You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘cafe’ category.

One of my friends used to live in South Pasadena so she suggested that we meet for lunch at Heirloom Bakery. They have a nice outdoor patio and they are only a few steps from the South Pasadena Metro stop, so it’s a pleasant and easy stop for breakfast or lunch. I chose the turkey panini with fresh spinach and tomato with a schmear of pesto that helped elevate the flavor beyond the ordinary.

My friend chose the quiche of the day and I had a taste so I could write about it. The filling was light but I found the underdone. The fresh tomatoes on the side were a nice touch, but some needed some dressing and a better presentation imho.

My friend ordered the bean salad as a side and this definitely needed some zest and seasoning.

On another evening my friends and I walked over to Communal half a block away from the Farmers’ Market for some craft beers and more food.

They were very generous with allowing us to taste several before making up our minds. I decided on the locally brewed Smog City Amber Ale. We ordered the twice fried Kennebec fries for $5 but they were too starchy for my taste, although my friends liked them.

We also ordered the crispy chicken wings with spicy porter BBQ  sauce and we all enjoyed them $8.

The hit of the evening were the mussels (a special) with a spicy tomato broth and a fabulous garlic toast that was absolutely perfect for either a full meal or for sharing.

After sorting out paperwork with the French administration, an Australian friend and I headed to a L’Arcade Café in the central square of Saint Germain-en-laye for lunch. Although I had recommended some other places without a view, I did the touristy thing because she was so keen on sitting out on a terrace looking out into the center of town, hoping that it would be better than the other cafes in the same square. The dark clouds sprinkled a bit of drizzle, but the sun also came out intermittently. It was a lunch of many good and bad facets, just like the weather…

Our view of the square was very nice, and even though we had three servers during our 1 hour meal, service was friendly and professional.

A pleasant surprise was the generous serving of smoked salmon appetizer for 14 Euros which included crème fraîche and a bit of lemon. The sliced bread on the plate was a bit dry, but had good flavor nonetheless.

My friend ordered the Caesar salad for 14 Euros. The dressing should have had at least a bit of anchovy or garlic, but it tasted very much like plain mayonnaise, and the rest of the salad did nothing to compensate for the lack of punch. Yes, that is balsamic you see drizzled on the salad, and no I have no idea why they would add that to a caesar salad…..

I ordered the filet de bar (sea bass), which came with plain basmati rice (under the rocket greens) and a small salad of rocket and sun dried tomatoes for 17 Euros. The fish was crisp but not overly cooked, and the sauce vierge of olive oil, tomatoes, and shallots was pleasant if a bit bland. The dish was very plain and could have used a spark of acid, or heat, or seasoning, but it was a fine choice for my slightly upset stomach.

We went clothes shopping at the stores after lunch, and stopped by for some fresh fruit and viennoiseries on the way back for our afternoon snack, proving that sometimes the best meals are the ones you put together yourself:)

One of the advantages of walking in Paris is that you may find places you would miss using any other mode of transportation. The slower pace of life here can take some adjustment, especially for people from cities in the US, but there are rewards of pleasurable discoveries like La Trésorerie (they are working on an English version of their website, but they have people who speak English answering their phone lines). Prices are reasonable, neither the lowest and nor the highest for brand names and types of products; you may find lower prices in the big department stores during sales, but this place will have less crowds and better service.

I don’t really have room for any more pots and pans, but it’s always fun to browse:)

Tea and coffee sets and cups give you an option of making a beverage at home.

They have utensils from butter spreaders to zesters.

If you need extra hooks, they have those too.

Lights, tables, throws, curtains,

and coordinated linens to enhance your decor.

They even have practical things like cleaning supplies and tools.

The most practical part of this store was their attached cafe,

with Swedish snacks and sweets to sustain you as you shop:)

A cappuccino is the best way to start a day in Rome, especially since nearly every bakery, bar, and caffe makes an excellent cup. The bakery near where I was staying, Desideri Caffe, opens at the crack of dawn and serves locals heading off to work (I got my last cappuccino in Rome before my flight at 6am). The price of coffee is controlled at a certain amount if you drink it at the counter, and it was only 1.10 Euros. Yes, this wonderful cappuccino was only $1.20 US! Being a bakery, they had plenty of sweet temptations, but the best reason for me to go back was after one visit, the man behind the counter knew me and asked if I wanted my “usual”:) The residential parts of Rome, like Monte Verde, are big extended families, and once you arrive, you are welcomed, usually with a smile.

As lunch time approaches, the sweets in the case become sandwiches, to go or to eat at the tables inside or on the patio of the bakery, which also has a full bar if you want a shot of alcohol in your coffee.

Isola Tiburina, or Tiber Island had more tourists, as you can see by the signs in English,

and the cappuccino at Tiberino was more expensive at a whopping 1.50 Euros, or $1.70 US at the counter. It was hands down the best cappuccino I’ve ever tasted. Yes, thank-you, more please…except I would have been a jittery wreck all day. It was a good thing they were out of cornetti, the breakfast pastry that is not a croissant, or I would have added a sugar high to my caffeine high:)

Their sandwiches for around 5 Euros or $6 US, looked amazing, but I had other plans for lunch.

Enoteca Spiriti is a wine bar opposite the Temple of Hadrian, not far from the Pantheon. It was the least touristy place I found in the area, so I took a chance and had lunch there.

Every one of the men wore a blue suit with a red tie, and all the women carried expensive handbags. They all seemed to know each other, greeting each arrival with kisses and or handshakes. I wondered if I had walked into a secret club, but then I learned Temple of Hadrian now houses a bank. Ah no wonder so many people were drinking water in a wine bar!

The decor and artwork were very original and low key.

My small tuna salad for 12 Euros or $13 US was as simple as it looked without any flavor to the dressing but very fresh ingredients, and well presented. My glass of sauvignon blanc at 6 Euros or $7 US was equally fresh and pure,

which seemed to be the theme of the place, extending to the breadbasket.

Even their toilet had an attachment if you wanted to rinse yourself after your meal, which I nearly wanted to do when I went to pay my bill and the waitress tried to add an additional service fee of 3 Euros, but since I had gotten the bill at my table, she couldn’t ask me for more since I had the itemized total tally in writing in my hand. Bankers aren’t the only ones trying to add fees!

I had a much better experience, and much better food at Litro, which was very conveniently located directly in front of a bus stop on a line I took into the touristy parts of town 🙂 The wonderful thing about Litro is that they are open all day, serve everything from snacks to full meals, and they have a good selection of wines and desserts. It’s a casual place with a small patio. It’s so warm and friendly, one day one of the owners was there playing with his son and feeding him as he was serving the customers.

There are daily specials on the chalkboard outside, and one day it was a bruschetta with guanciale for 5 Euros or $6. This was a perfectly grilled toast topped with pork “jowl bacon” dressed with excellent olive oil, the tender thin slices of smoked cured meat nearly melted onto the hot bread, and was so redolent with thyme and pepper, that my mouth had a little dance party! I had a nice glass of Mescita for 4 Euros or $5 with the bruschetta and that kept my hunger at bay until restaurants opened for dinner three hours later.

On another day between Roman lunch and dinner restaurant hours, I was so hungry, I needed a meal, so I ordered their tuna salad for 12 Euros or $13. This salad was easily the biggest one I’ve seen since leaving Los Angeles! The bottom of the bowl was filled with even more goodies, from tomatoes to cucumbers and olives, besides the eggs and uniquely fabulous Italian tuna in olive oil with bits of crunchy croutons. This salad was so delicious that I actually wanted to go eat it again but I was so full from my other meals, that I never got a chance to go back for another. This picture really doesn’t do the salad justice, but I was too hungry to even toss the salad before digging in, and once I did, I couldn’t stop eating until I had finished the entire bowl!

They had fabulous bread which arrived in a bag! I should have taken the bag with me, which is why I think they served it in a bag, especially since it was 2 Euros or $2.30 US for the bread.

The Trastevere neighborhood has become touristy, but it’s still got some charming corners tucked away on the little streets leading into the central piazza, like this one with Vin Allegro.

They are a very well stocked wine bar with a virtual store room in plain view.

They have a generous happy hour where for the price of a drink, you get to choose as much as you wish, as many times as you wish from the two tiered buffet. The buffet has everything from sandwiches to salads, vegetables, to meat, and everything in between.

I sampled a bit and enjoyed everything on my plate. You could easily make a light meal from the buffet happy hour if you didn’t want a full dinner. They also have a menu if you prefer something hot to go with your wine. Most glasses are about 5 Euros or $6, so when you consider you can eat as much as you want with a drink for this price, it’s an amazing value. Add the charming ambience and indoor /outdoor seating, and you have a very good address to go to before or after dinner.

The Piazza Navona is a huge draw (you’ll see why in a later post), and sometimes finding a place in the heart of tourist central is a challenge, but I found a place to sit and people watch nearby, without all the crowds. Mimi & Coco is a wine bar, but like all the wine bars I saw in Rome, they offer food and coffee as well. My glass of organic red wine was 5 Euros or $6 US (5 Euros seems to be the standard price in Rome for a nice glass of wine). Chips and pretzels were offered with my drink, and the tables of tourists next to me were eating California sized pizzas and salads. A great plus at this place is free wifi, so I got to catch up on my social media as I rested my legs and watched other people navigate all the cobblestone streets:)

Winter is cold and rainy in Paris, but Barcelona is only a 2 hour flight away and about 10 F warmer, so I decided to finally go see all the Gaudi buildings and try the food I’ve heard so much about in person:) I have friends who go to Barcelona as often as Los Angelenos go to Las Vegas, so they suggested I stay in the Gothic area or Barri Gòtic, which is the old town and literally a few blocks from Port Vell, the Ramblas, and the beach. I found a great place on Air BnB with a marvelous host, but whether you prefer a five star hotel or a youth hostel, there are plenty of options in all price ranges.

This statue of Columbus marks the waterfront at one end of Port Vell and one end of the Las Ramblas, the famous walking promenade similar to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade.

Since I arrived around midnight, I asked my host where to go for coffee and croissant the next morning (you can take me out of Paris, but I still need my French breakfast)! He couldn’t remember which corner café of two nearby was the best so I tried the closest one on Carrer Ample.

Café au lait with a perfect flakey sugar topped croissant on the terrace was only 2.50  or $3 USD, which would not even buy an espresso in Paris, and if you add a friendly smiling waitress, you have a priceless breakfast:)

I was the lone person on the terrace at 9 AM, but I walked by later and saw it filled around 11 AM.

The café sits on the square with the Basilica de la Mercè

Carrer de la Mercè borders the other side of the church and has some of the best tapas bars.

Having had breakfast, my first stop was Park Güell. I knew it was a huge place so I wore flats, but if you are going, I recommend you wear hiking shoes or boots because the trails are steep, rocky and uneven. I saw several people with canes and admired their sheer perseverance. You could easily spend all day here.

The lines at the ticket offices at the site were long, so if you are coming by metro, buy your tickets at the station or better yet buy them online. If you are coming by metro, keep in mind it is at least a 10 minute climb uphill to the park, even if you use the escalators on the streets.

This is just part of the walk uphill from the metro, yes you must go to the top of the picture to get to the park entrance!

These are some of the groomed stairs in the park, but the steps are uneven stones, so use the handrails!

Once you make the trek up, you are rewarded with views like this of the Sagrada Familia

and Tibidabo on the other side.

The natural landscaping is functional as toilets are now built into the rock formation:)

The lookout point

with mosaics of different colors and shapes

at every curve is one of the most popular spots.

There are several other attractions at Park Güell and you can buy a ticket for the Gaudi House Museum separately or with the entry into the Monumental Zone. The rest of the park is free:)

Some people have left locks on fences here like they do in Paris, hopefully the weight will not cause the same problems it does in Paris….

Palau Güell is the first house Gaudi designed and you can see how he created coach entries in his soon to be famous curved stye

although the straighter top portion belies the hold of conventional form on him 🙂

I went to Barcelona to see Gaudi‘s buildings in person, but I also went for the food 🙂 La Boqueria is the main market in the middle of Las Ramblas (Metro: Liceu) and it was one of the highlights of my trip. It’s the equivalent of Pike’s Place in Seattle, if you are in Barcelona, go!

There’s a map at the entrance in case you want to figure out where you want to go, but simply wandering around is the most fun.

Fruit greets you at the entrance

along with candy, saffron

nuts, and dried fruit.

Many stands offer fresh juice, but some add sugar

so if you want no sugar added, look for “Sucs Naturals” which cost the same as the ones with added sugar at about $2 USD

and get an exotic one like I did, dragon fruit and coconut:)

Since Spain is known for pork products, you will find all variations here

including the famous acorn fed Iberico for the equally famous price of 395 Euros or $450 USD.

I got a cone of Iberico for 5 Euros and it was so big that I saved half of it for a snack later.

Barcelona is on the coast so seafood abounds in all shapes,

sizes,

and prices.

If you don’t want to cook, there are plenty of places to serve you whatever you would like to eat.

You can stock up on dried mushrooms,

dried salted cod, a specialty of the region,

olives,

or local meat.

Many places offered ready made boxes of food to go,

or cones of meat and potatoes,

or skewers of shrimps and calamari

or a combination of all three plus rotisserie chicken to go.

I was thrilled to find a stand specializing in peppers of all sizes and heat:)

Yes there is even an organic stand, but I saw no one buying anything there…

There was a line at the bakery

which also sold sweet treats like muffins and pastries.

You can even go nuts 🙂

After my juice and cone of Iberico, I wanted lunch, so I went to El Quim in the back of the market. It was packed but I managed to find a seat between two American tourists and three locals, all of whom were friendly and shared with me their favorite dishes to order at this landmark eatery inside La Boqueria.

Since it was 11 AM I ordered the BocaQUIM even though my seat mates were eating everything from fish and eggs with beer, to chocolate desserts with coffee and cognac! It’s wonderful to eat with people who will eat and drink anything they like at 11 AM 🙂

The BocaQUIM may be the best hot sandwich I have ever eaten! It’s the perfect brunch combination of toasted bread, caramelized onion with Modena balsamic, asparagus, egg, and pork loin. I’m craving it again just looking at the picture!

For only 6.50 Euros or about $7.50, it was quite large and I only finished this because it was so good,

and also because I had a wonderful glass of natural cava with it for under 4 Euros or $5 USD. I had already devoured half the sandwich by the time they delivered my glass:)

Time to take the metro back to take a nap,

nice that the metro has animated screens to keep me awake!

It’s much more fun to experience an event than to read about it, and I’ve been reading about Paris Plages since they started in 2001. I lived near the beach or at the beach in Los Angeles and only went when visitors came, so it’s not unusual for me to avoid crowded beaches, and somehow I just never came in the summer weeks when it was here, but now that I live here, I finally made it to the beach 🙂 

I went to the beach by Bassin de La Villette (Metro Stalingrad) with all the nautical amusements (instead of the one by the Louvre/Pont Sully) on a 90 degree weekday morning and it was perfectly peaceful.

There are numerous big boats, some of which offer rides/drinks/tours/meals.

There are small leg powered boats you can rent.

If you prefer to stay on land, plenty of pétanque areas.

Kids can play pirates or ride a carousel (which had a HUGE line).

Adults and kids alike can cool down with misters

or ice cream

and drinking water spouts dot the area so you can refill your water bottles (free).

Most of the chairs and picnic areas were claimed, but you could stroll along the waterfront

and lots of kids were doing that in their matching outfits.

You have numerous options to eat or drink along the water, including restaurants and bars in the Holiday Inn.

 

Instead of an American brand, I chose this place 🙂

The canal was my view on one side, and on the other this colorful artwork.

There is an association called Tous A Table which is founded on the principles of providing good food to those who may not normally be able to afford it, allowing them to pay only 10% of the cost of a meal, so they may have a good dining experience. This year they are here at Paris Plages, so I was very happy to support them; as you can see the menu is very inexpensive and basic, but there are options for vegans and meat eaters.

After you order, you are given a pager which alerts you to go upstairs to pick up your meal. In my case it was a can of sardines in excellent olive oil with a small salad and delectable butter on the side. I had some wine with my snack and my bill was still less than 12 € ($15 US).

The views of the water

have a cooling effect

no matter how hot and humid life is in the city 🙂

 

Le Flore en L’Ile is one of the first places you’ll see as you walk or drive to Ile St. Louis on the Quai Orléans, and like every place on the island, they serve Berthillon ice cream. If the line to Berthillon is too long, or it’s after 8pm, you can enjoy your cone or cup on this lovely terrace with a view of the Seine. The line on the right was for scoops to go and the line was almost as long as the one at Berthillon.

If you are lucky enough to get a warm sunny day in Paris, take advantage of your treasure and spend some time soaking in the living street theater of life at a café like this one. Since this is a prime location, prices will be higher than places tucked away on a side street, but remember that you can sit all day for the price you pay and some people looked like they had spent the entire afternoon sipping their wine or coffee.

My friend had never been to Paris, so we had to order a quintessential French dish; a ham quiche with salad. She declared it the lightest tastiest quiche she had ever tasted, and loved the simple vinaigrette on the salad. It was a very generous portion and we split it since we just wanted a snack, not dinner.

We came to the island for her to taste Berthillon ice cream, so she got 2 scoops with a caramel sauce, a tuile almond crisp, and whipped cream. This dessert cost 12€ ($16 US), which was more than our quiche, but she declared it was worth every Euro.

Just north of Ile St. Louis is the Marais neighborhood and I decided to introduce her to classic bistro at the Café des MuséesI loved their lamb, but after eating a substantial “snack” earlier, my friend and I both opted for the special fish of the day, a St. Pierre, simply grilled on a plancha, with cauliflower and watercress, served on a bed of tomatoes for 23€ ($28 US). It was a perfect summer dinner, and I drank a lovely generous glass of Chablis for under 6 € ($8 US).

My friend is a dessert lover, so she savored the thick rich chocolate terrine with two sauces for dessert, while I ordered another glass of wine for my dessert. 

Sweet travel tip : a great way spend your first day in Paris is eating at least two desserts upon arrival:)

There are very few places I will go for coffee. I’m highly sensitive to pesticides and since coffee is usually grown in countries with lax regulation, I only drink organic. Unfortunately, you can’t always trust some cafés which say that they serve organic coffee on their menu. I found out recently that one place I had been frequenting had falsely advertised. My headaches and upset stomach led me to ask the owner the source of his coffee, and because I knew the purveyor, I also knew the coffee and tea listed on the menu as organic were not. Like my friends at Lindy & Grundy, who know which restaurants actually serve grass fed pasture raised meat, I know which cafés actually serve organic coffee.

Conservatory in Culver City is a small family run business that not only serves organic coffee, but they also roast their own beans. Because I live close by, I get only enough to last for a few weeks at a time. They label the bags with the roasting date, so if you forget when you bought a bag, it’s marked. The middle bag is of Blood Orange Rooibos tea, which has a citrusy aroma and tangy taste that makes a non tea drinker like me happy to imbibe it. The tea is my nighttime beverage because sipping this noncaffeinated red tea it actually helps me get to sleep.

I transfer my purchases into my own containers when I get home.

You can drink your coffee, tea, or cocoa at the Conservatory, although seats can be scarce during prime coffee hours right after lunch when the employees of Sony Studios across the street come in en mass. They offer pastries and munchies to go with your coffee or tea, and their large servings are in huge cups that resemble bowls, so this is a great place to come for some conversation, to study, or for a calm break. One of the joys of coming here is the wonderful service from the always friendly family behind the counter who greet regulars by name. If you don’t live nearby, you can still become a regular because they ship their coffees and teas to all 50 states:)

Conservatory for Coffee on Urbanspoon

Today’s post is short & sweet because the place I am writing about is small and sweet 🙂

Churros Calientes lives up to its name, the churros are freshly made with organic flour, and come out piping hot. The storefront is only about 300 square feet with a counter and two tables inside, and a few outside, so you instantly bond with the other patrons.

The owner asked me to compare his churros to ones I had eaten in Spain and I would have to say these are BETTER. They are crisp, tender, and lightly dusted with organic sugar, adding a touch of sweetness that makes them excellent plain. Because they are also freshly made (and fried in a light oil), they are a bargain at $3.85! Where else can you get a made to order hot dessert for that price?

I ordered the churros con chocolate for $6.75 which included a thick creamy drink made of organic cacao beans with the churros. When asked why I was not drinking the chocolate, I responded that I use it to dunk my churros, just like in Spain. If you are a serious chocolate fiend, perhaps you can drink the super rich hot chocolate, but after one sip, I used it as a “sauce” for my churros.

The small cafe also serves soups, salads, paninis, and a range of organic coffee and teas, so if you want something besides churros, you can get it here. Several people came in for orders to go, and since I couldn’t finish my order, the owner packed my leftover chocolate & churros to go for me.

They are only open in the evening and since they are literally next door to the Laemmle Royal cinema, it’s a great place to stop after a foreign movie. Where else besides Los Angeles can you watch a German film, eat at a Japanese place across the street, and get a Spanish churro next door? (Ok, maybe New York, but we have better weather here:)

Churros Calientes on Urbanspoon

Categories

%d bloggers like this: