles on ice and a happy anniversary card waiting in our room upon arrival 🙂

 

Dining?
The Walter Wilcox Dining Room is the restaurant where breakfast is served to guests only, and dinner is open to anyone – but your best bet is to make a reservation, as it’s a fairly small and intimate place. The menu is elegant, and takes full advantage of the local produce and specialties. Not a cheap feed, but a really memorable special occasion meal. Special mention to not only the chefs, but the servers – friendly, helpful and attentive service made a good meal a great one!

Drink this: beers from a Lievita X Fury & Son collaboration

Last week, husband and I attended Lievita’s MEET THE MAKER Pizza & Beer Degustation night. Pizza and beer… clearly didn’t take much to get us there!

Fury and Son Brewing Company are relatively new on the scene, and have been working with Luca from Lievita over the past 12 months or so on their beer range. They decided to celebrate the launch of their new American Red Ale in style, with an exceptional menu of insane pizzas matched with the range of beers they stock and sell. I’m not a beer drinker, so I’m letting husband step in here, to tell you a bit more about the liquid gold…

 

ROUND 1
Pizzas:
* Baccala marinated with lemon & garlic, and chickpea cream
*Smoked salmon, stracchino, shitake mushrooms and dill (one of my favourites!)

Beer: Pilsner


Was really nice. A lot of pilsners just taste like mass produced lagers that don’t have a lot of flavour, however this one did. Plenty of flavour but still easy to drink. Keen to get my hands on a slab ASAP.

 

 

ROUND 2
Pizzas:
* Fontina, onion, white anchovies and hot chilli
* Coppa, roasted eggplants, roasted peppers and stracciatelle

Beer: Pale Ale


Was said to be full of flavour but I found it to be a bit lacking in that department. Stock standard pale ale, nothing too exciting, no different to other pale ales on the market, a sentiment echoed by Chicago Steve (also present – friend of Jess’s dad, fellow beer lover).

 

ROUND 3
Pizzas:
* Slow roasted eye fillet and potato (my other favourite!)
* Slow roasted pork belly, box choy, pickled red cabbage and fig jam

Beer: American Red Ale


I’ve only ever tried two red ales; this and the one from Beechworth. I thought this one was heaps better than Beechworth’s. Strong flavour, suited to the winter months, would stay away from it on a summer day. Yet another one I’d be happy to part with a bit of cash for.

 

 

ROUND 4
Pizzas:
* ‘Pizza fritta’ fried mini dough balls with salted caramel sauce and macadamia nuts

Beer: Scotch Ale


The pick of the bunch and my personal favourite (Jess liked this one too!) but be warned – at 7.5% alcohol, it packs a punch. One or two of these watching the footy at home on a cold night would be perfect! Really strong, malty flavour.

 

 

It was great to see so many people there to support both Lievita and Fury & Son, which in turn means supporting local producers, and that’s something we all need to be doing a bit more! And more great news – when you drop in to pick up your pizza, you can also take home some beers with you; their range is all available to take home as well as enjoy in store!

Eat here: Yamato, Melbourne (Japanese)

Yamato
28 Corrs Lane, Melbourne CBD

It’s been a while since my last visit here, and I was so excited to get back again (this time with husband in tow); this is exactly the type of place I look for when I’m travelling and in search of an authentic food experience without the bells and whistles. And while that’s great, it’s important to remember to look for these places in your own backyard, too.

Yamato is located down a tiny little alleyway in a spot that is the definition of nondescript – a small, rundown-looking building with a plain, almost tacky (especially at night when it’s all lit up), sign bearing its name. Get inside and the space looks even smaller, with tables shoved in close together and the walls decked out with cute little trinkets and printed paper signs advertising the day’s specials stuck onto the walls with tape and blu-tack.

The menu is pretty broad and delicious looking, so we decided to pick and choose a few plates to share. The seaweed salad I started on was delicious (but then I’m a bit weird and really love seaweed salad!), and the tempura was so good I completely forgot to take a picture of it… But after that, there was sushi.

The salmon and tuna sushi combo was super fresh; melt-in-your-mouth fresh. And the salmon avocado rolls we followed them up with were even better, mostly because of the healthy dousing in Kewpie mayo 😉 my favourite!

Husband also asked if they had cold soba noodles with dipping sauce on the menu; he’s heard me talk about how much I loved eating it when I was on Tokyo, and was keen to try it before we head over together in January – thankfully, he was not disappointed. While the noodles weren’t quite as chewy or the broth quite as punch as the stuff I had in Tokyo, it was still fantastic. It’s amazing how delicious a simple dish like cold noodles can be when you’re do it right 🙂

While it did get a little annoying having to repeatedly ask for water (they fill your glass for you rather than just leaving a bottle on the table), the staff are very efficient and polite, and a good part of the reason I suspect they’re always so busy! They don’t have room for many, so I suggest getting in early for dinner before the crowds hit, and relaxing into a nice long evening of Japanese deliciousness… and maybe a little plum wine!

And Melbourne people – if you have any other suggestions for sweet little places like this one, please share them around! I’d love to discover a few more eateries like this 🙂

 

Yamato Japanese Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato