Sunday, September 16, 2012

An American Foodie in Europe

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Thanks to my PR career and three years of savings, I was lucky enough to visit and truly experience five countries and eight cities within a three-month period.

My travels took me from London to Barcelona, to Naples, Rome and Florence, to Cannes and Marseilles and finally Munich.  I saw so many sites, met some amazing people, and as equally important, ate some out-of-this-world food.

Kicking off my culinary adventure, I made it a personal quest to tell my friends and family that I ate fish & chips in England!  But, little did I know, I would uncover a whole new world of culinary magnificence in London that I never knew existed.  Melt in your mouth broccoli puree, delicate white onion soup and perfectly cooked hake that I can still taste when I close my eyes, at the popular Rhodes 24, were just the tip of the iceberg.   

Trying to trump that, I had Dim Sum at Ping Pong like a true Brit, I was told.  And when my dining partners ordered around 20 items off of the extensive menu and then asked the waiter, “will that be enough for us?,”  I knew I was home!  Next was the non-pub pub fare at The White Swan, that included such classics as mushy peas and braised veal, but with a refined elegance that I’ve never seen from traditional bar food.

After taking some advice from the locals, I spent a Saturday morning weaving in and out of the vendors at Borough Market, sampling everything (once or twice) from rabbit & quail confit to sea salt caramel to chicken and vegetable curry.  Feeling like a local myself, I grabbed a Pimm's and bacon butty and strolled through the market to my heart’s content.

Most Londoners (or -ites?) might tease my indulgence in a “lovely” meat pie and the greasiest fish & chips imaginable - but these English staples were a must in order to satisfy my inquiring family and friends back home.

From Spain to Italy to France, I delved into a worldly culinary feast that included tapas and sangrias, pastas and paninis, and of course, croissants and crepes.  Needless to say, that portion of my European adventure added a few pounds to my midsection but also allowed me to prepare for the gastronomical marathon that was awaiting me in Germany....

When in Munich, after almost 12 hours of travelling, my colleagues and I stumbled into a nearby cafe called Klinglwirt.  With glazed eyes we squinted at our menus that looked like thousands of consonants strewn about on the page.  Welcome to Germany!  In true American fashion, we pointed at “what they’re having” and ordered “, doesn’t matter, surprise us!”  To our surprise, our pointing and stuttering produced the smoothest beer we’ve ever had and German comfort foods such as cheesy spinach spƤtzle, tangy sauerkraut and creamy veal medallions.  

But the crowning achievement of the trip came after a long night of “networking,” when we rolled up to an eight-story pagoda in the middle of the English Garden known as “Chinesischer Turm” in German. As the second largest beer garden in the city of Munich, the Chinese Tower seats up to 7,000 people.  With a liter of Hofbrau and (what felt like) half of a pig, I settled into a lunch of champions, Munich-style.  To wash it all down, we shared a soft pretzel the size of a beach ball with a baseball-sized lump of Obatzter (cheese dip) on the side.

Sharing this experience of a lifetime with some amazing friends (old and new) made every bite count!  Where in the world will my taste buds take me next, you’ll just have to wait to find out...