Lunch in Florence – or where is Obelix when you need him?

My trip to Tuscany started in Florence and I was in search of an authentic Tuscan lunch experience when I stumbled upon Trattoria Marione in the Via del Sole where it meets the Via Della Spada. Close your eyes and conjure up seemingly cliched images of Italian eateries, think Lady and the Tramp, and you know what it looks like; small tables rammed into a series of interconnecting rooms, none of them quite on the same level, red and white check table clothes, salamis hanging over the bar, whicker covered Chianti flasks on the tables – containing wine though, not candles.

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Another Guilty Pleasure – Cracker Barrel

My lack of enthusiasm for haute cuisine and gastro-temples has been mentioned here before. I have even written about my penchant for diners and greasy spoons. Well I have yet another guilty pleasure when it comes to food.

I have a real affection for an American chain of restaurants called Cracker Barrel. You will find 590 of them next to major highways in almost the whole country, except the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii. They are the American equivalent of Little Chef – indeed originally they sold petrol too, yet I find them strangely exciting, exotic even. If you have not visited one I would highly recommend the experience.

Firstly they do not claim to be restaurants, but ‘Old Country Stores’ and that sorts of sets the tone. The first thing you encounter is a display of white New England-style rocking chairs on the front porch. Customers can try them out or buy them – $129 in August 2010. Continue reading

Fried Green Tomatoes

I have read, and loved, Annie Flagg’s book and seen the film, but I had never eaten a fried green tomato until the other day. In truth I didn’t quite believe they were real – after all, they sound a bit like something Dr. Seuss would create.

So, when I saw them on a menu I simply had to try the fried green tomatoes. What a dish it is, these were in crisp breadcrumbs and really delicious. The crunch of the coating contrasting superbly with the succulent, but firm flesh of the tomatoes inside – and yes, they really were green.

If anyone can tell me if they are a green variety of tomato or simply picked while unripe, then I would be grateful.

The food in these parts is quite exciting, I am told that I might get peanut butter soup sometime…
Green ham and eggs anyone?

Fine Dining – I contemplate the fine food gene

As readers of these pages may be aware, I travel a fair amount.

As a consequence I eat in all sorts of places and often on my own. You can read about some of the great places I have eaten here, here and here.

Eating out alone is an odd thing. It serves several purposes, only one of which is to feed yourself. The other, equally important reasons are; to experience the place and culture, to sample a particular cuisine or restaurant and, of course, to fill time and relax. The last reason is why, when alone I almost always end up in a proper sit down restaurant rather than going for the fast food option.

I have come to the conclusion that I am something of a shallow traveller. As soon as I know that I am going to a particular destination I start Googling restaurants there. Not attractions, not cultural sites – just restaurants and bars. Continue reading

The S & M Café – a wicked place to eat!

IMG_0204I have long sought two types of casual dining in London, a proper American diner, if there are any please let me know, and a proper British caff serving proper British grub of good quality.

I love a greasy spoon café, but all the ones I know fulfill a very limited function and keep short hours too. Nourishment rather than pleasure and leisure is the order of the day. Well today I stumbled across somewhere that took the caff to a different level. In doing so it filled that gap between very basic food and better restaurants; a gap that does not appear to exist in other countries, for example see my articles – here and here. Continue reading