Where to Bite – Paris [The Traveling Bite]

A Sweet Little Treat
Eiffel Tower

Like Le Tour Eiffel, a number of quintesesntial French things come to mind when I think of Paris – the food being one of them.

I’m a little late with my little update this week, because I took a little jaunt to Paris this weekend and got back late last night. On Friday, I hopped aboard a train with my friends and woke up two hours later just outside of Paris.

After settling in, we began our walk across the city. From the Marai district, we embarked on a casual exploration, following the Seine to La Tour Eiffel. Starving, we stopped for a bite at one of the many cafés across from the Musée d’Orsay on Rue de Lille. Tabac d’Orsay served as the first dining destination of the weekend.

This moment commenced a non-stop consumption of French food, where I was met by a great internal struggle between attempting to nourish my body with healthy, nutritious food, and wanting to sample all of the hallmark foods the city of Paris conjures in my imagination – crêpes, macarons, beignets, brie – exasperated by the buttery aroma of croissants and baguettes each morning on every street corner.

What I discovered in Paris was that it is possible to get a satisfying, vegetarian salad at every restaurant. A hard-boiled egg, or slices of avocado came with every salad I consumed. In addition to the protein, haricots-verts (green beans), peppers, tomatoes, corn, potato, and hearts of palm were just some of the ingredients included in the typical “Salade Végétarienne.”

When I dined at La Terrasse Sainte Catherine, all of the salads came with meat, but they generously produced a delicious vegetarian option for me upon request. And the croutons were to die for.

I can’t recommend just one place to sum up my entire weekend in this beautiful city. L’Esméralda Brasserie, where I ate my last French meal before returning to London, had a wonderful vegetarian salad, and an impressive array of vegetarian omelettes and sandwiches. And of course, there’s no better place to stop on the street for a breakfast crépe on a whim than on your way to marvel at the Musée du Louvre. So here are my tips, for enjoying everything France has to offer, without doing damage to your body. While an indulgent weekend is good for everyone, too much sugar, too many carbohydrates, and too little by way of protein can put a serious drag in your sightseeing plans.

Vegetarian Salad

My personalized salad from La Terrasse Sainte Catherine. Eating this dish in their courtyard made for a very Parisian evening.

Recommended Dishes: Don’t be afraid to eat like a true Parisian and start your day off with a delicious croissant, or demi baguette. But try stopping at any streetside vendor to grab a fresh banana or apple to pair it with. This will help fill you up, without needing a second pain au chocolat. A fresh omelette is a great day to get your protein right from the start, but a hardy salad at lunch will help you get through the second half of a day, while you give your feet a much appreciated break.

The Not-So-Good: Paris is one giant temptation. Let’s be honest. Boulangeries and Chocolateries on every corner make it hard to walk two feet without stopping for a sweet, or another carb. It will happen. Sharing with friends, however, is a great way to try a little bit of everything, without going overboard, or breaking the bank. I split an order of sugared beignets with friends, and shared a sweet apple and cinnamon crêpe one evening.

The Good Bite: Like London, Paris has many outdoor markets and vendors. On Saturday, my friend and I visited the Rue Mouffetard, where we grabbed a bag of fresh cherries and strolled along. No matter what you decide to eat, if you grab it from a market such as this one, or the Sunday morning farmer’s market outside Maison Blanche, you can be sure you’re getting the freshest ingredients.

The Best Bite: With so many amazing places to eat, and so many wonderful foods to try, my number one best bite in Paris came down to location. I spent the weekend in Paris staying with my friend Laura, who currently has an apartment off of Maison Blanche. She suggested we head to the local store, and stock up for a little picnic on the Seine. A fresh baguette from the bakery, a wedge of brie, a macaron, a crudité platter, and a bottle of rosé made for the most wonderful French feast. With our feet dangling over the water, we indulged in Paris’s finest cuisine – a fiscal feast, and an unforgettable sunset with loads of other diners – tourists and locals alike – enjoying the temperate summer evening.

To see all of the sights, and truly sample all of the unique, delicious, and unforgettable bites that Paris has to offer, a weekend is hardly enough. My little bite of the city has left me craving so much more.

À bientôt,

Melanie

Where to Bite – Cardiff [The Traveling Bite]

The Traveling Bite, Where to Bite

Cardiff, the capital of Wales, is home to major universities, historic landmarks, and just about every kind of cuisine you can possibly dream up.

Today, my friends and I embarked on a day trip to Cardiff, the capital of Wales. Cramming an entire city into one day is an impossible thing – but we tried our hardest to see everything. After popping by to see Cardiff Castle and St. John the Baptist Church, we walked down to the Bay, before stopping in to see the National Museum.

All that sightseeing didn’t leave much time for lunch – paninis from a local cafe to go were the answer to a three hour long bus ride. But when it came time for dinner, we were glad to kick up our feet and relax with two for one drinks and delicious food at Ten Feet Tall.

A relaxed, living room and library-feel makes this trendy spot the perfect place to grab a drink, a bite, or listen to a local band.

While definitely not a case of traditional Welsh fare, this hotspot summoned us in with its promise of two for one drinks, live music and a wide variety of tapas and mains.

Recommended Dishes: The “Shakshuka,” a North African-style vegetable hot pot, with a poached egg, rustic bread, and a side of your choice was completely delicious and satisfying. The blend of peppers, onions and tomatoes had a distinct heat, and the runny yolk from the poached egg tempered that spice. Spread over thick ciabatta bread, with a side of arugula, I couldn’t have asked for a more balanced, hearty dish. Grilled button mushrooms from the tapas menu and a vegetable paella main were also fantastic options.

At only 15 pounds, this double cocktail, bread, salad and hot pot meal was the perfect way to end a busy day of sightseeing in the city.

The Not-So-Good Bite:  Service was a funny thing. You have to go in, pick your seet, grab a menu, and then order at the bar. While the staff was friendly and helpful, it definitely wasn’t a traditional dining experience, and it might not be the spot to go if you’re looking to be catered to. I’ve noticed this at a number of other places, however, and am starting to suspect it’s a cultural thing. A local recommended The Live Lounge, a spot with daily live music and a traditional menu.  We decided against it because none of the tables had been cleared and it was very loud and smoky – after a long day, we were looking to relax. However, service appeared to work the same way. You take care of yourself, and they’ll bring the food to you when it’s ready.

The Good Bite: There are a lot of special deals, and they’re worth it. Two for one on selected cocktails, every day. For lunch, you can get two meals for ten pounds, and at night, any three tapas for eight pounds. Celebrating our jaunt to the country of Wales, I grabbed the Gin and Pear It, a delicious long drink made with Pimms (my attempt at incorporating something traditional into my otherwise untraditional meal), Plymouth Gin, maraschino liqueur, ginger syrup and pear puree.

The Best Bite: A something for everyone menu, with loads of clearly marked, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Sans the bread, my dish would have been both. The catalan-style spinach with pine nuts and raisins, or pickled mushrooms with a manchego crisp  tapas are other gluten-free and vegetarian offerings.

If you’re ever rolling through Cardiff, make sure to take some of the local joints up on their deals. 10 Feet Tall offers Life Drawing Classes every Tuesday, live music throughout the year on selected days, and a menu with deals you can’t beat.

Until next time, when I’ll be taking a big bite out of Paris!

Melanie

Where to Bite – London [The Traveling Bite]

The Traveling Bite, Where to Bite

When it comes to eating in London, a few things come to mind – fish and chips, chicken tikka masala, and markets. Being a vegetarian, I couldn’t wait to bite into some of London’s best street food.

Cheers from London! Today marks the end of my first week across the pond, and I have had so much fun exploring this incredible city. While there are is no shortage of fabulous cafes and restaurants, I have discovered that London’s markets are one of the best places to dine.

I’ve spent the past seven days frolicking from Columbia Road Flower Market to Old Spitalfields Market and down Brick Lane. Each market has its own unique atmosphere, and draws a vibrant crowd of vendors, locals, and tourists. The abundance of unique and historic markets is distinctly British, and so I can’t think of a better bite to share with you.

Recommended Dishes:  If you’re looking for a cheap, healthy meal from a street vendor, stick to the basics. As always, avoid anything deep-fried. Bento-boxes from Japanese-food vendors are often healthy choices, or, if you’re looking for something more portable, seek whole wheat or whole grain options in your crepe, wrap, or panini. At the Greenwich Market, a vendor offered fabulous crepes made with buckwheat as a healthier option.

An egg, cheese, and spinach crepe from a street vendor at Brick Lane. Made to order, vegan options include seasonal and fresh items such as mushrooms, tomatoes and even pineapple.

The Not-So-Good Bite:  Sometimes, it’s difficult to know exactly what you’re ordering. Because of the surge of various cultures and ethnicities at London’s markets, the language barrier can be problematic. When in doubt, look for signs indicating a vegetarian or vegan option. Many vendors are even offering up gluten-free concoctions. They’ll steer you in the right direction for your food preference or diet.

The Good Bite:  If you’re in London, street food is a wonderful way to save a pence – or a pound. With the cost of living in London being so high, it’s wonderful to have a whole plethora of fun, affordable options when you’re looking for a meal out.

The Best Bite:  From Morroccan to Italian, Japanese to Middle Eastern, any one of London’s markets will present a fabulous array of ethnic cuisines you might not otherwise have the opportunity to try. Today, I grabbed a sampler from a Vegetarian and Vegan Ethiopian stall at Brick Lane Market. For only 5 pounds, you can enjoy a flatbread stuffed with spinach, lentils, and a delicious thick sauce, along with a variety of sides. Okra stew, brown lentil salad, couscous with fresh cilantro, spiced cabbage and a garbanzo bean and pea salad were all included on the plate. This is definitely more food than should be consumed in a single sitting. For this reason, I peeled back the flatbread to eat its contents, and tried only to sample the sides, passing almost entirely on the additional lentils and couscous.

A plate overflowing with delicious, vegan dishes in a traditional Ethiopian preparation, for only 5 pounds, is the kind of treasure you can find at any one of London’s markets.

Fresh, affordable food and loads of vegetarian options make London’s Marketplaces wonderful dining destinations, especially for groups. Don’t let fear of the unknown sauce or mystery herb deter you from experiencing new cuisines. With so many markets to explore, try sampling a new kind of dish at each one.

Until next week, I’m off to experience more of London, and am looking forward to my next British Bite.

Cheers,

Melanie

Where to Bite American- Boston Logan International Airport [The Traveling Bite]

The Traveling Bite, Where to Bite

With a view of the runway, planes departing to their unique destinations, stopping through or landing home, sometimes a meal is truly about where you are, and where you are going. This simple house salad is a little bite that I will never in my life forget.

This is not my standard post.

For the past three years, Boston – home of the Celtics, McGreevy’s Irish Pub and Sports Bar, and the Dropkick Murhpys – has also become the place I call home.

My apartment, nestled in the Italian North End, and just a few blocks down from the most fabulous canolis, has been the core of my academic and social life.

Yet my life in America, despite the unique cultural neighborhoods and niches that I have loved discovering, has come to a point of departure.

A lot has changed in the last three years, and today marks the beginning of a new and beautiful chapter in my life. I am leaving Boston for the summer, to study and work, to find adulthood and independence, in the wonderful and beautiful city of London.

In the E Terminal at Boston Logan International Airport is O’Brian’s Pub. It seemed all-too fitting to take my last meal in an airport restaurant specializing in Traditional American food, and to do so by myself. This is the first in an extended series of Traveling Bite posts. I’ll share with you the best in British fare, French delicacies, and who-knows-what-else that I encounter during my European travels. As always, I will seek to keep things fresh and healthy. Yet authentic cultural food will take precedence this summer, as I maneuver my way through new cities, new cultures, and new foods. This is an experience I will never have again. Traveling alone, exploring Europe, and most importantly, learning about myself as an individual.

Keeping things fresh and light for my six-hour flight, I opt for simple mixed greens and vegetables, dressing on the side.

This is my last American meal for a long time. A simple house salad, dressing on the side, and topped with “every vegetable you have laying around, if possible.” A glass of California Chardonnay to calm the nerves before the overnight flight. This ceremonious American bite will hold me over until I land in a new country. I will miss my friends, who have supported me through a surprisingly difficult year, and my family, who have always encouraged me to take flight when I needed to. They have never held me back, and they are the reason I am able to have this unbelievable opportunity. I am so grateful to them for their love and support. And for all of you who have followed LittleWordBites, I hope you continue to enjoy my culinary adventures as a clumsy vegetarian seeking satisfying and healthy food, at home and abroad.

Join me for the next eight weeks of literature, British fare, and European adventures. This will be a wonderful journey.

I’m off across the pond to find a world of little bites. Until next time, America.

Melanie