Tag Archives: food

The Sunday Market: Marché Forville, Cannes

DSCF0597Last month I had the great pleasure of traveling to Cannes for work. I spent a great deal of time and effort preparing myself mentally for the fact that there was a very good chance that I would spend the entirety of my trip actually working–a thought that pained me beyond words. So when I booked my arrival on Saturday night and realized I would have an entire day on Sunday to myself before the week began, I vowed to make the most of it.

One of my all time favorite activities while traveling is to wander the aisles of local grocery stores, or better yet, the local market. I can’t think of any other place that can offer such a solid dose of local flavor to satisfy all the senses, and the Marché Forville, Cannes’ main produce market, is no exception. I actually didn’t expect much of it, knowing that Cannes is not particularly known for its rustic charm, so I was very pleasantly surprised when I walked from the glitzy but dated area along La Crosiettte where I was staying, to the old town of Le Suquet on Sunday morning and was rewarded with a super pleasant covered marketplace.

I don’t know if I have ever been to a market with so many beautiful smells happening all at once–basil, roses, fresh berries, melons, and tomatoes–it was actually almost overwhelming, but in the best possible way. The market was certainly bustling on Sunday around 9am, and I would totally recommend going at peak hours to see it in all its glory. Aside from fruits and vegetables, there was also a generous selection of cheese, meats (both fresh and cured), salts and spices, teas, and so many beautiful flowers! I ended up buying some roses to cheer up my apartment since I couldn’t resist, as well as an absolutely bountiful lunch spread. While none of the sellers I bought from spoke any English, everyone was super friendly and receptive to my pointing and gestures, which was much appreciated.

If you are at the market and looking for a little more immediate sustenance, there was also a stand or two selling prepared food, including the very Provençal socca, but for anything more substantial than that you are better off going to one of the couple of charming cafes that surround the market square, where you can enjoy a nice café crème and croissant with your people watching (or a nice glass of rosé!). Also located on the square was a boulangerie that was able to satisfy my morning need for a hot baguette on a daily basis during my trip (as well as the occasional need for some viennoiserie of the custard and chocolate-filled variety).

The market is open daily with the exception of Mondays, when it’s still open, but selling antiques and knick-knacks instead of produce. I am a big time lover of flea markets and brocantes but would take the produce version of this market over the antique one every day. In a city like Cannes where everything is rather expensive and pretty modern, Marché Forville was a breath of very French, very fresh air. It was so nice to get away from some of the foofier, fancier parts of town to enjoy something a little more charming, and in a trip filled with some pretty unreal moments, I still think a simple visit to this market on a Sunday morning was one of my favorite experiences.

More info here.

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Snacking in Singapore

IMG_2488Afew weeks ago, I found out I would be making a very short trip to Singapore for work. Three days. 72 hours on the ground, and approximately  36 hours of air travel. After accepting the inevitably long flight time and the fact that I wouldn’t be able to tack a real Asian vacation onto the trip, I booked my flight to build in an extra afternoon of exploration time before meetings started, and started dreaming. About food.

In all honesty, food is the only reason I’ve ever wanted to come to Singapore, and it’s never been quite strong enough of a driver to propel me halfway around the earth just to eat. As a kid, I only knew Singapore as the place where you could get caned for spitting out your chewing gum (a thought that still haunted me a bit every time I popped a piece of gum during the trip). More recently, I knew of it as a somewhat mysterious, meticulously clean melting pot with a much higher price point than other nearby countries in Asia.

It wasn’t until my flight over here, armed with a few extremely outdated travel guides and a lot of spare time on the flight, that I made my first attempt to understand what Singapore is all about…and why it’s supposed to be so delicious.

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Singapore is a young country. A young city-state to be more exact. The country as we know it was founded not so long ago in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles when he signed a treaty with the Sultan of Johor to establish the Southern part of the island as a British trading post. Realizing its strategic significance, due to its location at the end of the Malay Peninsula, the British built the place up, eventually establishing rubber plantations that brought in lots of migrant workers from India, China, and other places.

Before Raffles’ arrival, there were only about 1,000 people living on the island, most of them indigenous Malays. So as the island became more and more developed, it also became more and more diverse in a pretty unique way, since there wasn’t a significant native population present. Malays, Chinese, Indians, and Eurasian people all mixed together to form  a state with many languages, religions, skin colors, and customs. Peranakans, Singapore-born descendants of Chinese settlers who came to Singapore in the 15th-17th centuries, I guess are the closest thing to a modern native population, and the bulk of them have a mixed heritage, largely Chinese and Malay.

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The point of all this is that this place is diverse. I’ve never really been anywhere like it, and riding the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is a pretty illuminating window into just how diverse Singapore is. Aside from the crazy range of language, race, and culture that you’ll see displayed in any station or train car, one only needs to go down any metro line and read the station names to realize that you are in the midst of a ethno-cultral hodge podge: Orchard, Kampong Bahru, Tai Seng, Little India, Joo Koon, Lavender, Khatib–you would never guess those stations were all in the same place.

Getting back to the topic at hand, you can only imagine the effect that this diversity has had on the local cuisine. A lot of Chinese food, a good amount of Indian, tons and tons of options from other parts of Asia, Europe, and the rest of the world, as well as a generous selection of options that bridge the gap between several of the above categories, creating something uniquely Singaporean and pretty darn delicious. Since I’ve been here I’ve had Haianese, Indian, Peranakan, Italian, British-influenced fare, and food from Hong Kong. I’ve been here for one day. Here are some highlights of the things I’ve Snacked on:

Haianese Chicken Rice

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A Singaporean staple, one of the city-state’s national dishes (there are multiple, naturally), and an affordable and easily-accessible example of down-home cooking. Chicken rice is exactly what it sounds like: chicken and rice. The chicken can be cooked in a variety of ways, but in Singapore, the “must try” variety is poached, then dunked in cold water to form a gelatinous layer right under the chicken’s skin. The chicken is served at room temperature over a bed of steamy rice that’s been prepared in the drippings from the birds. It is good. Really good. But super simple. The chicken is cool and tender, the rice is hot and super flavorful with a great texture from the added drippings, but that’s it. To me, this dish was just a great simple plate of food. I think you will enjoy it most if you think of it the same way…there is a lot of hype around it amongst travelers to Singapore, and I think that risks taking something away from the experience of eating it. But go. Find a place that looks good. Grab a plate, and just enjoy it.

Tian Tian Chicken Rice
Location: Stall 10, Maxwell Food Centre 
Link: http://www.tiantianchickenrice.com
Cost: $5

Kaya Toast

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I was obsessed with finding Kaya toast. But like Chicken Rice, it’s everywhere, and it’s simple! Just look at that picture. Not exactly a showpiece meal. I went to Ka Yun Kaya Toast and got a combo Kopi (local style coffee that is roasted with butter or margarine and served with condensed milk in a variety of different combos) and Kaya toast on my first afternoon when I just needed a break to sit down, and it was lovely in its simplicity. You will find Ya Kun outposts EVERYWHERE, especially in malls, but I couldn’t really go a few blocks without seeing a kopitiam or toast place. If I had more free mornings, I would definitely make an effort to indulge in a full Kopi and Kaya Toast breakfast. And I bought two mini jars to bring home!

Ya Kun Kaya Toast
Location: Throughout Singapore
Link: http://www.yakun.com.sg
Cost: $5

Bak Kwa

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I LOVE BAK KWA. I had only ever heard of this jerky-style dried pork product before because I know my friend’s mom loves it. She is from Hong Kong, but evidently Bak Kwa is a treat that is enjoyed throughout Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and the surrounding countries, and it is so delicious. It’s basically greasy dried meat, which sounds awful, but if you like jerky, especially the thick meaty variety, you just need to buy this. It’s not cheap, but you also can’t bring it back to the US, so just buy some and enjoy it while you can. I went to the above spot (no photo due to scarfing this down too fast), but if you are on New Bridge Road in Chinatown you will pass dozens of bak kwa outlets to pick from.

Bee Ching Hang
Location: 189 New Bridge Road, Chinatown
Link: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg
Cost: $3 for one piece (which is plenty for a little greasy snack)

Tan’s Tutu Coconut Cake

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This was one of my least favorite things, though I still managed to eat most of it. They are weird little cakes made out of rice flower, stuffed with different fillings like peanuts, coconut, chocolate, or red bean, then steamed in a mold. I could also hardly manage a photo as they were so hot that they were steaming up my phone lens. They looked so nice and fluffy here that I was dying to try these, but they ended up being more dense than I expected and I just didn’t love them…one day I’ll give them another try.

Tan’s Tutu Coconut Cake
Location: Stall 25, Havelock Road Cooked Food Center (I went to one in an Orchard mall but can’t find the address)
Link: http://ieatishootipost.sg/tans-tutu-coconut-cakes-kueh-tutu-is-a-uniquely-singaporean-dish/
Cost: $2.50 for 3 of the same filling, or $3 for 3 if you mix the fillings

Tak Po Hong Kong Dim Sum

IMG_2506I felt like a massive fatty eating this breakfast, but it was damn tasty. I sat outside by myself at a nice sidewalk table and watched people queue up all morning to eat here. After the peanuts (they are not free, but I love peanuts, so ok), I used the pencil and check-list style menu they gave me to order a selection of yummy treats, mostly fried, to indulge in at 9am. The top left is yam cake, which was nice, then the furry thing is some kind of crispy yam dumpling (meh), then a steamed bao (always solid) and on the bottom a “homestyle puff” which was yummy. My only regret is that I wish I was there with other people so I could sample more! They also served a nice tall kopi with condensed milk over ice, which was an indulgent compliment to my fried plate.

Tak Po Dim Sum
Address: 42 Smith Street, Chinatown
Link: http://cuisineparadise-eatout.blogspot.sg/2013/01/tak-po-dim-sum-restaurant-chinatown.html
Cost: $0.80-$5 per dish
 

Roti Prata

IMG_2515Speaking of fried…..oh man this was an indulgence. Roti prata is a bready little thing, either stuffed with something delicious or dipped in something delicious. I feel like it was somewhere between a nice soft naan and a thin, delicate crepe. It is prepared from a ball of buttery dough that is stretched and pulled in front of you, then folded up–in my case, around a bunch of sliced bananas, granulated sugar, and ghee (clarified butter)–and then plopped on a hot griddle to get nice and crispy. This is not health food. Especially when you pair it with a sugar cane juice, like I did. But it is obviously super, super yummy. I haven’t yet had a chance to try the savory variety, which is often served stuffing-less, dipped in a nice curry sauce, but I really hope I get a chance to try some before I go! You can find these anywhere, my stop at Pearl’s Plaza was one of desperation in search of something sweet to end my day at a rather late hour, but I am sure there are tastier (and cleaner) options out there.

Pearl’s Center 
Location: 100 Eu Tong Sen St, Chinatown
Cost: $2
 

I am both embarrassed and proud to admit that that is only a small sampling of what I have eaten (snacked on, more accurately) during my short time in Singapore. I’ll spare you the mini cheesecakes from Mini One, the weird pastries and treats from the BreadTalk chain, and the insanely delicious Kouign Amann from Tiong Bahru bakery for another post. And I’ll see what else I can cram in before I leave!

 

 

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Mexico City Street Food: Empanada de Camarón

Empanada de camarones, originally uploaded by jhoolko.

We stopped at this stall near the Zócalo because there were tons of people buzzing around it so we knew it must be something good. My non-Spanish speaking friend ran across the street and pantomimed to the vendor that he wanted one of whatever he was selling. The man behind the cart pulled a little bready thing out from a basket and sliced it open around the edges to reveal a bunch of cooked shrimp and melted cheese inside. Unexpectedly it was then slathered in avocado (ok) and ketchup (what?!?!) and then handed over to us so we could add our own dose of hot sauce to complete the dish. The total was about $1.50USD. We took our little frisbee-like plate over to a nearby table and tentatively took a bit of the ketchupy, shrimpy mess. And it was so good! Honestly, one of the best things I ate in Mexico City, and I ate a lot. I went back to the vendor to ask what this delicious morsel was, and he told me it was an empanada! It was a lot different than the empanadas I had been used to in Spain and Portugal, but this was just as good, if not better than the flaky pastries I had learned to love across the Atlantic. And cheaper, too!

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Currently Craving: Pimientos de Padrón

Photo by DesignConundrum via Instagram

Spanish people don’t like spicy things. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be told at a restaurant in Spain that something was REALLY spicy, that I really needed to prepare myself, only to be underwhelmed. I myself have a low tolerance for spice, but I was always shocked by how easily Spanish people would literally break a sweat over a choice piece of chorizo (which in all fairness can pack a bit of a punch) that didn’t faze my tastebuds a bit.

One exception is the padrón pepper from Galicia. Or should I say, one in every five or so padrón peppers. They are not all spicy; the milder ones are the best, delicious, grassy-tasting little pods that have been vigorously sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt. But eating these things is a bit like playing Russian roulette…somewhere in the mountainous little pepper pile you just ordered there are a few evil ones just bursting with capsaicin. But it’s worth the risk, especially when even the evil ones are delicious.

Padrón peppers are delightfully available in the States (or at least in California) in summer and early fall, and are even more delightfully easy to cook. Heat some olive oil in a pan until shimmering, then add whole peppers and cook until the skin is blistering and browned. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with sea salt. And voilà! A quick, authentic tapas dish you can easily recreate in your own home. Just watch out for those hot ones.

If you don’t trust my instructions and need a slightly more complete recipe, see here, or take it up a notch with some jamón and ajo here.  And if they don’t have any peppers in your area, you can always drop some serious cash on a pound or so from La Tienda.

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Currently Craving: Pierogi, Please!

I have a mild obsession with pierogi. I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t  the only one of the major contributing factors in my decision to visit Poland when I lived in Spain. And I am proud to say that even though Marshal and I only spent 2 days in Krakow, we managed to eat at least four different meals of pierogi (in addition to our meals of barszcz bigos, zurek, gołąbki….I could go on and on but I will spare you the gory details).

A plate of pierogi ruskie in Krakow.

My grandmother has a fabulous recipe for pierogi that she has passed down to my mother, and every year at Christmas, my family (just the five of us), makes an absolutely insane number of these delicious little dumplings. I think we made 125 last year. You can do the math, that is a lot of pierogi per person. And we always eat them all within a few days. It’s a ton of work since you have to make the dough from scratch, make the filling, roll everything out by hand, cut each and every little circle, and crimp each dumpling closed before they get boiled. The dough is finicky and dries out fast, so everything has to move very quickly or else your pierogi won’t be elastic enough to stretch around their filling and hold together in the boiling water. But oh, is it worth it.

Pierogi waiting to be boiled. The damp cloth keeps them from drying out. The lighter colored pierogi are ruskie, filled with potato, onion, and farmer’s cheese. The darker variety are filled with chipped roast beef and raw egg.

My grandmother’s recipe is for the very traditional pierogi ruskie, which are filled with a wonderful mixture of smoothly mashed potatoes, onions, and farmer’s cheese, and we usually eat them topped with tons of onions that have been cooked in loads of butter until they are tender and sweet. There is another variety that is even tastier, and that one gets filled with a mixture of chipped roast beef from the deli and raw egg, which cooks when the pierogi are boiled….that’s it, simple as that. I have no idea if this is a traditional filling, but according to the internet there are other people out there that do this, and according to a bunch of menus I looked at in Krakow people will put just about anything into pierogi! It’s also delicious, so traditional or not, we are going to keep on keeping on with this recipe. One of our favorites from Krakow was a lamb and thyme filled variety from a Van Gogh-themed pierogi place (seriously) called Pierozki U Vincenta.

Lamb and thyme filled pierogi from Pierozki U Vincenta in Krakow. Covered in buttery onions, of course.

So the Christmas after my pierogi-tasting tour of Krakow, we got inspired. We made all kinds of weird pierogi, some with ham and swiss on the inside, some with chocolate and peanut butter….we basically stuffed the extra dough with whatever we could find around the house. I have to say, you probably shouldn’t try the chocolate peanut butter variety anytime soon, but the ham and cheese were pretty tasty, and the varieties I had tried in Krakow told me that there were more options out there!

So today, I was browsing the internet, as I am want to do, I magically stumbled upon this blog: The Perogy Project. Now, the author and I may spell pierogi differently, but that has no effect on the massive amount of delight that overtook me when I realized that there was a blog out there about making pierogi with all kinds of crazy fillings!! I am even more delighted that it has been updated fairly recently and that it might provide me with some additional inspiration before the holidays hit. Until then, I’ll just have to rely on the frozen pelmeni from this place. They are like little Russian baby pierogi!

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Portugal, Land of Pastries: Pastéis de Belém


IMG_0311, originally uploaded by jhoolko.

I don’t like pastries. They always seem like a waste of my appetite and my stomach space. I’d much rather eat a nice plate of pan con tomate, or some cheese and olives, or a piece of chicken, or nothing at all. Pastries just really came across as the unnecessary fluff of the food world to me, and not in a good way. That was until I stumbled upon a Portuguese bakery on my trip to Berlin last year, of all places. I was wandering around alone, a little hungry, and I decided that a little nibble of something sweet would do the trick. I had my first pastel de nata that day. And I realized that pastries could be good.

Even after I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about that custard tart. I tried, and failed, to make them at home. I sampled every variety of Chinese egg tart I could back in San Francisco, but they were all too eggy and silky and not creamy-custardy enough. When I booked my ticket to Portugal, I began to dream about them. I had the most vivid dream I’d ever had in my life, so realistic that I could smell the cinnamon dusted over the top of the pastry as I took my first wonderful bite, the light powder tickling against my nose, and I could feel the flaky dough cracking and crumbling into the custard as I nibbled away.

Needless to say, my visit to Antiga Confeitaria de Belém was a pilgrimage of sorts for me. After visiting the Os Jerónimos monastery to get into the appropriate mood, we made our way over to the famed pastry shop. The inside is cavernous; room follows room in a seemingly endless chain of stark, tiled chambers, all warmed by the bodies of dozens of hot, happy people, enjoying heaping plates of pastéis and tiny cups of coffee.

Portugal loves its pastries. Legend has it that the custardy varieties came to be as a solution to the excess of egg yolks that plagued the country’s monasteries and vineyards after the whites were all used up starching nuns’ habits and clarifying wine. That, however, does not explain the startling abundance of non-custardy pastries. There are pastries made of rice flour, of wheat flour, filled with beef and pork, or a combination of the two. Breads studded with dried fruit share bakery shelves with giant flour-powdered country loaves and tiny, colorful macarons, chicken pies smoosh up against stacks of buttery empanada-like cakes, stuffed with suckling pig (a personal favorite) and ridiculously large white cubes of meringue, topped with flaky layers of dough teeter against the window glass. These people cannot get enough of their pastries, and I must admit, seeing pasteleria after pasteleria and indulging in more than a few of them opened my eyes a bit to a wonderful world that I had previously refused to partake in.

Absolutely starved, we decided to make a lunch of it, first sampling a pile of savory pastries with a round of small Sagres beers. We tried the croquetas; subpar and too sticky, though still hard to dislike what is essentially breaded, fried meat in goo form (at least for me). Chicken pies and pastries were tasty, but nothing to rave about, though the pastéis de bacalhau were perfectly, indulgently salty and greasy and exploding with flavor; the ideal bit-size treat to enjoy (in moderation) with a Portuguese beer.

Then….the main event. After a number of feverish attempts to flag down our gruff and rustled waiter, garotos (the Lisbon-specific term for shots of espresso topped with milk) were ordered, as well as a modest mound of the most famous of Portuguese treats. And they were good.

Freshly baked, warm, and almost runny compared to custard that has been allowed to cool, the pastry filling was an over-the-top treat, and the pastry itself was perfectly crisp and flaky. After several samples from other Lisbon outlets, none as fresh or as warm as the ones we tried in Belém, I must say that these were the best I had. It seems essential to have them straight out of the oven, and in Belém you could literally watch them making hundreds of these little gems at a time.

I don’t know if pastries will be a part of my life now that I am back from vacation. Maybe because eating custard every day probably isn’t the best path towards a healthy lifestyle, or maybe because indulgent breakfasts aren’t as fun when eaten in your cubicle. Or maybe because I just haven’t found a Portuguese bakery yet.

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Pasteleria Martínez

Pasteleria Martínez, originally uploaded by jhoolko.

It’s cold and rainy here in San Francisco, and whenever the temperature drops, I’m inevitably reminded of the winter I spent in Spain, the coldest winter the country had seen for many many years, and the coldest winter I had ever seen (yeah, yeah, So Cal wimp, I know). On a day like today, if I were in Baeza, I’d be settled comfortably into one of the cozy window tables at Pasteleria Martínez on the little town’s main drag, c/ San Pablo, watching the rain fall and listening to church bells. And stuffing my face with tocinillo de cielo.

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Lakrids and Torvehallerne

My trip to Copenhagen was extremely short, and my enjoyment of all the city has to offer was limited by several things; post-Oktoberfest exhaustion, the kroner to dollar exchange rate (A club sandwich for $30!? Ghastly!), a home base outside the center in Frederiksberg, no command of the Danish language whatsoever, and an exceedingly small bicycle with flat tires. Nonetheless, our guides, distant relatives of one of my traveling companions and natives of the city, were exceptionally kind hosts and took us all around the city in an absolute whirlwhind bicycle tour that lasted several days and undoubtedly frustrated all of the bike-riding Danes we encountered as we completely failed to master our hand signals.

One of the places that we blazed through all too quickly as we made our rounds through the city was the fabulous brand new upscale market called Torvehallerne. Encased in two structures that look like huge glass shipping containers, this market is to Copenhagen what the Ferry Building is to San Francisco, or the Mercado de San Miguel is to Madrid. Filled to the brim with beautiful and expensive Danish foodstuffs, I was absolutely overwhelmed by sights, smells, and PRICES. Unfortunately, aside from the fact that we only had about ten minutes in this glorious place, I could afford essentially NOTHING in all of Denmark, and in the end it was probably for the best that I left almost emptyhanded…..ALMOST! I did get one thing and I am oh so glad I did, even though it was the most expensive candy I have ever purchased in my life.

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One of the stands in the market was selling beautiful little plastic tubs of oddly shaped licorice (lakrids in Danish), like the ones pictured above. Licorice, I’ve noticed, is quite popular throughout Europe in a variety of forms, but in the northern countries, I’ve often encountered a saltier form of the flavor, which I think most Americans expect to be a bit sweeter. Sometimes this saltiness is completely disgusting to me, I must admit, but in Denmark, the flavor started to grow on me a bit. (We even bought a few rolls of these on one of our classy outings to pick up Carlsberg cans at a 7-11…and they were ok!) Being with a Danish person worked to my advantage in this situation as well because my host played me off as a very exciting, curious American eager to sample everything! Something I never could have said on my own, even though apparently 110% of Denmark speaks absolutely flawless English and I was quite eager to sample. I was treated to a number of fantastic and strange flavor combinations (hot pepper, dark chocolate), but finally settled on the one pictured; handmade licorice rolled in passionfruit white chocolate. Weird? Absolutely! Delicious? Most definitely! I was in a bit of a “quick! this place is so cool you must buy SOMETHING” mood, but even after I left the market I kept sneaking into the jar to pop one of the big, weird candies into my mouth. I managed to save most of them and give them to my boyfriend as a gift once I got back. He was at first a little weirded out, which I think is natural considering the flavor combo, but the candies quickly grew on him and he ate every last one before I had a chance to even grab a bite on American soil. A little bit of a tragedy considering that the jar, which contained about 15 pieces, was a whopping $12.

If and when I return to Copenhagen, I will make Torvehallerne one of my very first stops (presumably, if I am returning, I will be quite wealthy and will start my visit out with a trip to Noma). I will also be buying more of this licorice. It’s a really unique product with a very sophisticated blend of flavors, presented in a beautiful way. A perfect souvenir!

If you want to read more about Torvehallerne in English, here are some links:

To the Copenhagen Tourism Board Website

To a NYT profile on the market that was published days after we visited 

And for more about that fabulous licorice:

Lakrids by Johan Bulow (You can even shop online!)

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Añoranza

Balcones en Barcelona, originally uploaded by jhoolko.

Is it possible to be homesick for a place that isn’t really your home? Evidently it is, and I have a bad case of it today. Hopefully some tapas and Spain talk tomorrow at Esperpento will provide a momentary cure…at the very least I will at least get some jamón! 🙂

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