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LUNCH pages

11 May 2016 : Barcelona            jump to this page > > >
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Back on a side street, a pinxos restaurant beckoned to us, and we were seated in a corner with a convenient mirror so we could see everyone. Along one wall, a triple layer spread of tapas, called pinxos (pinch-os) in Catalan is arrayed. "Take what you like, but save the sticks. Each one is 1.95€."

15 May 2016 : Barcelona            jump to this page > > >
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We retraced our steps to the harbor, crowded with market stalls selling antiques and vendors with their wares on blankets, and escaped into the Barceloneta neighborhood, a reurbicación (what we would call urban renewal) of what used to be the tumble-down shacks of Barcelona's fishing village: narrow tall apartments in long rows on a grid of streets. We were looking for Bodega La Peninsular, reputed to be be a friendly-to-outsiders local pub. We had a simple lunch (and forgot to take pictures): papas bravas, the local take on french fries, tasty sausages, and a tomato and garlic salad. By the time we were done, the place was full of locals in full cry. 

We notice that the interpersonal space here is half or less what we reserve in California, while the volume of normal conversation is about doubled. We recognize that we are no longer fitted for this kind of urban living. "This is a place for young people," observes Rochelle a little later.

17 May 2016 : Collioure            jump to this page > > >
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from left: Collioure salade with anchovies, fish soup and amendments, chicken Catalan style, crême catalan

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There is an abundance of restaurants in Collioure, because it's a day-trip destination as well as a known delight to stay. They're all gearing up for summer; yesterday was Whit Monday, and the place was crowded. Today, it's modestly busy, and all the shopkeepers have time to chat. 

So far, not even a soupçon of a bad meal. Even my sélection Catalan (€19.90) showed evidence of serious cheffing. Besides the overall deliciousness, the soup was smooth and perfectly seasoned, and the "Catalan-style" (meaning somewhat rough) sauce with the chicken was something I will try to replicate at home. Crême Catalan is like flan, only with a thin brulée crust. Good flavors.

18 May 2016 : Collioure            jump to this page > > >
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Our server deluges Rochelle with French, and somehow she manages to look like she's understanding. The explanation is so quick and technical I get only part of it, but eventually the server takes me outside and we negotiate lunch from the menu board. Thereupon follows some très raffiné haut cuisine prepared by a French-born Japanese chef.

We start with a salad focused on Collioure's signature food: anchovies (not at all the salty things you've had from a can; more like smelt or night fish) with a petit pois gazpacho and tiny greens; next, tuna barely cooked with two sauces on a bed of meticulously prepared potatoes, leeks, and carrots. Finally, a fine gateaux with strawberries and chocolate ganache floating in dark chocolate sauce with a perfect little dollop of strawberry sorbet.   

We walk out two hours later well fed (but not stuffed at all) and Rochelle says, "That was a very special meal."

19 May 2016 : Collioure            jump to this page > > >
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We stopped for lunch at the "#1 restaurant in Banyuls" according to French Trip Advisor. Maybe. The welcome was indeed cordial, and our server had enough English so we could amuse each other speaking the other's language. The entree and the dessert were four star, but the main was lamentable. Those are almost tempura shrimp; their batter was almost as crispy as a good croissant and paper thin. (If there had been five of them instead of three, it would have been four stars.) The gateaux au chocolate was creamy in the middle, swimming in a lake of white chocolate, with a piped floret of chantilly and a boule of raspberry sorbet. 

20 May 2016 : Collioure            jump to this page > > >
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Back to our side of town for an early lunch. Another good (but not photo-worthy) fish soup, and this: the Colliourense Platter at Cafe Leon, scallops and red shrimp in a Catalan red sauce (peppers and tomatoes) with spring vegetables.

21 May 2016 : CÚret            jump to this page > > >
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We're still in Catalunya, and not that far from the Med, and so it wasn't too surprising to find in the town of Amelie-les-Bains a sweet little restaurant, Au Poivre Vert, serving as the plat du jour "Paella Royale." Compared to the paella we had in Barcelona, this was more classical (although somehow it didn't quite have the same paella feel.) The presence of a little sausage and a little chicken to counter the mussels and red shrimp made it very satisfying. 



Back down the highway to a bigger highway, and then the twisties before Collioure. Again miraculously we found a parking place, the last one we'll need before we move along to Séte tomorrow. 

   Below, a portrait of our purchases for the day.

22 May 2016 : Sète            jump to this page > > >
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After rejecting several restaurants as inauthentic or unappetizing, we find by chance what our host later identifies as Séte's best. They have a table for us. When we sit down, Rochelle is a little frazzled by the traffic.

They serve us fish soup, a nice little salad, and then, the pièce de resistance, a gorgeous sole, head and tail on. Our server ritualistically debones and serves us. Oh, my. (Rochelle settles down.)

We are surrounded by "our demographic," only they are all Sétois and speak French. Most of them are having spectacular platters of shellfish. Later I indulge in a mousse au chocolat. The gentleman next to me gets a dessert with a little umbrella: two boules of lemon gelato and a jigger of limoncello.

23 May 2016 : Sète            jump to this page > > >
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In the morning, we share croissantes and then go to Les Halles, the city's morning market, for supplies for our dinner. Compared to yesterday, the market is abandoned. For the Cettois (they spell it both ways; in Roman times it was Cette) the big event of the day is lunch. Right across the street we find a very tucked in little place with an intriguing Formule, so in we go. The server's English is as bad as my French, so we manage in Franglais to order a delicious lunch ... so delicious we forget to take pictures of the main course. 

The entree, at right, is a roulade of ecrevisses (crayfish) and sprouts with a little salad and spicy Thai mae ploy sauce. Lunch is a beautiful little Dorade, a sea-bream with great flavor and lots of little bones, served whole with a lovely line-up of gently sauteed vegetables. "We are eating some very interesting things," remarks Rochelle. Super clean flavors, simply prepared, presented elegantly. This in a tiny six-table restaurant on a side street.

24 May 2016 : Sète            jump to this page > > >
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When we're done with the view, it's down 375 step and a series of twisty steep streets back to town and our day's errands: we need an eraser (une gomme) and gloves for working our boat (des gants). Both transactions are cordial and amuse all parties.





And then it's time for the day's most serious endeavor: lunch. We find a little hidden restaurant row away from the tourist circulation. The menu looks interesting. We sit down and are immediately brought a little amuse bouche, olives, crusts, and spicy yogurt and parsley dip (below, 0) while we deliberate. Rochelle decides on the salade with roquefort and nuts (1) while I ask for the salade with duck breast (2). Abundant salads, perfectly dressed; we probably would have been fine with them alone. But no, here comes les Plats: Rochelle has an immense deep-fried Camembert oozing yummyness and sliced local ham (3) while I have the mussels in a lovely garlic persillade and frites maison (4), both of which come with little salads. Initially I had thought to have dessert as well, but I have to finish Rochelle's, and I beg off.

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The chef comes out, toque blanc sparkling, and in lovely English asks if we have had enough, or should he prepare two more plats for us? He's joking, of course. We effuse about how good our lunch was, and how generous. He glows and retreats to his kitchen.

next group : Sète

other topics:    Dinners     Markets     Transport

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