A London Fish and Chips Story: Sometimes, You Can’t Go Back, But You Can Go Forward

The famous fish and chips at Geales
London is just so London – Foggy day or not, I love it!

I’m an Anglophile

Glover Gardens followers know that I love London. I have for a long, long time. I’ve been an anglophile since reading The Secret Garden and Great Expectations as a child. My first actual foray into that foggy town was in 1997, and I’ve probably been there 20 times since. Every time I get into London, I’m torn between retracing my steps and trying something new.

Tell me – how does a gal decide between serendipity and going back to enjoy a beloved spot once again?

Retracing My Steps to Geales

Serendipity often wins, but last December, I finally went back to a cozy little seafood restaurant I had happened upon early in 2004 and returned to several times that year as part of a series of business trips. Just off the beaten path in Kensington near Notting Hill Gate, Geales has been open since 1939. That’s 80 years of serving seafood – they know what they’re doing!

From the Geales website

More Posh Than I Remembered

It was cold and drizzly on that December 2018 evening when I went back to Geales, and a little spot at a corner table was just what I needed to warm up. The place was more sophisticated than I remembered; back in 2004 it was loud and crowded, had a fisherman’s-wharf / corner market feel with fish and chips served in newspaper, and maybe even red-checked oilcloth on the tables. Travel-weary and in T-shirt and jeans, I felt a little underdressed in the genteel surroundings; you’ll note how smartly dressed the folks at the next table are.

View from my corner table; I did some people-watching and got caught (by the lady)

While researching Geales to write this post, I learned that there was a big revamp done in 2007 and a change of ownership, which explains the more upscale decor (slick but unfussy).

Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
This photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
Photo from Geales via USA Today article

Let’s Talk about the Food

But let’s put the decor aside and talk about the food. The menu has definitely been updated. How updated? Well, alongside classics like mussels, fish and chips, fish pie and fish cakes, there are choices like lobster linguini with sun-dried tomatoes, and wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil. I’d have dressed better if I’d known that!

Lobster linguini from the Geales Facebook page

My first course was taramasalata. It was an excellent version of this special cod roe-based spread, very light and creamy, and not dyed an artificial pink like so many are. I’m pretty sure that Geales didn’t have taramasalata back in the early 2000s; that’s part of its new sophistication.

Taramasalata with grilled flatbread

My dish of choice back in 2004 was usually mussels served in a tin bucket, but I went for the grilled fish this time. However, it was my waitperson’s second day on the job, and she brought me fish and chips instead. She was delightful, young and earnest, and I didn’t have the heart to complain. So I ate it. Wouldn’t you? When in London…

Fish and chips with mushy peas

I almost never eat fried food, but the fish and chips were delicious, and the mushy peas were the perfect accompaniment. So very British. Breaking with tradition, I went for Tabasco instead of malt vinegar, threatening my Anglophile status. But hey, Tabasco is a global thing, right?

A Worthy Fish and Chips Experience

I didn’t realize until I was writing this post that Geales was ranked #3 on USA Today’s article, the 10 Best London Fish and Chips Restaurants. Perhaps I was meant to have fish and chips on that rainy London night. Serendipity.

All-in-all, it was a nice meal and worthy experience. While I was expecting the homey warmth and fish-market ambience that I had enjoyed in the earlier version of Geales, I got over my surprise at its more upscale vibe pretty quickly as I savored the food and the people-watching. (People-watching was always good at Geales.)

The Serendipity of the Unknown and Surprising

My conclusion is that sometimes, you can’t go back. What was there before no longer exists in the same form. But if you take a step back, look at it as something new, an opportunity, perhaps you can go forward. When the known and comfortable becomes the unknown and surprising, it can be serendipity.

Haiku: The Chip Shop

serendipitous
mushy peas and fish and chips
unspoiled by poshness

National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo)

Note: because February is National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo) and I’m a habitual haiku-er (is that a word?), all posts will have a related haiku. For more Glover Gardens haiku, click here.

© 2019 Glover Gardens

Kitty Fisher’s in London Pulled Me In, Fed Me Well and Charmed Me Completely

…and I didn’t even know they were trendy, hot and famous, with a “cult-like following” (to quote a review)!


Photo of Kitty Fisher’s courtesy of TripAdvisor

It Started with a Walkabout

It was a chilly and rainy December Saturday, and I was in London. I had slept well, slept hard and slept late in my cubbyhole-sized room at a giant chain hotel in Kensington / Shepherd’s Bush. Rested and ready, I headed out to do what I love to do most in London: walk around and take in the sights, smells and sounds of the place. The feel of it. And the people. Most of all, the people.

I took my time, and my first find was C. Lidgate’s, the subject of a previous post.

Lidgate’s is a carnivorous cook’s dream! There’s a huge selection of meats, fish, poultry, sausages, cheeses, pies, condiments, cured meats and deli items.

Part of what makes London a fantastic walking city is the Tube, because you can hop on when you’re through walking in one area and quickly make your way to another. Which I did. I love the Tube system!

Shepherd Market was My Destination

My Tube stop was Green Park Station, the nearest to Shepherd Market in Mayfair. I LOVE this tiny celebrated enclave with its rich and colorful history that practically walks alongside as you make your way through the square on cobblestone streets past pubs and restaurants in historic stone buildings. It was the home of the first Mayfair public market in the late 1600’s, and has always been popular with writers and artists. And me.

From www.shepherdmarket.co.uk

Although it was drizzling in that way that only London can drizzle, I walked through the streets in Shepherd Market several times, trying to decide where to have my late lunch / early dinner. Pausing in front of various establishments, I scanned their posted menus and checked out their ambience, sneaking a look at the meals on the tables.

The Manager at Kitty Fisher’s was Irresistible

At Kitty Fisher’s, the manager opened the door as I was lingering outside drooling over the menu and literally pulled me into the door, albeit gently: “Don’t you want to eat with us?” I couldn’t resist her and did as I was told. (Like Eliza Doolittle, “I’m a good girl, I am!”) Kitty Fisher’s namesake is the famous 18th-century courtesan, but she couldn’t have been half as charming and welcoming as the front-of-the-house team in this lovely little place.

The manager, on the right, is the one who literally pulled me into the restaurant; the bartender the left entertained me the whole time I was there

I spent two happy hours at Kitty Fisher’s. The ambience is an appealing mix of cozy old England and fresh, trendy-foodie-creative.

The bar at Kitty Fisher’s is warm and appealing, like the staff

I Like to Sit at the Bar and Watch

I sat at the bar, my favorite place to be when eating alone.

Bartenders have great stories, and watching them work is fascinating. The good ones are always willing to narrate what they’re doing. Kitty Fisher’s bartender (below) was making one of the infused liquors used to create their imaginative cocktails, one of which is called “Bad Kitty” (see the photo on the left from an article in The Times). I wasn’t in a cocktail mood that day, but will try the Bad Kitty next time…it has gin, sloe gin, elderflower cordial (house-made), lemon juice and cava. Sounds great!

Enjoy the Meal with Me

And the food, oh the food! Sweet Tower of London, the food was magnificent! Sit down with me here and let me describe it to you.

I started with bread and butter, the perfect way to warm up on a foggy day in London town. Yeasty, crusty, chewy, it had a satisfying, grandmotherly quality, but on the other hand, Grandma never toasted her bread on a wood-fired grill (look at those grill marks!) or served it with whipped butter dusted with onion ash. That’s right, onion ash. Yum!!!

Check out those grill marks and the dusting of onion ash – oh my goodness!

And then there was the pasta, the glorious pasta, specifically: smoked cod belly and egg yolk raviolo with pickled golden raisins, hazelnuts and curry butter. It was heavenly, a rich and subtle combination of complementary flavors and textures. The creaminess of the egg and sauce are perfectly balanced by the crunch of the toasted hazelnuts and smoky cod.

Rich and satisfying, this pasta was a patchwork quilt of flavors and textures

“Eat your vegetables,” my late mother’s voice always rings in my head, and I’m so glad I listened to her at Kitty Fisher’s. (“I’m a good girl, I am!”) The hispi cabbage was a satisfying surprise, a big, thick steak-like slice of it that was grilled and then topped with a mustard seed sauce.

Surprisingly good hispi cabbage “steak” with mustard seeds

A Walkabout Inside the Restaurant

Kitty Fisher’s wasn’t busy when I was there in the middle of that rainy Saturday afternoon and only a few other customers were there to enjoy it. (Apparently, this is highly unusual, as all the glowing reviews take pains to mention the need for reservations and how hard it is to get a table.) 

After I polished off my delicious meal, I wandered around and took pictures.

Downstairs has an old-school, snug, clubby feel with its red upholstery and dark green walls, but isn’t stuffy.

Downstairs at Kitty Fisher’s

Kitty Fisher’s building was once a Georgian bakery, and the relics embedded in the walls downstairs are part of its charm and personality.

Reviews I read from diners who ate downstairs mentioned the experience of watching what goes on in the small kitchen, which is visible through glass doors.

Star Treatment Makes Memories

Noticing me with my touristy curiosity and camera, a member of the kitchen team came out to meet and greet me, and then summoned the rest of the staff to take a photo with me. Really. It wasn’t even my idea. They are that nice.

The excellent kitchen staff at Kitty Fisher’s, swarming me with welcome

In addition to praising the food and remarking on Kitty Fisher’s diminutive size and imposing presence on the London restaurant scene, reviews by restaurant critics unfailingly mention the patronage of stars and TV personalities (Kate Moss, Brad Pitt, Nigella Lawson, to name a few) and even a former prime minister (David Cameron). I’m a nobody from the colonies, but the staff treated me like I was royalty and served me a meal to match. If everyone gets that star treatment, and I suspect they do, Kitty Fisher’s will be around for a long, long time.

And I will be back to reunite with these folks who made me feel like family.

Photo taken at the insistence of the manager; don’t I look happy and well-cared for?

© 2019 Glover Gardens

Reminder: all recommendations, such as those in this post, are based on personal opinion and experience and should not be considered as advertisements (Glover Gardens is not a commercial blog).

Finally, a Trip to K-Paul’s in New Orleans

It Started with Mom’s Food Crush on Paul Prudhomme and Her Collection of His Cookbooks

My Mom, an excellent cook, had a food crush on Paul Prudhomme. She bought every cookbook he published until her death in 2000, and those books were well-used. Marked-up, dog-eared and stained, they are family treasures.

Chef Paul's Louisiana Kitchen
My copy of Chef Paul’s first cookbook is over 30 years old

As my first culinary teacher and mentor, Mom made sure I also got a copy of every one of the cookbooks, too, so I could share in the Chef Paul magic. I was a very young adult when Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen was published in 1984, and I’m sure that his recipes influenced my tastes and later, my recipes.

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That’s Mom and me in her kitchen around the time Chef Paul’s second cookbook was published. Louisiana Kitchen was in the stack right there on top of the oven (on the left), because she used it so often.

When she died, I inherited Mom’s Chef Paul cookbooks (and lots of others). I instantly started using her books instead of mine, because there’s a lot of love and family history encrusted in those pages. Along with the cutting boards my Dad made, these cookbooks are at the top of my Prized Possessions list. My own dog-eared copies of Chef Paul’s complete works are packed up and waiting for my son (known as the Musical Millennial in these pages) to have his own home and kitchen (after college and grad school).

Mom and Dad Fell in Love with K-Paul’s Restaurant

Even with Mom’s food crush on Chef Paul, it took a while for my parents to get to K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, the restaurant in New Orleans that he ran with his wife, Kay. Together, their names are the origin of the restaurant name “K-Paul’s”.  Finally there on a culinary road trip in the late 80s, Mom and Dad absolutely loved their dining experience at K-Paul’s and raved about it from that day forward. (It was one of their first big empty-nester trips, and I’ve never really forgiven them for not taking me along.)

Mom was ill for the last few years of her life and definitely too sick to cook, but she was a devotee of all of Chef Paul’s cooking shows on PBS in the late 90s. It was fun to visit her and watch his shows, commenting on his recipes, reminiscing about the dishes we’d made from the cookbooks, just being foodie nerds together.

Well, I never made it to K-Paul’s with Mom and Dad, and Chef Paul died in 2015.

K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen is Alive and Well

K-Paul’s is still in daily operation in the French Quarter, and you can still find tried and true Louisiana Kitchen dishes there. The Grill-Meister and I took a tenth anniversary trip to NOLA this summer, and finally visited this family legend restaurant. More than 30 years after Mom and Dad’s discovery trip, it was everything they said it was, updated for this century. And yet, still a little homey, which is the promise of the sign, the original from the late 70s (as far as I can tell from online research).

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Let me tell you about it.

The bread basket sported jalapeño rolls and two different little muffins, one of which, the carrot-pecan (and molasses, I suspect), had the Grill-Meister enthralled.

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The bread basket, after we gobbled down several of the choices (eat first, pics later!)

We shared Fried Green Tomatoes and Shrimp, and it was heavenly. Just the right amount of crisp batter on the tomato slices, with shrimp in a piquant brown sauce sandwiched between them.

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Fried Green Tomatoes – crisp on the outside, tender on the inside and made perfect with the addition of shrimp

Oh, the main courses! We ate, and we ate, and we still couldn’t finish them. I had the pan-fried fish and shrimp with jambalaya and the Grill-Meister had the blackened drum. Both came with gloriously sautéed vegetables and the drum was accompanied by a very creamy, very large dollop of garlic mashed potatoes.

fullsizeoutput_255ePan-Fried Flounder with Shrimp and Chartres St Jambalaya

Our waiter was magnificent: well-versed in the intricacies of the menu and daily specials, funny, solicitous and there when we needed him – but without hovering. Exactly the qualities we hope for in a waitperson.

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We made friends with interesting folks at other tables.

The ambiance at K-Paul’s is casual and fun, with recipes on the walls.

It’s a well-oiled machine – we enjoyed watching the food come out and get served within moments.

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Fried oysters, lookin’ good! (Next time.)

Some folks say that K-Paul’s is a tourist destination, and they’re right. That’s just fine. It’s worth the trip. It was for Mom and Dad back in the 80s, and for the Grill-Meister and me last June.

And as for those heirloom cookbooks, they’re still in use here at Glover Gardens. We make Chef Paul’s blackened fish about once a month – check it out here.

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Our blackened fish (tilapia) from Chef Paul’s recipe

Gumbo Recipe (and Stories) Coming Soon

I’m in a Paul Prudhomme mood because I’m making gumbo tonight, and he was one of my gumbo mentors. I’ll publish my version soon, hopefully in time for Thanksgiving and those turkey leftovers. Turkey makes marvelous gumbo.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

Suire’s Wows Again: I’m in Love with Their Crawfish Fettucini

After an anniversary trip to New Orleans this summer, I waxed long and poetic in this post about Suire’s, a tiny, quirky, wonderful and welcoming cafe and grocery in Kaplan, Louisiana that serves spectacular Cajun food.

Now I have to rave about Suire’s again – this time, it’s about the Crawfish Fettuccini. Wow!!!

If you read the original post (and I hope you did – or will), you’ll know the story about the generous stranger who insisted on buying us a frozen container of the Crawfish Fettuccini.

The People of Suire's – Version 2
On the right is Katlyn, our Crawfish Fettuccini benefactor, with Joan Suire, one of the owners of this delicious and delightful destination in Louisiana’s Cajun Country

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Below the baked goods where the Grill-Meister is selecting a house-made fig cake sits the frozen section – a freezer full of Cajun yumminess

The Crawfish Fettuccini Katlyn gifted us with has been sitting in our freezer waiting for the right time for us to savor it slowly and remember what a great time we had at Suire’s. Last night was the night. I’m messing around with crab cakes, trying to create the perfect Glover Gardens version. The taste is all that (according to my Official Taster, the Grill-Meister), but the texture isn’t right yet, so I’m not ready to share the recipe. Stay tuned. Anyway, I needed a side dish.

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First try on Glover Gardens crab cakes, made with Zippy Southwest seasoning and served with Sriracha mayo

The Suire’s Crawfish Fettuccini was the perfect complement to our crab cake experiment. And it was just that: perfect. Creamy, spicy, homey, with tasty little morsels of crawfish. Oh my goodness!

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You can almost taste the creamy, spicy goodness of the Suire’s Crawfish Fettuccini, can’t you?

So Katlyn, thank you so much for the gift of the frozen Crawfish Fettuccini. You were absolutely right about it. Wow.

I’m excited because we still have two frozen entrees from Suire’s – Red Beans and Sausage and Crawfish Étouffée. When they’re gone, it’s time for a road trip! Wanna come?

Resources

© 2018 Glover Gardens

 

 

Comptoir Vietnam: A Tiny Treasure in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris

Culinary experiences are high on my list when I travel. The only eateries I disdain are chains. Unusual foods, new restaurants, out-of-the-way places that only locals go, famous places that I’ve read about- and salivated over – for years, tiny little spots that offer perfect renditions of traditional ethnic dishes – bring ‘em all on!

So many taste experiences, so little time…

So when I get a recommendation from someone on my internal Trusted Buds List (buds as in ’taste buds’ as well as the traditional sense of ‘buddy’, a person who would never steer you wrong), I try hard to make it happen.

IMG_1021That’s how I had the delightful experience of dining at tiny and wonderful Comptoir Vietnam in Paris last month. A Glover Gardens blog friend who has traveled the world a time or two (or three) recommended it on one of my previous Paris posts, just as I was heading out to a workshop there with several colleagues. He had found Comptoir Vietnam by accident years earlier while taking a walk in the City of Lights. He loved it. He went back. He took loved ones there on later trips. Most importantly (to me), he paid it forward by telling me about it. And now I’m telling you.

You need to know about Comptoir Vietnam. It’s that good.

My colleagues are game for anything, and on the night before our return to Houston, they accompanied me on the very crowded, fairly hot, hour-long Metro ride during rush hour to get to this stellar little place. We weren’t sorry! It was everything we expected, and more.

I’ll set the stage for you. It was overcast and rainy, as Paris often is. (How is it that overcast and rainy in Paris doesn’t ruin the mood, it adds to it??)  The Metro experience was a little different than usual as we got close to our stop, with elevated, above-ground tracks that provided a great view of sudden and unexpected street art, a number of huge and intricate murals on the buildings.

fullsizeoutput_24daWe alighted from the Metro and found ourselves in the 13th arrondissement, an area of Paris that was previously unknown to me. A couple of turns down wet, gray streets that were mostly residential but dotted with neighborhood businesses and restaurants (primarily Asian) took us to the humble front door of Comptoir Vietnam.

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The interior was very small, with only six or eight tables. The menu was delightfully not in English. This ain’t no tourist trap!

Dining at Comptoir Vietnam

Dining at Comptoir Vietnam

Noticing that we weren’t French or Asian, one of the patrons struck up a conversation with us immediately. She wanted to know how we found the place, because “usually only locals come here”. She helped us interpret the menu and decide what to order, and reinforced what we already suspected: this was going to be a great meal.

Oh my goodness!

We had dumplings that took a little while to arrive, because they were steamed to perfection after we ordered them – three different kinds (shrimp, pork and beef). There were piquant dipping sauces that someone back in the kitchen probably made that day.

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Two of us chose Bo Bun Nem, a dish I had never heard of. It was a big bowl of beef and incredibly rich broth and vermicelli or rice noodles and fresh things like cilantro and cucumber and chile peppers and cucumbers and bean sprouts and whole pieces of some kind of crispy spring roll and a deep, oniony sauce – oh my! “This is North Vietnamese food,” my friend had said. “Nothing like we usually eat in the US.” Umm-hmm. And in addition to being super-delicious, it was cheap!

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We didn’t talk much at Comptoir Vietnam after the meal arrived, except to revel in our good fortune. So I’m sharing it with you in case you get to the 13th arrondissement of Paris one day. You should.

As for me, I’ll be back in Paris this week, and I really want to go back to Comptoir Vietnam. And if I can’t make it on this trip, then I will on the next one. It’s that good. And there are soooooo many other dishes to try!

Thanks for the recommendation, my friend!

© 2018 Glover Gardens

A Real Find in Cajun Country: Suire’s Grocery and Restaurant

The People of Suire's – Version 2Looking for lunch on a recent trek home from New Orleans, we took the long way along the coast and found a treasure (and I do mean treasure) in the backroads of southern Louisiana. Suire’s Grocery and Restaurant has been serving delicious Cajun food to hungry travelers, locals and hunters since 1976. It was magic: the food, the ambience and especially the people. The Grill-Meister and I were enchanted.

An Experience, Not a Pit Stop

You know it’s going to be a memorable experience instead of a quick bite right when you pull up to the unassuming white building. The menu is painted on the outside, along with a faded but very friendly-looking alligator to welcome you.

Inside, the feeling that you’re in a unique place is immediately reinforced. The walls are crowded with a fascinating collection of Louisiana kitsch, safety awards, family and local memorabilia, and articles from publications ranging from the New York Times to the Houston Chronicle. Referencing the authenticity of the food and the popularity of Suire’s with hunters and locals, the articles point out different dishes and dining experiences from the individual viewpoints of the writers, but they all have one thing in common: glowing reviews.

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From family pictures to Tabasco posters to mouthwatering descriptions of Suire’s food, the walls here are fascinating

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Suire’s during hunting season; photo from their Facebook page

Menu Choices Galore

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Suire’s pistolette, from Facebook, “good for breakfast, lunch or dinner!”

We didn’t stop to read the articles at first, though. The menu above the counter where you order at the back of the store draws you in and amplifies your hunger. And that’s only a portion of what’s on offer: there’s also a printed menu with so many choices! There are selections that you rarely find outside of Cajun Country, like turtle sauce picante and three kinds of pistolettes (deep-fried rolls stuff with crawfish, shrimp or crab), and just about every Cajun menu staple you can imagine: alligator, boudin balls, shrimp or crawfish étouffée, twelve different po-boys, multiple fried seafood platters, red beans and sausage…you get the idea. And then there are salads, burgers, sandwiches and sides like Cajun fries, potato salad. Oh my goodness!

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The posted menu on the wall is just a tiny portion of what’s available daily at Suire’s; there’s also a daily special, which on that day was spaghetti and meat sauce served with an egg roll or cheese stick and green salad

A Very Satisfying Meal

It was difficult, but we finally made our selections. The Grill-Meister and I had been in New Orleans for 3 days celebrating a milestone anniversary and had enjoyed numerous Cajun and Creole dishes, but we were happy to continue the trend at Suire’s. He chose the shrimp poboy, and I had the shrimp and crabmeat gumbo plate. They were both spectacular: fresh, delicious, perfectly balanced. Humble ingredients transformed into permanent taste memories.

Shrimp Po-Boy
Simple, fresh and delicious: the shrimp poboy

Gumbo Plate at Suire's
Rich dark gumbo with flecks of crab

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A ceramic fish on the table holds salt and cayenne pepper shakers – love it!

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Other patrons were just as serious about their meals as we were (it’s that good)

The Sweet Smell of Baked Goods

House-made baked goods are everywhere, tempting you while you wait for your meal. This is NOT fast food. There’s time to take in the abundant ambience and ponder your dessert choices while the Suire’s kitchen prepares your order. A huge selection of old-fashioned favorites make it really hard to choose. Peanut butter balls or fig cake? Heavenly hash or rice krispy treats? Brownies, cookies or fruit-filled tarts? And who can resist homemade pecan pie??? After some soul-searching, the Grill-Meister chose the fig cake. I know that he loves me, because he gave me a bite.

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Old-fashioned baked goods are made onsite and wrapped individually

A Freezer Full

Suire's Frozen FoodsA further temptation is the freezer full of Suire’s specialties, fulfilling the promise painted on the front door:

Don’t feel like cooking? … Frozen Foods – Ready to Eat – Just Heat and Serve

We just happened to have an ice chest with us. (No self-respecting foodies would go on a road trip to Louisiana without a way to bring some of the goodness home.) The ice chest got a little fuller.

Dry Goods and Groceries, Too

I’ve been gushing about the restaurant and the ambience, but shouldn’t ignore the other side of Suire’s – the grocery store. I’m from a very small town in Southeast Texas, and I know that the local grocery store can be the center of a small community, the place where people go to chat and get news, and the source of that one missing ingredient for the big dinner you planned to make.

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Saving the Best for Last: the People of Suire’s

The most enchanting thing about Suire’s was the people. We had the great fortune to meet and chat with Joan Suire, who co-owns and runs the business with her sister, Lisa. Happy to chat, she pointed out some of the more interesting articles and photos on the walls and provided backstories. For example: behind the signed celebrity photos from the 1940s was the tale of a relative who worked at the Waldorf-Astoria, met and married a Rockefeller, “and never worked again”.

Jean tells her stories with a charismatic, wry smile and an excellent sense of timing. We could have conversed with her all day; her pride in the family business is evident and irresistible. She told us how here parents had started the business when she and her sister were teenagers, and that she’d never married but has had a great life at the counter of Suire’s. Joan shared a recent testimonial from a customer, a Baton Rouge native who’d just found Suire’s:

Your food resurrected my mother!

Taste memories. They’re important.

It was early Sunday afternoon when we visited, and there was a steady stream of locals picking up to-go orders. Jean knew everyone’s name and asked after their families with a genuine interest.

Southern Hospitality: “It’s My Treat!”

But it’s not just the proprietors that are special at Suire’s, it’s also the customers. One struck up a conversation with me, sharing that a new porch was being built at her house that day, so she was picking up lunch from Suire’s for everyone. A lovely young woman, she almost glowed as she gushed about the food, saying that the crawfish fettuccini was the absolute best. As she was paying for her order, she gestured for me to come up to the counter and said, “Do you want to try the crawfish fettuccini?” I thought she meant a little bite from some big vat of the wonderful stuff back in the kitchen, but no – she was offering to buy us a meal! We had already ordered, so I declined, but she insisted:

I’m going to buy you a frozen one, then. It’s my treat. You have to try it!

So there you are. An absolute stranger bought us a local delicacy because it’s that good. I think her name was Caitlyn and wish I had written it down so I could thank her properly. (Lovely young lady, if you read this and I got your name wrong, please correct me!) Whenever I think about southern hospitality from now on, this experience at Suire’s will come to mind.

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Joan and Caitlyn (I hope that’s right) posed for me and I told them to look for this post in Glover Gardens; what wonderful people

Another Road Trip

The Grill-Meister and I are already planning another road trip, this time with the express purpose to soak up more of that Suire’s magic. Wanna come?

More Info

Note: some of the articles I read when I was preparing this “restaurant rave” post suggested that the 2002 New York Times article put Suire’s on the map and made it famous. I disagree. It might have increased awareness about this little gem, but it’s clear that Suire’s has always been famous with the people of Southeast Louisiana and the the travelers, hunters and fisher-people who visit.

Epilogue: Anthony Bourdain was Here

We didn’t know when we found Suire’s two weeks ago that Anthony Bourdain had visited in February of this year for his Parts Unknown series. Wow. The episode, Cajun Mardi Gras Recap, aired soon after his tragic death. The photo below, taken on Ash Wednesday, is on the Suire’s Facebook page and features Anthony with owners (and sisters) Joan and Lisa. “One of the more awesome locations I’ve ever found,” he said of Suire’s. Indeed.

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Anthony Bourdain with Joan (left) and Lisa (right)

Anthony Bourdain knew his stuff. Suire’s is awesome.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

Comfort Food Alert: My Beloved Da Corradi in London has the BEST Spaghetti Carbonara

I still think of myself as a little girl from a small town who is constantly surprised by her life, and sometimes find it hard to believe that I have a “favorite Italian restaurant in London”. In my 20s, that sentence would have been alien to me; I didn’t even make it to Europe until I was 34. This post is about that favorite little restaurant, and its fame-worthy Spaghetti Carbonara.

Da Corradi in London

 

It’s Not Just My Opinion

Da Corradi’s carbonara was fantastic!

I think that was the best Carbonara I have ever had.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara with fresh ham is the best you’ll ever eat.

IMG_0857Online reviewers of Da Corradi, a tiny, family-run Italian restaurant in London’s Mayfair district tucked back in the Shepherd Market, agree with me about their Spaghetti Carbonara: it’s the best.

My TripAdvisor review from way back in 2010 when the Grill-Meister and I visited was titled Marvelous – so good we went twice in one week, proclaiming:

The Spaghetti Carbonara is the best I have ever had – even compared to the same dish in Italy.

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I’m pretty sure they serve this in heaven.

It’s true. I’ve never had a better carbonara, and I’m fairly sure I never will.  It’s that good. Just the right balance of rich creaminess from the egg and cheese, saltiness from the ham, and al dente spaghetti, with a liberal sprinkle of freshly ground pepper.  Close your eyes after taking just one bite and you’ll expect to find Northern Italy when you open them.  I try not to eat heavy food like this very often, but there’s never even a question that I’ll order anything else at Da Corradi. The only question is how much of it I can consume, and the answer is always: more than I thought!

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This pic of the Grill-Meister and me in 2010 reveals that I almost finished my carbonara; I’d like to dive in and take a bite right now

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One of my companions had a marvelous pizza on a visit last October, but I stuck with the carbonara

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Big chunks of ripe tomatoes with garlic and spicy basil atop crunchy sourdough make a tasty and authentic bruschetta appetizer

The food at Da Corradi is hearty-homestyle rather than Mayfair pretentious, and the prices are very reasonable. More reasons to keep coming back!

The Peeps are as Fun as the Food is Good

The staff at Da Corradi are a big part of the overall experience.  They’re cheeky and flirty (in a family-friendly way) and their banter with each other betrays an affection and respect that is charming. They collaborate to ensure that your experience with them is fun, filling, and fulfilling. You don’t exactly have a waitperson, you have a wait-team.

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This wait-team duet kept us in good spirits on a recent visit

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We posed together, a couple of blonde ladies; she was pleased to be featured in the Glover Gardens blog and pretty sure I would make her famous : )

A Celebrity Hang-Out (or Hide-Out?)

In its 40+ years of serving great Italian food, Da Corradi has attracted a lot of admirers beyond this Texas gal and the online reviewers I quoted above.  The wall overlooking the tiny main floor dining area sports photos of celebrity diners who must enjoy the carbonara and cheeky charm as much as I do. While high-end Mayfair is swarming with tourists and beautiful people, Da Corradi’s exact location within Shepherd Market is a little off the beaten path, a perfect place to avoid the madding crowd. Shepherd Market’s web site says, “This unique little enclave is tucked away between Picadilly and Curzon Street, in the heart of London’s Mayfair. A hidden gem known for its wonderful relaxed village-like atmosphere.”

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They Trust Me, They Really Trust Me!

I am blessed with a wide network of friends and foodies  in many locales across the world who feed me, enjoy sharing a restaurant meal together, send me their food pictures for the blog, and give and take restaurant recommendations.  I love love love it when someone trusts my choice of a restaurant; it’s like setting friends up on a blind date and having it work out (only better because there’s no chance of divorce or blame). It feels good to influence where someone has dinner halfway across the world…just call me the restaurant matchmaker!

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My Houston friends; seeing them there makes me long to visit again

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My Norwegian friends; they both had the carbonara

Life is good. And so is the Spaghetti Carbonara at Da Corradi in London.

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Copyright 2018, Glover Gardens

An Afternoon at Wilson Creek Winery: “I’m not sure if it’s the ambience, the company or the wine, but this is about the best Reuben I’ve ever had.”

A recent trip to Temecula, CA as part of our Wine for No Reason travels with several other couples provided wonderful content for this blog, although I’ve been too busy to share most of it. Today’s focus is on lunch at the Wilson Creek Winery, and reflections on how the setting adds to the enjoyment of a shared meal.

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Photo courtesy of Wilson Creek Winery

We met our fellow Wine for No Reason travelers at Wilson Creek on the first full day of our Temecula trek. One of the couples in our group had been there before and knew it would be just right. This place is more than just a winery: it is a sprawling compound that offers a full experience that includes whimsical outdoor art, a large tasting room and gift shop, landscaped grounds and vineyards that allow you to enjoy the California sunshine, and an excellent restaurant.

Arriving early, the Grill-Meister and I took a stroll through the vineyard and admired the grapes and the scenery.

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This part of the vineyard is called Merlot Mesa

Creekside Grille is nestled between the vineyard and the beautiful grounds, providing the perfect setting for a relaxing lunch with friends.

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Still early when we ambled over to the restaurant, the Grill-Meister and I sipped chardonnay in the perfect, 72-degree, dry mountain climate while waiting for our friends. It felt like the world had slowed down a little, which is exactly how I want to feel on vacation. Don’t you?

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Yes Dear Chardonnay
I loved the name of this Chardonnay; see the fine print at the bottom, which says “Happy Wife Vineyard” and “Family Reserve”?

Our friends arrived and we had a lovely, lively, laughter-filled lunch. The menu at Creekside Grille is what I would call eclectic / American / locavore / foodie, with choices ranging from a Reuben sandwich to an octupus salad to a bison burger.

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A steelhead salmon filet with white asparagus and a salad

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The Caesar salad had the perfect amount of tangy dressing and crouton

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The Reuben, with a side of the Vineyard Salad, which had organic baby greens, candied pecans, bleu cheese, golden raisins and a delectable vanilla balsamic vinaigrette

It was a glorious afternoon of conversation, excellent food with much sharing of bites and wine-tasting. We were perfectly carefree and our time there felt like a gift; everything, including the weather, was over-the-top good. One of our friends summed it up, earnestly declaring:

I’m not sure if it’s the ambience, the company or the wine, but this is about the best Reuben I’ve ever had.

He went on to wax poetic about the Reuben, the company, the wine and the ambience, and we all dove into a discussion about how the place you’re in and the people you’re with have a huge impact on your enjoyment of a meal. We reveled in our current place (Temecula, Wilson Creek) and peeps, and then went on to describe some of our other “most memorable meals” throughout our lives.  Looking back, every one of our stories about fabulous meals included vivid descriptions of the setting and the companion(s).

It’s never just about the food. The setting and the people matter just as much.

I could go on about this topic, and perhaps I will, on another day. But for now, here are a few more photos of the lovely Wilson Creek Winery. Check it out if you ever get to Temecula. And look for us – we are definitely going to go back.

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Back home at Glover Gardens and sorting through pictures, I realized that we had had one of the wines before.

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Photo courtesy of Wilson Creek Winery

The Almond Champagne was the bubbly component for an Empty Nest New Year’s party a few years ago (just the two of us, at home). We really liked this champagne ~ at Glover Gardens or in Temecula ~ and will have it again. It is slightly sweet without being cloying and compliments fruit and chocolate desserts. It paired extraordinarily well with my friend Katherine’s homemade baclava, a holiday tradition. (Side note to Katherine: this is one of the reasons we need our allotment increased – so we’ll have some left for New Year’s!)

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The Wilson Creek Almond Champage was a New Year’s Eve hit for the two of us a few years ago, especially when sipped with the baclava (on the left in the green wrapper); I can hardly wait to try this combination again!

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Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Comfort Food Alert: The “Best Gratin in Paris” (or maybe anywhere)

Bistro Des Augustins - Sign
Bistro Des Augustins is perfectly situated on the Left Bank at the Corner of the Pont Neuf and the Seine River, in the middle of the action without seeming the least bit touristy

Amazing gratin!

Most satisfying meal in Paris!

The best gratin, bar none…

Read the online reviews of Bistro Des Augustin in Paris and you’ll be hooked.  There’s no way to overstate the simple deliciousness of the gratin at this humble little restaurant at the corner of the Pont Neuf and the Seine river in Paris, on the Left Bank.

Also billed as a wine bar, Bistro Des Augustin is known primarily for its gratins and provides a nice selection of them, from vegetarian with tomatoes or eggplant, to duck breast or chicken, to smoked salmon. But the one that four of my colleagues chose on a recent summer evening after work (on a business trip) was the Bistro Gratin.

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My colleague was gracious not only with regard to letting me snap a pic of his Bistro Gratin after he had already dived into it, but also in giving me a taste and then letting me finish the last few bites; the others cleaned their plates and wouldn’t let me anywhere near them!

As you can see, this dish is swimming in creamy, cheesy goodness, browned to perfection on top and sprinkled with extra herbs of Provence.  Bits of bacon dot every bite of the perfectly cooked potatoes. All four of my colleagues who ordered this meal were close to swooning with the goodness of it.  I realized after begging a bite that I had made a huge error in judgment by ordering a (very good) smoked salmon and goat cheese salad, copying our only French colleague in the group and trying to eat healthy.  Mistake! The salad was lovely, fresh and flavorful, but the Bistro Gratin far surpassed it – it was downright heavenly.  You know those dishes your grandmother made waaaaaay back when you were a child and no one has ever been able to reproduce, no matter how hard and how often they tried? That’s the taste in this gratin; it’s grandmotherly good, an instant and permanent deep-seated taste memory.

The menu lists the ingredients for the Bistro Gratin: potatoes, cream, egg, bacon, herbs de Provence, garlic and Emmental cheese.  I haven’t been able to find a recipe with this precise mix of ingredients on the internet, but I am on a mission to recreate this cheesy, rustic masterpiece.

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Diverse gratin selections

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The smoked salmon and goat cheese salad was beautiful, light and very tasty, but paled in comparison to the gratins my colleagues ordered

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A photo of the duck gratin from the Adventurous April blog post, Three Days in Paris; she said: “Bistro des Augustins, amazing duck au gratin dish. Magnifique!”

I can’t recommend this restaurant highly enough, and noticed in the online reviews that many of the testimonials include a mention of eating there two or more times during the same vacation! In addition to the mouth-watering, jealous-making (if you didn’t order it) gratin, Bistro Des Augustins has a Parisian homey charm and an authentic, true sense of place.  Did I mention that it is tiny? There are perhaps a dozen tables, half inside and half out.

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Folks stop in for a quick beverage while walking the Left Bank 

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Exterior shot from the Bistro Des Augustins Facebook page

Here’s one final shot of the Bistro Gratin, until I can replicate it at home and share it with you here.

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The grandmotherly good Bistro Gratin, with its browned, cheesy top and the smattering of herbs of Provence – heavenly!

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Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook ~ with thanks, again, to my colleagues for sharing their time, their photos and those bites of gratin (from just the one) ~

Simple Dishes: Venison Casserole at the The Ensign Ewart in Edinburgh

2e1492_17bf78a1718849408c8fd187167d4fd2In an Edinburgh pub that traces its history back to 1680, you can get a meal that is worthy of the ages. Simple, delicious, rich and filling, the Venison Casserole at The Ensign Ewart on the Royal Mile is … well … almost indescribable in its deliciousness.

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The Venison Casserole looks humble, but wow, it eats like royalty at this pub on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile

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Another very popular dish at Ensign Ewart is the Cheesy Garlic Bread

On a chilly Thursday July evening (yes, you heard that right, the words “chilly” and “July” in the same sentence), three colleagues and I set out, rather wearily, to find dinner in Edinburgh. Just arrived from our first stop in Aberdeen, we were worn out and a teeny bit grumpy, still jet-lagged from our Monday-Tuesday international flight. We grumbled and stumbled down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and it started to rain, so we ducked into the first open doorway, the Ensign Ewart pub.

The four of us joined in a collective sigh of relief:  there was warmth, in a fireplace and the ambience, there was one table open for us, and we were out of the rain.

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And then the food was a bonus! Three of us ordered the Venison Casserole. It made us happy, happy, happy. Steaming hot, a rich and savory blend of mash and roasted chopped venison, this dish was total comfort food. Our fourth member chose the Cheesy Garlic Bread, another stellar option.

After our meal, we sat, satiated and comfortable, and then heard the wonderful sound of violins warming up.  A quick recon trip into the tiny pub’s front room revealed a trio of ladies who played and sang traditional Scottish music, and we were enchanted.

It’s the simple things: if you are in Edinburgh, go to the Ensign Ewart.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook