Monday, March 21, 2011

La Cuisine de la France

I went to Paris this past weekend, and as promised here's a little bit about the food, all of the delicious food.

MMM...where to begin? French cuisine is so yummy! Sadly, most of the best stuff involves bread. Think about it... crepes, baguettes, croque monsieurs, tarts, etc. For those things I had to look on in jealousy as my friends ate them.

There was some good I could eat though. Like omelets, the french love their omelets, and it's not a breakfast thing. In fact I never had an omelet for breakfast. I had one for lunch once and I had one for dinner, but never breakfast.

Unlike Spain, french omelets are more like the kind I'm used to.

They also serve French Fries everywhere. Not kidding. I am not sure if french fries are even French? But they obviously don't call them French fries, they call them frites. Whenever I couldn't really find anything else on the menu I could always order a plate of fries. And I did. A lot. It kind of became a running joke. Half of the time they were the only thing I could eat that cost less than $20 and I can't afford to spend $20 on every meal for an entire weekend... So don't judge me :)
And then there was French Onion Soup. Sadly without the croutons but still fantastic! This is another thing I ordered when I couldn't afford anything else. Food in Paris is ridiculously expensive- even in the grocery stores. Even when living off of french fries, omelets, and soup which were always the cheapest things on the menu, I blew through cash like it was going out of style.

And then lastly there are desserts. You can't forget about desserts. They are arguably the best part about French cuisine. In fact, I strongly considered eating only dessert for 3 1/2 days. Maybe next time? Nutella crepes (which I couldn't eat), the best icecream I have ever had, creme brulee, and Macarons galore. Macarons are everywhere these days, even in London. I think its the new food trend. Watch out overpriced cupcakes, macarons are coming in. Macarons are even more overpriced than cupcakes though. They were generally about 3-4 euros for 1 macaroon. It's insane. They are delicious though I must admit.

Oh, and I forgot there is one more thing: coffee. French coffee is yummy. It's really strong but it's good. Forget getting filter coffee though. Europeans apparently aren't too fond of it. The first thing I did this morning was go to Starbucks and get a venti filter coffee, from my favorite barista of course.

My advice for eating out in France if you have food allergies? Plan ahead of time. This is something I didn't do and really wish I had. It's possible to find things to eat, but it can be quite difficult. Another piece of advice I have is to look up some phrases in French that might be useful like: "I have food allergies" and "Does this contain wheat." I am definitely doing that before I go to the French Riviera in a week and a half.

One quick story to illustrate this point: my friends and I went to this one crepe place near my hostel because one of my friends had heard that they make buckwheat crepes that I can eat. When I got there they weren't anywhere on the menu but I figured I'd ask anyway. Well, the waiter didn't speak any English and was none too pleased with my lack of french. Everytime I tried to figure out how to ask in french (with dictionary in hand) he would randomly speed away, yeah while I was trying to talk. It was incredibly rude. I kept saying "sans gluten" which means without gluten but he obviously didn't know what it was, and I couldn't figure out how to say wheat or buckwheat so I kept failing at communication and he kept running away from our table. After this happened about 4 times I got so upset and flustered that we just left. I mean if he is going to walk away while I am trying my best to speak to him in his language then he doesn't deserve my business even if there was something on the menu I could eat. Basically this just shows that knowing some French helps and looking up restaurants in advance helps. Oh well, you live and you learn!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

La Comida de Espana

So, classes of my semester abroad are winding down and my travel period is beginning. This leaves me little time to cook and grocery shop and blog about being that I am out of the country probably more than I am in it.

I don't want to stop posting, however, so I came up with an idea. Every country I go to I will post about the traditional food and what I eat and show you really awesome pictures. First country on the list= Spain, since I spent this past weekend in Madrid.

First up, breakfast. Apparently the Spanish aren't very big on breakfast. Usually they just have coffee and maybe some toast with different toppings. Like this picture below which is toast with olive oil and tomatoes. Sadly this wasn't mine. Since nowhere seemed to have gluten free bread (except a few grocery stores) I had to have only espresso for breakfast. No milk either because soy milk (or Soja) isn't all that common either.

Now for lunch. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Spain. In fact it often involves many different courses and hours of eating. This is why the Spanish take afternoon naps or siestas. My favorite and probably the most stereotypical spanish dish? Paella. What I love about paella is that you share it as a table and everyone eats out of the same dish and since its made with rice I could actually eat it.

Paella de Mariscos

Dinner is a bit smaller and really late (like 9 or 10). It is generally tapas or something before going out for the night. Actually generally when we went out for dinner I saw more people drinking than actually eating. And the best drink in Spain, at least to me, has to be Sangria.

Lastly it's time for dessert. Madrid is known for its chocolate y churros. There are entire restaurants devoted to it and most of them are open practically 24 hours. If you go to one of these places in the wee hours of the morning after a night out expect it to be packed.

Summary of Spanish cuisine:
First, it's hard to eat in Madrid with allergies, thats for sure. Luckily the grocery stores do have options but breakfast out is virtually impossible and your lunch/dinner options are there but limited.
Also, it seems that in Spain people eat a huge lunch but not much else. Or at least that's wat it seemed like in my 3 days there.
My suggestions for what to eat while in Spain: Tortilla de Espagnola (its like an omelette with potatoes and egg), Paella de Mariscos, lots of espresso, lots of sangria, and finally chocolate y churros (if you can, since I cannot).