Monday, May 31, 2010

ocean city, new jersey

peanut butter cup fudge
Chris and I visited Ocean City, NJ this weekend. We go mainly to stroll on the boardwalk and eat our favorite foods. I tried this fudge at Shriver's, where you can see actually see the employees making the fudge in the back of the store. I would have liked this more if the peanut butter cups (which they make themselves) had been embedded in chocolate fudge instead of vanilla.

kohr brothers soft serve ice cream
This soft serve is my favorite on the boardwalk. I love the flavor combinations---orange and vanilla which tastes just like a creamsicle, peanut butter and chocolate, mint and chocolate. Chris likes to keep it simple. He always orders vanilla with rainbow sprinkles.

We brought our bikes on the trip and enjoyed riding on the boardwalk in the mornings. The water looked inviting, but it was numbingly cold so neither of us went in the water.

While I was in France, my mom started an herb garden for me. She gave it to me today when Chris and I met up with my parents for lunch. It's on my coffee table now and the smell of basil and cilantro is perfuming my living room. Thanks mom!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

days 5-6: barcelona

torta de crema
I decided it was high time to give chocolate a break in favor of exploring local pastries. I'm a sucker for things with pastry cream so I loved this giant danish with pastry cream and a maraschino cherry in the middle.

ensaimada This tasted fried like a donut but with the texture of a unpleasantly dry danish. It was unmemorable.

totally-forgot-to-write-the-name-down cake
A thin yet moist vanilla cake with a center of whipped cream. I could never have anything bad to say about a pastry with that much cream. Yum.

I found these most often in cupcake form, but sometimes as a giant cake where you could buy pieces by the gram. The cake is sweet, moist and has a slight citrus taste to it. Overall, the pastries here fail to impress. The puff pastry lacks taste (they have croissants here but they taste awful) and any kind of danish or cake is usually too dry for me. Best to stick to the savory side and embotits I guess.

basilica santa maria del mar
I couldn't get inside today because there was a wedding going on. Rose petals were scattered on the stairs and carriage with horses waited outside. I came back in the evening but there was a mass going on so I didn't take any pictures of the interior. No offense, Gaudi, but I much prefer this church to the alien invasion of Sagrada Familia.

the beach
I wandered down to the beach in the afternoon. There have been occasional thunderstorms today so I didn't try to sit out on the sand. This beach is at the tip of Barceloneta, a triangular-shaped spit of land just south of my hotel. It's filled with restaurants and there is an ice cream place every fifty feet it would seem.

park de la ciutadella
This park is situated directly to the left of my hotel. It was filled with couples and families sprawled on benches and on the grass enjoying the sunshine.

I won't be posting any more from Barcelona mainly because I can't reliably connect to the internet at the hotel. Check in next week for a new post from home sweet home.

Friday, May 14, 2010

day 4: barcelona

oriol balaguer
I worshipped at the altar of genius today. Oriol Balaguer is one of the foremost names in chocolate and pastry in Spain. Everything he makes is sleek, modern and from what I tasted today, absolutely delicious. His shop is situated in the Sants district of Barcelona, which was a bit of a hike from the hotel. I decided to do it in the pouring rain, too. It was worth it though.
The chocolate above is yuzu-flavored white chocolate and was one of six small tubes of chocolate in a package. You can see the flavors listed below. I've never seen chocolate presented like that before and I loved it.

I also bought another box of chocolates with assorted flavors and Oriol Balaguer's book called "Dessert Cuisine." My new boss is a huge fan of his and has lent me her copy of the book before so I figured it was time to purchase my own.

His pastries looked beautiful as well. I didn't get to ask as many questions as I would have liked because there was only one girl behind the counter and quite a few customers all vying for attention. The two chocolate cakes with the white stars have marshmallows on top. I almost bought some of his marshmallows but I had too much to carry as it was.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

day 3: barcelona

cacao sampaka
I'll start with the sweet treats. I visited Caca Sampaka today, a chocolate shop with an extensive selection of specialty chocolates including single bean origin chocolates and chocolates made from rare white Criollo beans. I totally forgot to pick up some of the latter because I got distracted by the ice cream. I tried a scoop of turron and it was incredibly delicious. I also bought a chocolate hazelnut spread (!!!) and bars of 40% and 53%. They package the bars as two thin bars in a box, rather than the traditional thicker single bar. I am a huge fan of the minimalistic look of the actual chocolate bar.

casa battlo

Welcome to Gaudi Day! This was my first stop. I was appalled the whole day at the cost of getting into these buildings. I paid a cool 17.50 euros to get in here (Yes, I know it's not government subsidized. But still...). It amazed me how Gaudi put so much thought into all the little details. A good example was the fireplace. He designed it with two benches, one larger than the other so that there was room for a gentleman, his lady and her chaperone.

la pedrera or casa mila
This aparment complex was nicknamed "La Pedrera" or the quarry because the building looks like it was carved out of stone. The most impressive part was the roof because Gaudi made the ventilation towers into sculptures.

sagrada familia
Construction is still underway on this gigantic church so I was not able to get a good feel for the space inside. The entire structure is incredibly massive and incredibly alien-looking to me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

days 1-2: barcelona

escriba patisseria
I visited Escriba, reputedly one of Barcelona's best pastry shops, and purchased Erico who I think was a hedgehog. He was a chocolate-coated sandwich of vanilla cake and chocolate mousse. His spikes were slivered almonds stuck into the cake. It didn't taste that good mainly because the cake-to-mousse ratio was off.

la boqueria
None of the pictures I took of the market do it justice. The selection of fruit, vegetables, meats and fish is mind-boggling. Everybody who comes buys a juice for 1.50 euros and sips it as they browse the stalls. I've had passion fruit mango and blackberry banana so far.

macba (museu d'art contemporani de barcelona)
A beautiful building by Richard Meier with an interesting collection of international and Spanish modern art.


Unfortunately, the outside was under construction (I feel like this is becoming an annoying theme with all the places I visit) so taking a good shot of the exterior was impossible. The inside was as grand as Notre Dame, though, and I spent some time just sitting and admiring.

el ingenio

I walked past this on the way to the cathedral. It was a shop filled with masks, balloons, and all manner of clown equipment (they had a room devoted to unicycles). I wanted a bear mask that they had there, but couldn't really justify the purchase.

urgent bulletin for chris
THEY SELL WARM, NUTELLA-SLATHERED BELGIAN WAFFLES WITH GELATO ON TOP. I am waiting to sample one until you get here so hurry up already and get here!

Monday, May 10, 2010

day 33

Now that is why I kept trying to get to Nimes for the past few weeks. They have one of the best preserved coliseums in the world. It started out as an amphitheater for gladiators, then, as the Roman empire began to crumble, it became a fortress and now, in modern times, it is home to bullfighting.

I went next to the Maison Caree, an extremely well-preserved Roman temple, but it was under construction and the beautiful columns in the front were completely covered up. So disappointing.

Last but not least, I paid a visit to the Cathedrale Notre-Dame-et Saint-Castor. It is a mix of architectural styles, which I didn't find very appealing. The cathedral in Beziers was much more beautiful.

I was going to walk over to the Tour Magne, an ancient Roman watchtower, and the Jardin de la Fontaine but I was tired and hungry and needed to get back to Bezier early enough to finish packing. Above is a view of the quai leading up to the garden.

I did not like the actual city very much because the architecture and the streets were not as pristinely preserved as in Avignon. There was a good deal of construction going on as well and many historical sights were fenced off from the public.

I am headed for Barcelona on an 8 a.m. train tomorrow.

Au revoir, France!