Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Top 10 European Culinary Recommendations

1. Il Gelato di San Crispino, Rome: ice-cream

If there's a heaven for ice-cream lovers, it must taste something like this. San Crispino is the finest ice-cream we have known. We lack food language, the only comparable words we can offer are :Jannat. Paradise. Heaven. Manna. So Believe!

More mundanely, the shop insists on natural flavours and ingredients, mostly fresh fruit sorbets, but their sorbets and ice-creams are also flavoured with nice things like nuts, honey, wine etc. Rome hails them as its finest, and the world salutes them too. Just look at the reviews they get.

New York Times says: Romans used to argue about which of a dozen or so wonderful gelaterias was the best in town. But since 1993 the contest has been for second place. Anyone who does not acknowledge that Il Gelato di San Crispino is supreme has not tried it. Gourmet magazine continued in a similar vein, but I have lost all my notes somewhere, so I can't quote you the relevant extract.

Our personal verdict is that the ice-cream is indeed deliciously fantastic. We tried it in three different seasons, we tried it for breakfast, dinner and dessert, all in the name of sacrifice and truth, and we can't wait to go back for more. You will find their shop lost somewhere in the maze of streets near the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Get the ice-cream first, then go and sit by the fountain. Because for mysterious reasons, there is no place to eat the ice-cream at the shop.

2. Berthillon, Paris: ice-cream

Okay, so I like ice-cream. It's my favorite food category. Anyway, Berthillon is a legend, a bona fide Parisien culinary institution. What that means is, they are very very good. I imagine that when cute little french children go to town on Sundays with their parents, they say Berthillon Berthillon instead of ice-cream. And then they go queue in line happily where Amelie is standing in front of them doing something silly. Oh okay, they probably go to McDonalds.

Anyway, Berthillon concentrate on fruit sorbets. They are definitely more fruit-centric than San Crispino. You will find them on Ile. Saint-Louis, the smaller of the two islands on the Seine in the heart of Paris. Watch out though - I counted six different shops labelled Berthillon on the approach from Ile de la Cite. Now they may all be selling the same stuff on franchise - I don't know - but accept no substitute. Head down the island's main street until you reach 31 rue Saint-Louis-en-l'île on your right. Enjoy.

3. Granjalla Pallaresa, Barcelona: hot chocolate with churros (biscuit)

I came across this place by accident. I was wandering around alone and lost (as usual) through the medieval quarter of Barcelona, when I saw a huge line of locals queued outside a cafe. I promptly joined the line, and then politely inquired what we were all standing in line for. Swiss Hot Chocolate with Chantilly Cream, and hot biscuits called Xurros to eat alongside. Mind you, once I got inside, I realised I needn't have asked. Everyone was eating and drinking the same thing. It reminded me of jolly dhabas and eateries I have known in Desh, with their giant pots and pans, the crowds the rush the chatter the frenetic pace of the waiters, the emphasis on a single culinary item perfected over time! I was in love. I struggled through the menu for a while, then gave up and pointed to what everyone was having. One of those please!

The chocolate was more decadent than anything I have known before. It was so rich, so thick, that in the end I ate it with a spoon. And yet, there were a surprisingly large number of beautiful young people eating/drinking the stuff. I can only assume they had fasted all week before. The food and drink are also remarkably inexpensive, another attribute more in common with those lovely eateries of Desh than those of Europe. The cafe will be recognisabe from the long line in front. It's on Petrixol, a street famous for its sweet-shops, in the medieval quarter of Barcelona, just off Las Ramblas, the city's main pedestrian street. And hey, turn down an empty glass.

4. LaDuree, Paris: Macarons

5. Abraxas, Amsterdam: Hash Milkshakes

6. Angelina, Paris: hot chocolate




10. be concluded