Where To Eat in Europe in 2017

Where To Eat in Europe in 2017

It’s mid January, and we have virtually none of our 2017 travel plans in place. That is a little unusual for us. We know we are flying to Berlin in March, and will be eating our way through Costa Brava again in April. But, other than that, things are pretty up in the air. I do know we need a little break from Bangkok. I’ve been dreaming about European food and wine, and part of our planning seems to be focused on where to eat in Europe in 2017. I found this infographic about where to travel in Europe in 2017. Although this list is for overall travel, HomeToGo also had a specific list on where to travel to eat in Europe in 2017 as well. I was surprised at how similar their list was to the cities I would like to travel to this year.  Our Top 5 Cities to Eat in Europe in 2017 Barcelona and Catalunya We love Barcelona! It’s one of our favorites cities to visit, and has been for years. We love exploring the tapas bars, and drinking cava at adorable little champagne bars. But, there are loads of fabulous places to eat in Catalunya as well. Just one of the areas of Catalunya worth exploring is Costa Brava, which runs north from Girona to the French border. Luckily, we will be returning to Costa Brava this April, for an entire month of drinking Emporda wine and eating Catalan seafood. We can’t wait! Bologna and Emilia Romagna It’s no secret that we love traveling and eating in Emilia Romagna, the Italian region that includes Bologna, Modena, Parma,...
The Hotel Aigua Blava Restaraunt – Where Tradition and Modern Meet

The Hotel Aigua Blava Restaraunt – Where Tradition and Modern Meet

During our extreme eating tour of Costa Brava, one of our meals truly stood out. The Hotel Aigua Blava restaurant offered to host a table of chatty travel bloggers, in their very nice restaurant, for a multi-course gastronomic feast, unlike any meal I had eaten in a very long time. Costa Brava is at a geographic crossroads, where the sea offers ample seafood, the countryside offers meat and cheeses, and the plains offer orchards of fruits and vegetables. It’s also at a gastronomic crossroads. It’s a region proud of its traditional cuisine and recipes, while on the forefront of modern techniques. It is home to plenty of top, Michelin star restaurants, including the best restaurant in the world in 2015. These restaurants explore cuisine in a way that is not all that common on most traditional Spanish menus. The Hotel Aigua Blava restaurant offered us just a glimpse of this cuisine. Meeting Chef Lluis From The Hotel Aigua Blava Restaurant During our blogger stay at Hotel Aigua Blava, we enjoyed a tasting menu created by the hotel Chef. When we returned to the hotel for a stay a few weeks later, we had the chance to sit down with Chef Lluis, to get to know him and his cuisine better. We are always curious about what a chef thinks are the key dishes of his region, particularly with such an emphasis today on fusion and creativity. Luckily, we had two of the three local dishes he recommended, including suquet, which was the core of our fishermen’s lunch and Pals rice, which we ate at Casamar just the night before...
A Proper Gin and Tonic – Ritz Bar Lisbon

A Proper Gin and Tonic – Ritz Bar Lisbon

We’ve been on a quest to turn me into a full-fledged gin and tonic drinker. It’s been an odyssey of sorts, but I am a firm believer. Particularly after our recent experience drinking a gin and tonic at the Ritz Bar at the Four Seasons Lisbon. My Earliest Memory of Gin and Tonic I remember being a bartender, *gasp*, almost 25 years ago, and a gin and tonic was just that, nothing more. It was generally a Gordon’s or a Tanqueray splashed over some ice, with tonic that shot out of a soda gun. I added a dried out slice of lime on the edge of the glass and it was done. This was well before the cocktail craze of the late 90’s. Back then, a drink was just a drink. I hated gin. I hated the smell. I remembered with each pour getting a whiff and turning my nose up at it. Until a few months ago, I felt the same. To me, it was an old British man’s drink. Don’t get me wrong, I can knock back scotch on the rocks like an elder statesmen. It was something that made me stand out amongst my female colleagues at the law firm. Older partners and male clients were generally impressed that I would order a scotch when my female colleagues were ordering rum and cokes, or some sort of pink cocktail. But gin, yuck. Gin and Tonic in Costa Brava That was until we arrived in Costa Brava earlier this year. I put on a brave face when the marketing director of the tourism board offered me a gin...
Catalan Wine Tourism – Emporda Wine

Catalan Wine Tourism – Emporda Wine

A large part of why we spent six weeks in Costa Brava was to focus on the burgeoning wine scene in this stretch of land between Barcelona and France. In particular, we were directed to taste as many Emporda wines as we could. That meant a lot of research, and a lot of visits to wineries. Because the region is not as established as Napa or Sonoma when it comes to wine tourism, I thought I would share what we learned about Catalan wine tourism while touring Emporda. Exploring the Catalan Wine Region The concept of Catalan wine tourism is relatively new to Emporda. Although the region has thousands of years of wine-making history, it’s only been in the last few decades that wineries are starting to reemerge and flourish. Therefore, it is not as easy to tour the Catalan wine region of Emporda, as it would be to tour California wineries, where you can just drive or bike from one winery to the next, stopping at tasting rooms along the way. Because many of the Emporda wineries are small, family run operations, they are busy making the wine, rather than manning a tasting table for tourists. That said, many of the wineries are more than welcome to open their doors, to talk with you about the production, and the unique history of the region. Many times, we met with the actual winemaker, rather than just an employee. Even at the wineries where met an employee, we still ended up being greeted with enthusiasm and a passion for the products they make and the Catalan wine.  We generally either emailed...
Hotel Aigua Blava – Costa Brava Luxury Hotel

Hotel Aigua Blava – Costa Brava Luxury Hotel

During our fast paced, three day extreme eating trip through Costa Brava, much of the days and nights were in a blur. This was not only because we were fed amazing meals each day, often with lunch lasting three or more hours, but because we had so much crammed into such a short amount of time. That meant that the three hotels we stayed at, during three consecutive nights, were also a bit of a blur. Lovely rooms and views we were able to experience briefly before breakfast and departure in the morning. The hospitality of Hotel Aigua Blava, outside of Begur, though, stood out among the rest. Perhaps this was because we were treated to a multi-course gastronomic feast prepared by Chef Lluis, a renowned chef in Costa Brava. Perhaps it was because we were greeted at dusk with a tray of bubbly cava as we toured some of the property. Perhaps it was because we actually arrived before dark, and less tired than when we arrived at the other two properties. Regardless of the reason, the marketing manager, Esther, clearly wanted to show us the best of the property.  And, to share the best of Hotel Aigua Blava with our readers of course.  Hotel Aigua Blava – Costa Brava Hospitality And, in the brief 14 hours we stayed at Hotel Aigua Blava, we were impressed. Every member of our group had an amazing view over the cliffs of Begur. We were thoroughly impressed with the buffet breakfast spread, which included cava, for breakfast!  Maybe it was that we were tired and a little less than enthusiastic about...
Palamos Fish Market and Fishermen’s Auction

Palamos Fish Market and Fishermen’s Auction

Although our lunch at l’Espai del Peix in Palamos was impressive, it was the last day of our three day extreme eating trip through Costa Brava.  We were feeling a little fatigued, and I knew there would have to be something extremely interesting to hold my attention for those final hours.  I worried that a fish market would just not cut it, as we have been to so many fish markets before.  But, the Palamos fish market had something special, something unique, which was certainly a first for us. Seeing the Palamos Fish Market in Action We had just finished a show cooking demonstration at l’Espai del Peix, where the chef cooked up some local Catalan seafood specialties.  There was, of course, wine involved, and dessert.  Although I had a coffee at the end, I was starting to crash. Looking at the itinerary, we only had a few more stops to make before dinner and sleep. The Catalan eating schedule was catching up with me. I had assumed, somewhat naively, that when the itinerary said “Palamos fish market auction” that it would be an explanation of how the auction works, maybe a demonstration.  My fish market experiences have been limited to Asia.  In Tokyo, for example, you have to arrive well before dawn (a time of day we don’t like to see too often) to see any action.  In Palamos, though, the fishing boats arrive in the afternoon after a day on the water.  While enjoying our seafood lunch, I could see the boats pulling into the harbor, the birds swirling overhead hopeful to catch a little scrap of fish. ...
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