Sunday, July 31, 2005

Food P.S.

I just realized last night that I failed to post much about the food we ate, and just concentrated on the wines, with the exception of one not-so-good meal in Montpellier, and, of course, the mouthful of rocks in Béziers. Thus, a couple of recommendations to those headed down that way:

Le Bistro d'Alco, 4, rue Bonnier-d'Alco (phone: 04 67 63 12 89). First visited this place on the January trip, and found it welcoming and solid, with, as usual, a fine affordable wine-list. There's a €13 menu for dinner, and the house charcuterie is excellent. Otherwise, standard fare -- beef, fish -- in season. Nice staff, big upstairs for parties.

Restaurant la Coquille, 1 Plan du Palais (phone: 04 67 60 47 97). There's a Provençal restaurant in Montpellier I've been to four times, only to find the owner giving one excuse or another for not cooking on the day I showed up. He's got superb taste in the town's other restaurants though, and he steered us to this one. Not a seafood restaurant per se -- it's named after a weird architectural feature of the house next door, which you can look at while you dine outdoors -- it has a couscous royale I've got to try some day, a rare and wonderful wine, Marcousse Vitorez, on the list, and an excellent lamb confit made with olive oil.

Chez Doume, 5, rue Teissiers (phone 04 67 60 48 76). Been here twice, once in January (recommendation of the guy at the Provençal place) and once after a concerted effort to find it for our last dinner in town. Another €13 menu, and I seem to remember remarking the first time that there seemed to be a bit of a Spanish influence to the cooking, which wasn't evident this time around. Unlike many (even fancy) places, they use real potatoes in their pommes frites, everything is fresh, the wine list is superb, and despite the fact that this whole block is a sort of tourist scene in the summer, lots and lots of locals eat here.

La Calanque, 17, quai Général Durand, Quai de la Marine, Sète (phone: 04 67 74 28 37). Getcher boatload o' seafood here! And, from the looks of what the folks at the next table were devouring, lots of other excellent choices. Definitely one of the better places on the main drag in Sète.

Fink' Stuebel, 26, rue Finkwiller, Strasbourg (phone: 03 88 25 07 57). This place isn't exactly a secret, but it has the distinct advantage of being outside the tourist ambit (although all you have to do is cross the street and you're back in it). It serves a foie gras so legendary that Carl Stone named a composition after the restaurant after eating there, and I had an "onion tart," which was like a quiche and a brioche stuffed with pork and foie gras that was heavenly, and K had the famous choucroute, all as noted in the post two days ago. More expensive than the others listed here, but well worth it.

One last food anecdote. On the way down, we stopped at an Autobahn rest stop to fuel up and have lunch. The restaurant was called Bambusgarten, which I knew portended an "Asia" place (which I'll have more to say about soon), serving some sort of fake sorta-Chinese-sorta-Thai stuff. But they also, it turned out, had a regular old German menu. We had to sit outside, because apparently on Sundays it's a magnet for the local old ladies: there were tables full of them inside. It was hot, and I ordered a Coke so that the caffeine would take effect by the time it was time to drive. I also ordered a salad with "ham rolls" while K had a bowl of "Asia" soup. (Soup when it's 90 degrees outside? Germans are weird.) Anyway, a basket of what Germans call baguette appeared, and then along came our lunch. The salad had three really thick pieces of boiled ham rolled up lying on a bed of lettuce covered with a white dressing. I took a bite of baguette to get the Coke taste out of my mouth and then took a forkful of lettuce. The dressing was exactly as sweet as the Coke was. Later, in Montpellier, I had a pasta salad for lunch, farfalle with sun dried tomatoes and other stuff, which also had a mayonnaise dressing. It was unctuous, with a mustardy snap to it. Somebody tell the Germans: considering how much "mayonnaise" is consumed here, they really ought to try it some day.

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