Now that I’m back from my Europe trip, I’ve had some time to synthesize my experiences eating at nice restaurants in four different countries (Scotland, England, France, and Germany). Coming from Los Angeles, where the restaurant scene is as vital as anywhere else in the U.S. right now (possibly the world), it felt a bit like stepping into a history book; or, to put it another way, like watching a bunch of classic movies after a Quentin Tarantino marathon. There’s no question that America is setting the trends these days; the hottest restaurants in Paris are all popular because they’re considered “Très Brooklyn.” What, then, might a modern American restaurant have to learn from a modern European restaurant? Here’s my attempt to answer that question with a list.
It’s that time again! The time to overuse exclamation points and to visit a supermarket in a foreign country! The last time we did this, it was in Australia and you all enjoyed yourselves so much I knew I had to do it again. This time, you’re getting two for the price of one: a visit to a British supermarket, then a visit to a German supermarket. Alas, I didn’t have a chance to go to a French supermarket, so we’ll have to save that for my next trip to Europe. Now, without further ado, let’s hop on over to the Notting Hill neighborhood of London and see what kind of food they’re selling to the locals.
When I was a teenager in Florida, on a Jewish Community Center trip to EPCOT, I remember running past Germany as fast as we could. “Germany, ahhhh!” we yelled, racing past the Bavarian buildings over to the Norway ride with the trolls and the waterfall. As naive as we were, there was something instinctual about our resistance to Germany. We were Jews growing up in a generation where the Holocaust was hammered into us daily; in Hebrew school, in history class, on TV, in movies, everywhere we went, we were reminded that 6 million Jews were killed by Nazis in Germany. “Never forget” we were told again and again. No wonder we ran so fast.
One Night in Strasbourg (Lunch at Chez Yvonne–Featuring Choucroute Garnie–and An Epic Michelin-Starred Dinner at Buerehiesel)
Once I made up my mind that I would travel to Paris from London by train, I looked at a map and realized it would be silly to return to London to fly to Munich (where I’d be meeting Craig for the Munich Film Festival two days later); a far more sane idea would be to keep moving east, via train, stopping over somewhere along the way. When I put the question to Twitter, a follower (I forget who; sorry follower!) mentioned Strasbourg. Before I knew it, I was reading about one of the great world’s food cities–on the border of France and Germany–in the Alsace-Lorraine region where we get Riesling, Alsatian pizza (aka: tart flambée), and a dish Jeffrey Steingarten celebrates in one of his books called Choucroute Garnie. Needless to say, I booked a EuroRail ticket, booked a hotel (the Hotel Rohan, nice and reasonable), and after kissing Paris goodbye on a Friday morning, boarded the train to Strasbourg.
Wild news: Craig’s movie is screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival in three weeks, then he goes to the Nantucket film festival, and back to Europe for the Munich film festival. The best part? Edinburgh is flying me out too, so I can join him in Munich as long as I make my way back to Edinburgh to fly back. So here’s the plan: four days in Edinburgh, then when Craig goes to Nantucket, I’ll make my way to London where I’ll lay low for a week until it’s time to go to Munich. After that, we’ll tack on three days in Berlin because how can you go to Munich and not go to Berlin? (Also: I want to see a certain someone’s Berlin kitchen.) Now I need your advice. Where should we eat in Edinburgh? Where should I stay in London? Where should I eat there? (I feel like I have to go to the River Cafe; I’d also like to try St. John and a Heston Blumenthal spot, but that may be unrealistic $$-wise.) Where do we eat in Munich? And where do we stay in Berlin? Oh and where do we eat there too? Also, if there are any books you can recommend about any of these places (fiction or non-fiction) I’d love to load up for the flight. Thanks for all of your help and I’ll be sure to share the whole adventure with you here on the blog, as I always do. I’m pretty nice that way.