Category Archives: Restaurants and hotels

Four Days in Flanders

Brugge, Flanders, Belgium

In the land of Bruegel, chocolate and mussels, the lush green land of Flanders is punctuated by towns of extraordinary beauty. Medieval castles, Renaissance houses, canals and cafes are in view with every convoluted turn in the ancient streets. Yet in Brussels, larger than life cartoon wall art decorates, and compliments, its historic core.

wall art in Brussels depicting popular Belgian cartoon characters

In four days, VisitFlanders introduced me to three cities rich in layers of culture, four restaurants bursting with layers of flavor as well as beer and chocolate as it ought to be enjoyed. Articles, as they appear, will be added to this post, so please check back often.

Dominique Personne chocolates, Brugge, for Hertog Jan and Gruut Brown herb beer, Gent

Flanders, today, is at the vanguard of a new wave in international gastronomy that’s pairing the freshest of locally sourced ingredients with 21st century culinary techniques.

With 3 Michelin Stars already….

Restaurant Hertog Jan, in Brugge, brings their farm to their table

A Walk through the garden at Hertog Jan

The mild climate may have favored Flanders own agricultural abundance, but access to the world through trade constantly brought new products, such as the potato and chocolate, fueling today’s Michelin starred restaurants, creating chocolate beer and celebrity chocolatiers, although Dominique Personne is considered the bad boy of Brugge – watch the You Tube video in my latest article.

Belgium celebrates eating during its 2012 Year of Gastronomy

Dominique Personne with chocolate gun and the Chocolate Shooter

Ghent’s de Vitrine is Kobe Desramaults little city bistro. Yet the secret these young chefs are revealing is simple, fresh regional ingredients treated with respect and given pride of place. “I think about the vegetable,” Speybreck says, “not what meat or fish it goes with. What can I do with a nice cauliflower. Each ingredient has its own place.”

Ghent’s restaurant de Vitrine is a showcase for each ingredient

mussels with cucumber, eggplant sauce and sour cream foam

Ensconced in Brussels’s elegant Radisson Blu Hotel, Chef Yves Mattagne’s two Michelin star Sea Grill serves art to the power brokers of Europe.

Brussels’s Sea Grill catches Michelin stars

Caviar Royal Belgium, Sea Grill, Brussels, Belgium

London Gastronomy in the Jubilee Year

 

From scotch eggs to stinking bishop, Context Travel nibbles through London

Neal’s Yard, London
Orange marmalade with gold leaf

Amidst the frenzy of summer in London, it’s comforting to know that scotch eggs and marmalade with gold leaf can still be part of your customized picnic basket from Fortnum & Mason. In three hours, Context Travel’s Janine Catalano narrates a three century evolution in British gastronomy with “a walk through central London from less than a common perspective.”

 

 

London’s St. John Bar and Restaurant transforms offal into delectable

Roasted Bone Marrow with toast
St. John Bar & Restaurant, London

Chef Fergus Henderson’s 1999 book, “Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking,” caused a sensation when published. It placed Chef Henderson and St. John’s at the forefront of an omnivore movement, in direct opposition to modern meat consumption, in which the whole animal is eaten –  trotters, tripe, kidneys, heart, sweetbreads …

 

 

 

 

 

London’s The Little French Restaurant is big on flavor

The Little French Restaurant, London

It would be easy to walk right past The Little French Restaurant on London’s narrow Hogarth Street. The diminutive road, opposite Earls Court underground station, is lined with at least a half dozen small cafes, shops and quaint flower bedecked townhouses. Yet a passerby would be hard pressed to dine in a more charming French bistro.

Grilled goat cheese at The Little French Restaurant, London

 

 

As Greek As It Gets restaurant brings the Aegean to London

Grilled calamari stuffed with cheese, As Greet As It Gets, London

Not only is London’s population a polyglot of the former empire, but Britons have embraced an unprecedented broadening of their culinary palate.  As Greek As It Gets, a restaurant in fashionable Earls Court, says it all in words and in the authenticity of its menu offerings.

As Greet As It Gets, London

Read all my Examiner.com articles as

Culinary Travel Examiner

 International Dining Examiner

International Travel Examiner

Philadelphia Fine Dining Examiner

and

 Food & Recipes Examiner

Philadelphia Fine Dining – Part 2: The suburbs in bloom

As Philadelphia continues refining its vibrant Center City restaurant scene, the suburbs, a former culinary wasteland, are blooming with innovation in attractive locations.

The canal in Yardley, Bucks County, PA

In the suburbs:

On the Yardley riverfront Charcoal sizzles with creativity

Cured Sea Trout, Charcoal BYOB, Yardley, PA

The lowering sun casts a gold light on the swift flowing Delaware River as diners at Charcoal tuck into tender chunks of hanger steak, superbly seasoned octopus and wild mushroom soup with green curry.

Over the past 25 years the Greek menu at the Kitchen Bar has become an American

The Kitchen Bar, Abington, PA

It’s 9:00 pm on a Thursday evening and the Kitchen Bar Restaurant is nearly full. For a weekday night in leafy suburban Abington Township, where even most of the fast food chains are already closed, this is uncommon.

Kinnaree highlights the French influence on Thai dining

Pan Seared Hawaiian Butterfish, Kinnaree Restaurant, Horsham, PA

Set in an unassuming Horsham strip mall, Kinnaree Thai French Cuisine balances traditional Thai dishes with centuries old French influences.

Seafood Ceviche, El Sarape, Blue Bell, PA

El Sarape: Authentic Mexican in the Philadelphia Burbs

Devotees of authentic Mexican cuisine in the Philadelphia metro area have had few choices until El Sarape opened in suburban Blue Bell.

Historic Old City Philadelphia at Washington Square

In Center City:

El Vez is Starr Restaurant’s modern Mexican on Sansom Street

El Vez, Philadelphia, PA

There’s a lot of competition for customers seeking good dining on Philadelphia’s Sansom Street since it’s in proximity to everything of interest in center city.

Le Viet defines Vietnamese cuisine in South Philadelphia

Goi Hai San Trai Tho’m (pineapple & shrimp salad) Le Viet, Philadelphia, PA

The Italian Market/Queen Village district, to any resident of Philadelphia, is inexorably morphing into a little Southeast Asia.

M Restaurant in Philadelphia offers elegance and cutting edge cuisine

caraway scented goat cheese w/ multi colored beets, Meyer lemon, grated rye bread, M Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA

Set within an historic Philadelphia mansion, the M Restaurant & Bar is elegant yet unpretentious.

All my Examiner.com restaurant reviews are a click away: 

Philadelphia Fine Dining and International Dining Examiner

Laos in the North: Poised for Change

“The idea of the Laos government is to become the battery of Southeast Asia,” Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, Time, 12/09/2010

 According to the teachings of the Buddha, life is comparable to a river. It moves from cause to cause, effect to effect, one point to another, one state of existence to another, giving an outward impression that it is one continuous and unified movement, where as in reality it is not. So does life. It changes continuously, becomes something or other from moment to moment.  (The Buddhist Concept of Impermanence)

Is Laos in the 19th century racing towards the 21st? Not since the 1970’s has this most relaxed of southeast Asian societies faced the prospect of monumental changes globalization is bringing to this ancient land. In a series of articles for Suite101 and the Examiner, I explore these shifting forces even as I experience centuries of tradition.


Muang Ngoi on the Nam Ou, Laos

Forested mountains and ethnic villages may dominate photos of northern Laos, but it’s the region’s swift rivers an energy hungry southeast Asia covets.

Visit northern Laos timeless scene before time runs out 

 

The Forest Retreat Laos cafe, Luang Namtha, Laos

In the misty mountain provincial capital of Luang Namtha in northern Laos, a mere 50 miles from the Chinese border, a traveler would not normally expect to enjoy a perfect grilled cheese sandwich, stuffed with banana, while sipping a shot of Lao Lao.

The Forest Retreat Laos cafe and bar makes a mean grilled cheese

the Nam Oh, upriver of Nong Kiau in northern Laos

For eons, Laos 270 mile long Nam Ou has cut a path of incredible beauty providing easy transport and fertility to the northern interior.

The Nam Ou: Laos Rice Bowl River Changing Course

al fresco lunch in the Nam Ha National Biodiversity Conservation Area

Roasting eggplant and tomatoes imparts an earthy flavor to these two quick and easy Laotian dips or spreads.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes: Two Easy Laotian Appetizers

Nong Kiau Riverside Resort & Restaurant, Nong Kiau, Laos

In the far north of Laos, overlooking the swift flowing Nam Oh River as it cuts a path through towering forest covered limestone mountains, the Nong Kiau Riverside Resort and Restaurant melts into the lush countryside.

The view from Nong Kiau Riverside Resort and Restaurant is worth the trek

Mok Pa

An aromatic mix of onions, garlic, herbs and chili enveloping slices of fresh fish fillet may be the ingredients for Mok Pa, but the banana leaves are the secret.

Mok Pa: Laotian Fish Steamed in Banana Leaves

A relaxing ecotourism center spanning the Nam Ou, Nong Kiau is positioned to be a major player in Laos northern economic development.

Nong Kiau, Laos: Poised for Change

Ban Samsaath, Laos – a traditional weaving village

New Southeast Asian Cuisine: from Galangal to Philly Cheese Steak

galangal, on left, is darker, related but not the same as ginger, on right

Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam have been on the Asian trade routes to Europe for millennium. Southeast Asia was adept at fusing earlier European, Chinese and Japanese culinary influences and a century of Western colonial cuisine. The kitchens at restaurants of today’s tourist route destinations continue to preserve the past as well as innovate.

Laotian cuisine, like the nation, is much more than that land between Thailand and Vietnam. Neither as sweet nor spicy as its neighbors, the dishes of Laos are multi-layered creations of herbs, greens, meats, fish, vegetables and spices not used in Western cooking. Yum Kai Tom is one such dish that’s both easy to master as well as being quintessential Laos.

ingredients for Yum Kai Tom
Arthouse Cafe

There’s no lack of fine restaurants in Laos’ UNESCO World Heritage City of Luang Prabang. Once the royal and spiritual capital of several southeast Asian kingdoms, Luang Prabang epitomizes tropical post-colonial romanticism. The historic core rests high on a peninsula and restaurants take advantage of the spectacular mountain scenery of northern Laos. The Arthouse Cafe, on Kingkitsarath Road, is no exception.

Purple sticky rice

Luang Prabang’s popular and excellent Tamarind Restaurant makes a terrific Khao Gam.

Stuffed Lemongrass is delicious, as the lemongrass permeates the meat with its citrus flavor.

Stuffed Lemongrass

Vientiane, the capital of Laos, has no lack of interesting dining opportunities from a vibrant street food scene to the legendary Mekong River at sunset providing a stunning backdrop for a relaxing dinner at the Kong View Restaurant.

Kong View restaurant, Vientiane, Laos

A tuk-tuk full of saffron robed monks pass by the entrance to Ban Vilaylac. Their Wat is directly across the street. Appropriate location since Ban Vilaylac’s potted garden entrance bridges centuries of traditional Vientiane and French colonial Laos cuisine. Next door, reservations for either lunch or dinner are hard to come by at Makphet Restaurant, yet there are no celebrity chefs, yet the lines of appreciative diners can be long.

view from the Charming Lao Hotel

Much overlooked, Laos north central town of Oudomxai is surrounded by stunning scenery to view while enjoying good Laotian cuisine at The Charming Lao Hotel.

Stuffed squid at Dibuk Restaurant

In a building as old as many bistros in Paris, under ceiling fans stirring the languid tropical air, guests of the Dibuk Restaurant in Thailand’s old Phuket Town can spend time dining with the Indian Ocean lapping nearby.

Tom Kha Gai and its ingredients
Chef Wan at Look-In restaurant

The Look-in Restaurant, just off Bangkok’s busy Sukhumvit Road, is not on most visitors’ tourist map – not yet.

Tom Kha Gai, Thailand’s incomparable coconut soup with chicken and flavored with galangal is a Look-in knockout.

The finest restaurant in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi is also its most fascinating. Koto, next to the Temple of Learning, is in an elegant, three-story French Art Nouveau townhouse.

Koto, Hanoi, Vietnam

There’s a quiet side to Cambodia’s bustling Siem Reap, home to Angkor Wat, on the banks of the Siem Reap River. The town’s best restaurant and small hotel, Bopha, is located at 512 Acharsva Street facing the east bank. It’s a haven of calm.

at Bopha, Siem Reap, Cambodia: traditional fish stew
Pho at La Viet

The Italian Market/Queen Village district, to any resident of Philadelphia, is inexorably morphing into a little Southeast Asia.  A stroll through these historic colonial neighborhoods provides visual evidence of Asian grocery stores, restaurants and professional offices catering to this increasing community. The area around 11th Street and Washington Avenue includes a sizable number of Asian businesses and one very good Vietnamese fine dining restaurant, Le Viet.

Butterfish at Kinnaree restaurant

Set in an unassuming strip mall in suburban Philadelphia, Kinnaree Thai French Cuisine balances traditional Thai dishes with centuries old French influences.

 

 

 

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

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Zimbabwe’s Inns and Lodges in the National Parks

Throughout Zimbabwe visitors have abundant opportunities to view Africa’s array of animal life on a guided safari photo tour or from their room’s balcony.

Breakfast on the lawn at Antelope Park Lodge, Gweru, Zimbabwe

Within National Parks

Sikumi Tree Lodge, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

At stunning natural wonders

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

At historic sits

(top & bottom center) stairway & doorway at Great Zimbabwe, (lower left) a room at Lodge at the Ancient City

Travel with Pen and Palate in Zimbabwe:

In the Land of Kings: Zimbabwe’s Ancient Treasures

Zimbabwe Inns and Lodges: Nature Up Close and Personal

Zebra in the Eastern Highlands, Nyanga National Park, Zimbabwe

Antelope Park, Zimbabwe: When ALERT is Being Alive

lion videos at Antelope Park Lodge 

Zimbabwe Cuisine: A Tale of Three Meals 

(Editors Choice Award, Suite101)

breakfast at Matopo Hills Lodge in Matopo National Park, Zimbabwe

Luxury Lodges at Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls

(clockwise) sunset on the Zambizi River, at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, rafting on the Zambizi River, Victoria Falls, at Gorges Lodge

The Smiles of Zimbabwe

children in Mutare, Zimbabwe

(for visitor information:  Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.)

Bangkok and Vientiane: Legendary Capitals and Memorable Eats

Bangkok, Thailand and Vientiane, Laos provide an abundance of eateries from street vendors to luxury hotel venues like Bangkok’s Centara Grand Hotel’s 55th/56th floor Red Sky dining room and Sky Bar.

Bangkok from the Sky Bar on the 56th floor of the Centara Grand Hotel

Yet in remote villages, some reachable only by boat, tools invented centuries ago are still used for preparing important aspects of traditional cooking such as sticky rice, eaten at every meal.

Sticky Rice drying in the sun

Grains of sticky rice are sun dried and then the hard hull must be broken and sifted away using large woven baskets. The young mother of this household gave me permission to film her children providing the power to operate the hull cracking tool.

The abundance of South East Asia’s food supply is not lost on its restaurants.

Mekong River at sunset from the Kong View Restaurant

In the Laotian capital,  Vientiane’s Kong View provides beautiful vistas of the Mekong River while preparing excellent dishes such as salt grilled river fish.

Ban Vilaylac, Vientiane, Laos

On a quiet street within the historic French colonial core of Vientiane, reservations may be necessary on weekends for Dining at Ban Vilaylac.

Chef Wan, Look-in Restaurant, Bangkok, Thailand

Soon to be on every foodie tourist map, two year old Bangkok’s Look-in Restaurant makes both a mean pizza and the best Tom Kha Gai I’ve eaten. Chef Wan gave me his Recipe for Tom Kha Gai.

Enjoy all my articles at Suite101.com and International Dining Examiner and Philadelphia Fine Dining Examiner for Examiner.com

Tom Kha Gai and its ingredients