Sunday, October 23

Amazing Dishes from our European Vacation

I took a little break from my blog as my husband and I recently went on vacation.  We went to attend a close friends wedding in Oxford, England.  Before the wedding we decided to do a little traveling and visited London and Reading (England), as well as Cinque Terre (Italy).  Since I love to cook and try new foods, I thought I’d share with you some of the meals we enjoyed. 

I have to say Europeans not only know how to prepare great dishes but they know how to enjoy them as well.  One of the main differences my husband and I noticed while eating at restaurants is that there are no time constraints like here in the U.S.  You may be thinking but we don’t have time constraints.  What about when your waiter/waitress stops by to drop off the bill while you’re still eating and explains “no rush, whenever you’re ready”?  This never happens in Europe.  In both England and Italy we would wait on average a half hour or more after we finished our meal before our check was delivered.  At first it felt like an eternity, almost as if our waiter had forgotten about us.  That’s when we took in the scenery around us and noticed this was the norm.  Compared to America where eating out is commonly associated with convenience (eat and go, go, go), dining in Europe revolves around having great conversation with friends and family while enjoying phenomenal food.  Let’s just say Europeans know how to savor life’s moments.

While in England we enjoyed some amazing potpies.  One of the potpies even had cider gravy!  BRILLIANT!  This has inspired me to see if I can find a recipe and learn how to make this gravy.  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of these as it was too dark inside the pub for a good photo.  Or maybe I should say fortunately?  The pubs in England are truly magnificent.  Sure, there are commercialized pubs, but when you go to an authentic pub, the atmosphere is one that you will not want to leave.  One of the pubs we ate at was like finding a dimly lit house with many small, cozy rooms.  Each room had a fire place with rich colors such as burgundy, gold, and brown wrapping the room from the floor to the ceiling.  Without knowing anyone at the pub, I felt like we were dining at our best friend’s house.

Of course at many pubs you will find what England is known for… fish and chips.  In America, ‘fish and chips’ seems to be a good, safe dish that you can order off any menu and always be pleased with.  The fish and chips are good here but the fish and chips in England are better.  I can’t describe so much as to why except the batter might be lighter (not as in healthy, but in texture) and not as crispy.  Sometimes we tend to overdo things here, but trust me the fish and chips in England is perfect.  And wow, I do enjoy ketchup with many things, but while in England I decided not to be that American.  I ate my chips with malt vinegar and boy was it good.  Hopefully none of the English locals noticed how much vinegar I was using because I guarantee it was more than they do!

Fish & Chips with Mushy Peas & Tartar Sauce
Next we moved onto Italy.  Before even tasting the food, I knew it was going to be good.  I am not joking when I say that I had a chocolate croissant every day for breakfast.  Why not live it up, right?  The croissants in the U.S. do not even compare.  These are nice, flaky, and buttery with chocolate in the middle that is just slightly melted.  YUM!  Ryan had a cappuccino every morning.  Sometimes he had 2 and sometimes he’d have them for breakfast as well as after dinner.  But you know what?  There are a lot, and I mean A LOT of stairs and steps throughout Italy.  I’m actually glad he stayed caffeinated with the cappuccinos because I think they helped him become like superman while needing to glide up flights and flights of stairs (to our hotel room, to the train station, etc) carrying our luggage.  

Chocolate Croissant

Lemon Crepes
Beyond breakfast, I think we had pizza every day at some point.  Their pizzas have a nice thin/medium crust with homemade sauce, fresh mozzarella and toppings like pesto or prosciutto or anchovies.  The pesto sauce was great and it’s something Italy is known for since it’s produced from olive oil, pine nuts, and basil.  

Pizza Topped with Pesto

Another Pizza slice topped with Pesto - Eating on the street :)

For dinner we tried many different pasta dishes.  I am actually not a fan of spaghetti and never have been.  So while at a restaurant I ordered seafood linguine because I love seafood and I was envisioning an amazing Alfredo sauce in my head.  When the waiter brought my meal I noticed it had a red sauce to my disappointment.  I decided to try it any way and OH MY GOD it was the best sauce I’ve ever had.  First off, the noodles were cooked ‘al dente’.  I know this is how pasta is supposed to be cooked but I don’t think I’ve ever had pasta cooked to perfection like this in the U.S.  I ate every last bite of my meal and if I had thrown my pride out the window I would have licked my plate clean.  Mean while, as we ate, Ryan and I polished off a full bottle of red wine that one of the local winemakers sold at the restaurant.  We felt quite wonderful when we walked out of that restaurant.  Oh, but don’t worry, our night didn’t end there.  We went on to order dessert at another restaurant.  The desserts in Italy are truly exquisite and you can’t help but order one after each meal.    

Pre Dinner - Bruschetta Appetizer

You’re probably thinking that we must have gained a lot of weight on this trip with the way we ate.  Trust me, I was quite worried, especially one night when we decided that dinner was so good to have a 2nd dinner only a few hours later.  I’m very happy to say we didn’t gain any weight. We walked everywhere, and especially in Cinque Terre, we hiked some extreme paths between the cities.  I’ve never gone up and down so many stairs (and rocks) in my life.  But at least it paid off I guess you could say!

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