Back home after her six-week culinary soujourn through Europe, Gusto’s Julie-anne Sprague leafs through her trip diary and provides us with some of her favourites tastes of the Continent.
Paris Tuesday Sept 16:
Arrived in Paris this morning and then got lost for two-and-half hours looking for our hostel. We soon realised no amount of bonjour and merci can help when asking for directions, we ended up strolling the streets near Sacre Coeur and stopped in at a patisserie. This patisserie uplifted my starting-to-go-sour Paris experience because, after finding the hostel just after 11am we weren’t allowed to check in or, of course, shower, until 4pm.
But, after one bite on my cheese and prosciutto baguette, suddenly my day got better.
The first sentence we learnt to speak in French – “May I have one cheese and prosciutto baguette, please?” was soon followed by “May I have a beer please?”
We checked into the hostel a little after 4pm and headed out again just after 6pm for dinner.
The patisseries were still open at that time and had freshly baked baguettes selling like hot cakes. We couldn’t resist and sat on a park bench, eating warm baguettes and soaking up our first night in Paris.
Berlin: Monday, September 22
Unlike French portions the Germans serve everything big. An average beer is served as a half litre. Last night we (six people from our hostel) ate at a restaurant five minutes from our hostel. I was told that the pork knuckle is to the Germans what a Vegemite sandwich or a steak is to an Australian. It’s a staple. I waited patiently for someone on our table to order the pork knuckle so I could have a gawk and taste, but realising that no one was about to, I decided to take a punt. As our food was brought out I eyed off the array of schnitzels and bratwursts and anxiously awaited the pork knuckle delivery. But it turned out the waiter made a mistake with my order, and instead of pork knuckle there was an extra schnitzel.
Who was I to upset the German waiter? I confidently said (in my native tongue, naturally) that I’d take the schnitzel (it took up the entire plate). I was more than pleased with the way things turned out.
London: Sunday, September 28
I found my first celebrity food spot and ate at a much cheaper establishment across the road. The celebrity spot wasn’t Gordon Ramsay’s renowned establishment of the same name or Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, but an Italian place in Hatfield where Posh Spice and David Beckham have dined. We went to the pub across the road for a traditional English roast!
Munich: Thursday, October 2
Oktoberfest. I have realised that Australians are not the world’s mightiest beer drinkers. The local Bavarians proved to me that they could out-drink me (and all my mates) any day of the week.
After being shown the right way to hold my one-litre beer stein by a Munich man sitting at my table at the Hofbrau House – use one hand, and not two as though drinking out of a bowl – I settled in to an afternoon of beerfest frivolity. I’m amazed how the waitresses here manage to keep all of the beer hall patrons satisfied.
Rome: Monday, October 21
I’ve been in Italy about a week now. I’ve seen Florence, Milan and Venice and while completely in love with certain elements in each of the cities there is one unanimous highlight – gelati. I’m addicted. It’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten. It’s not ice cream and it’s not sorbet. It comes in fruit and sweeter varieties, my favourite being niccola (hazelnut), and it’s melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I have managed to eat it everyday, though it’s not hard given that gelati shops in Italy are as common as patisseries in Paris.
I’ve also found Italy to be the most enjoyable place to eat. Perhaps it’s because I know what I’m ordering. I know what spaghetti and cannelloni are, but of course it’s not just easy translations that I enjoy.
The pasta and sauces here are cooked to perfection – the sauce isn’t thick and overbearing because the on-site-cooked pasta is so tasty it doesn’t need to be drowned in the sauce.
The pizza has also lived up to expectations.
Thin wood-fired bases topped with the best cheese in the world and an array of toppings to choose from.
Italy has been my favourite place to eat by a long way..