Reviews

Portugal Restaurant Review: Esporão Restaurant

Esporão Restaurant | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Esporão Restaurant | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Esporão Restaurant | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Esporão Restaurant | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Esporão Restaurant | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Esporão Restaurant | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Esporão Restaurant | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Esporão Restaurant | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Esporão Restaurant | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Esporão Restaurant | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

When we were talking to my mother about our travels in Portugal, how we were planning on driving around the Algarve, she said there was a town Évora, we had to go to, and a winery about 45 minutes from there where we had to have lunch. She took it upon herself to email them and make a reservation for us. And then, as we continued traveling around and talking to people, the name of this winery kept popping up. “Oh, you have to go to Esporão for lunch!” “You like food? If you feel like splurging, go to Esporão.” I was glad that we already had it on the books!

The drive to Esporão was beautiful, even if it was blanketed with soft, gray clouds. We passed fields of sheep, cows, and horses, trees dotted with huge storks, and orange grove after orange grove. We arrived at the winery about thirty minutes early (they recommended we arrive 10 minutes early and had warned of construction on the roads), and spent some time exploring the gift shop full of wines and olive oils, looking out at the view over the vineyards and lake, and relaxing in the sitting room which was warmed by a wood fire and decorated like the hippest hotel: leather seats, beautifully woven carpets, modern industrial lamps. We were then escorted into the dining area, which continued the beautiful decor. Our table was on a wall of windows that looked over the terrace and the view we had been admiring earlier, but the room had more great rugs and brightly colored art decorating the back wall.

Our server explained the concept of the restaurant, the importance of focusing on local Portuguese ingredients, and how much they make in house. After settling on the six course tasting menu and one wine pairing to share (one of us *cough Jonah cough* had to make the 45 minute drive back), we sat back, ready to start our meal. We started with three small amuse bouches, which were accompanied by a deep pink rosé that tasted of strawberries. The first was a mushroom tartlet with cheese and nasturtium; Second, a spiced cookie topped with crab and celery root; And third, a cracker with foie gras, oxalis, and black cardamom. I could have made a meal out of those bites. I wished each one lasted longer, that I got more chances to tasted the playful, unique flavor combinations. It boded well for the rest of the meal.

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Paris Restaurant Review: Restaurant Alliance

Restaurant Alliance, Paris, France | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Restaurant Alliance, Paris, France | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Restaurant Alliance, Paris, France | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Restaurant Alliance, Paris, France | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Restaurant Alliance, Paris, France | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

How the hell do you decide where to eat in Paris? Pardon my French (pun very much intended). When Jonah and I decided to spend a quick 36 hours in the city of light between Christmas with his family in Germany and landing in Lisbon, I immediately felt overwhelmed. In my opinion, Paris is not the kind of place you can do in that short amount of time! But Jonah and I had both been to the city before, so we decided to just spend the day walking and eating.

As a holiday gift, my mom sent me some money for a nice dinner out in Paris. The research commenced, and after much reading, we ended up settling on a place I found fairly early on in my hunt: Restaurant Alliance from chef Toshitaka Omiya and Shawn Joyeux, two men with lots of Paris kitchen experience. It seemed beautiful, small, and interesting – and that’s exactly what it was. The space was long and narrow, seating maybe 30 people in total in comfy chairs under beautiful round chandeliers. The space was very calm and quiet without being uncomfortably so; everything felt very relaxed. In the back of the dining room, a huge window allowed a peek into the kitchen where the chef works.

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Chiang Mai Restaurant Review: The Service 1921

The Service 1921, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
The Service 1921, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
The Service 1921, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
The Service 1921, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerThe Service 1921, Chiang Mai | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Finding a restaurant in a foreign city can be hard. There are blogs, Trip Advisor, and Google, yes. But how do you know if any of those reviewers or writers have the same taste as you? Maybe they think something is overpriced, but it’s because when they go out it’s to Chipotle (not that there’s anything wrong with Chipotle, trust me). An “expensive meal” here could be anything over $3 a person, since that is what many of our meals cost! Or maybe they thought the service was terrible but really it’s because they’re just rude to servers? Plus, often the only thing that actually motivates people to write reviews is because they had an extraordinarily good or bad experience. Factor into all of this the fact that we are in Chiang Mai. This means I can’t text my friends or post a question to my fellow bloggers asking them about where to eat for a special occasion.

The point is, when it came time to pick a restaurant to go to for my birthday last week, I didn’t go into it thinking “This is going to be amazing!” Instead, I went in thinking, “Well, this could be good or it could be terrible and I have no idea and I hope it’s not awful and expensive.” Super fun birthday thoughts, right? My birthday started luxuriously – Jonah made me breakfast (scrambled eggs and fruit), then we hopped on the moped and drove to one of the fancier spas in Chiang Mai, where Jonah had booked us both a two hour Thai massage. In the evening, we hopped in a taxi to Anantara Resort, a fancy spot on the river, and home to a restaurant called The Service 1921. I had read numerous reviews and websites and decided that this restaurant sounded fun. Why? Read the description below:

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Traveling & Eating in Prague

Traveling & Eating in Prague | Serious Crust

Traveling & Eating in Prague | Serious Crust
Traveling & Eating in Prague | Serious Crust
Traveling & Eating in Prague | Serious Crust
Traveling & Eating in Prague | Serious Crust
Traveling & Eating in Prague | Serious Crust

I’m back! From Europe anyway. May is the month of travel for me (I suppose it’s good preparation for the part of my life where I travel the world for 6ish months starting later this year…), and it started with a trip to the Czech Republic with my mom. We were there for just over a week, and spent most of our time in Prague, with a two night trip to Cesky Krumlov, a World Heritage site about 3 hours south of Prague. We spent our days mostly walking, whether on our own through the Kampa Garden and Museum, on a food tour, or on a tour through the Jewish Quarter. It was the perfect balance of sight-seeing, learning, and relaxing – what can I say, we know how to do a vacation. Read on to find out about the culinary highlights of our trip!

Our first day in Prague started at Cafe Savoy, a French inspired cafe in Mala Strana that serves Czech pastries (in addition to coffee, tea, wine, breakfast, lunch, etc.). While we did have to wait a while to get a seat, my mom was very happy with her apple strudel, and the pastries and ambiance were just as lovely. For dinner our first evening we went to V Zátiší, an Indian/Czech restaurant a short walk from our hotel. I had an incredible play on a traditional duck dish, with herbed dumplings and pureed red cabbage, while Mom enjoyed her Tandoori prawns with delicious seasoned rice and chutneys.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip for me was our tour with Prague Food Tours. We did the Scrumptious tour, which was outside of the tourist area of town in Prague 8, a neighborhood called Karlin. Our guide Leona was so incredibly knowledgeable, and we learned not just about the food but also about the culture behind it. It was a small group, 6 of us total, and it was an educational and delicious way to spend the day. We tried some traditional Czech pastries, visited a more modern restaurant called Eska (more on that later), drank beers and ate beef tartare and schnitzel at Lokal, and had a fried cheese slider and a donut for dessert at Maso A Kobliha.

Upon our arrival to Cesky Krumlov we decided to eat at Jakub Restaurant for dinner, which was a fantastic choice. While it wasn’t anything extremely unique or mind-blowing, it was really solid food. We had a carp croquette and salad to start, and then shared a dish from their spring asparagus menu and spaetzle with rabbit for dinner. Four dishes and four glasses of wine later, our bill only ended up being the equivalent of about $50 USD.

We went all out on our last day in Prague, especially because it was Mother’s Day! I had to make it happen for my mama. After a long morning strolling around the Prague Castle, we crossed the river for lunch at La Bottega di Finestra, a fancy deli spot with a fancy sister restaurant next door. After a week of pretty heavy Czech food, we went with a plate of assorted salads and each one was extremely delicious. For dessert we strolled another ten minutes to wait in line at Angelato, supposedly the best gelato in Prague. It did not disappoint – I don’t know if I’ve ever had more heavenly gelato (and maybe even ice cream!). Mom got their pistachio and banana, both of which actually tasted like their namesake ingredient instead of a fake rendition of it, and I indulged in chocolate and rhubarb flavors, which were superb.

For our final dinner we went back to Eska, which was the second stop on our food tour earlier that week. Eska is a restaurant focused on hyperlocal ingredients, cooked in modern ways but based in traditional techniques like fire-roasting and fermentation. The dish that sealed the deal on our food tour and that we were lucky enough to eat again when we ordered the tasting menu was a small potato cooked in ash, surrounded by a buttermilk kefir, smoked carp, and topped with cured egg yolk. It was one of those perfect bites: the smokiness of the carp and the potato balanced delicately with the creaminess and tanginess of the buttermilk kefir. While the rest of the meal was exquisite – buttermilk ice cream with savory granola and herbs, white asparagus with buckwheat crisps and brown butter, zander with kohlrabi – that dish will be the one that I remember.

Other recommendations that either weren’t food related or were good but I didn’t have space to write about include: Museum Kampa, Maitrea (vegetarian restaurant), Wittmann Tours (we did the Jewish Quarter tour led by Barbara, who was fantastic), Krumlov Tours, Omnes Caffe for chocolates, Apotheka Bar.