Restaurant Review: Fou de fafa (Avignon, France)

My partner and I went on a 6-day road trip last Easter, visiting 2 countries (France and Spain) or 5 towns/cities and more than 12 restaurants. Without a doubt, this was our favorite restaurant in the entire trip.

I’m normally not a fan of number 1s in tripadvisor because they fail me most of the times. In fact, this is the first time I actually think the number 1 restaurant deserves to be the number 1.

Fou de Fafa is located in the Old the Town. We were staying at Hotel Avignon Centre Palais des Papes and it was just less than 10-minute walk from there. The location was pretty convenient for us.

Restaurant fou defafa

The photos here don’t justify how really good the food were. First was the wine option. My partner has issues on sulfites so we asked for a recommendation from the host. She recommended a bio/organic pure Merlot wine and it was very good. Then, there’s the food. The moment we had our starter, warm goat’s cheese wrapped in a pastry wrapper, we knew the rest of the food will be excellent. For the main course, I had the lamb wrapped in aubergine with mashed potato on the side. The aubergine was nicely seasoned, the meat was so tender, the mashed potato and the sauce balanced the flavours. For dessert, I had a chocolate cake – it was so good, I almost didn’t want to share it. The 3-course meal cost EUR 36 plus the bottle of wine we had. It’s a very reasonable price.

The host speaks fluent English and very welcoming. She took her time in explaining the menu and answering our questions.

Restaurant fou defafa

I know the common complain about this restaurant is that they weren’t entertained because they did not have a reservation or they were turned down because there were more than 4 of them. Three things about restaurants like this:

First, it’s a small restaurant with maybe even less than 15 tables. The empty tables you see probably belonged to someone who made a reservation but coming at a later time. I appreciate the fact that they don’t over book so that their guests won’t have to rush on their dinner because other people need the table.

Second, if I’m not mistaken, this is the type of restaurant who gets their meet and vegetables fresh of the market every morning. Meaning, they only stock fresh ingredients; therefore, they are precise as much as possible on the number of plates they can serve that day. I’ve been to several restaurants like this and I say it’s a style. Again, this style maybe the reason why they limit the amount of plates they serve per day. Quality over quantity – this is why the food was excellent!

Lastly, why not allow big groups? Aside from the food, what I really loved about this restaurant is its environment – it’s not loud. No background music, guests don’t need to shout at another to be heard, even the host spoke softly… it has a chill environment. I don’t know if this is the restaurant’s reason for limiting a party to 4 or if it’s more for logistics reason in the kitchen but whatever it is, not having a big loud group creates a lovely dinner environment.

restaurant fou defafa

Restaurant Fou de fafa is located in Avignon’s Old Town (17 Rue Des Trois Faucons, 84000 Avignon, France). Reservation is a must (in case I haven’t emphasized that enough). You can call them at +33 4 32 76 35 13 or write to them at restaurantfoudefafa@gmail.com.

Chicken Hainanese Rice Inspired Dish: Your Upgraded Poached Chicken

Chicken hainanese rice is one of my favorite dishes back in the Philippines. This dish originated in a village in Southern China and has become very popular in South East Asia that it went on to become Singapore’s national dish. It’s a flavorful poached chicken accompanied by rice cooked in the chicken’s broth.

I’ve been craving for this dish for quite some time now so I decided to do it. It was not the same as the ones I would have in Chinese restaurants in the Philippines but I realized how this dish can easily be an upgrade to your regular poached chicken. The rice is meant to be oily because it is cooked in the chicken’s broth plus some drops of sesame oil. You can entirely skip this process if you are not up for an oily rice but it’s really good and it gives continuity of flavor to the entire dish – it’s still clean eating at the end of the day.

Chicken Hainanse Rice

Here’s how I made my chicken Hainanese inspired dish. What you need:

Chicken (usually, this is prepared with a whole chicken but in my case, I got just the thighs and legs)

Ginger

1 bulb of garlic

Spring onions

Bok choy or Chinese cabbage

Sesame oil

Light soy sauce

Chili garlic sauce

Sunflower oil or any cooking oil

Salt to taste

 

Preparing the chicken

In a pot of water, put the chicken, 4-6 slices of ginger (the thickness or how they’re cut don’t matter… you’ll just boil them for flavoring), 4 cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoon of salt and a bunch of spring onions. Make sure that the chicken is completely submerged in the water. Once the broth boils, allow it to boil for another 1-2 minutes. Take the chicken out of the boiling pot and submerge them in water with ice. Once the chicken has cooled down, put it back in the boiling broth. Depending on the size of the chicken, I let mine cook for 30-40 minutes.

 

Preparing the rice

Cook the rice as if you are cooking it the usual way (1:2 ratio) but use the chicken broth instead of water. Put in 2 slices of ginger, 2 cloves of garlic, spring onion, a teaspoon or half a teaspoon of sesame oil and 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce.

 

Garnish, soup and sauces

To garnish the chicken, mince the spring onions, pour in some sunflower oil (I used olive oil and it overpowered the dish… so, I wouldn’t recommend it) and salt to taste. Garnish the chicken with this mixture.

For the sauces, the first one was just grated ginger and oil. The second one is just the chili garlic sauce with soy sauce.

Lastly, don’t forget the soup. Just pour the boiling hot broth on a bowl of bok choy.

I got the bok choy and chili garlic sauce from an Asian shop but sometimes, Coop or Migros have them.

 

Bon apetite!

Hotel Review: Mercure Avignon Centre Palais des Papes

This is my favorite hotel in Avignon. It was my second time to stay at this hotel and I’d stay here again. My favorite part about this hotel is its excellent location. The hotel is smacked right in the heart of the Old Town and just few steps away from Palais des Papes. I also like that they accommodate very late check-in. My partner and I stayed at this hotel last Easter when we did our road trip.

One big tip if you have a car and you’re trying to get to the parking garage – do not put in your GPS the hotel’s address! Put in the “Palais des Papes parking” instead. The hotel’s parking is the Palais des Papes parking, which is few meters away from the hotel. Don’t get confused with the other Mercure Hotel which has the direct access to the Palais des Papes parking – yes, there are 2 Mercure Hotel at this area that are just about 300m apart. Enter the Old Town through the entrance on the river ride. This is much easier and the parking entrance/exit is just immediately as you enter the Old Town from that side. If you enter through the city center (this is usually where your GPS will take you if you put in the hotel’s address) and you find yourself driving around and couldn’t even get close to the hotel because of closed streets, especially in the evening, get out of the Old Town and drive towards the river.

There were 2 minor comments on my stay on this hotel. First, the air conditioning wasn’t working yet. This is probably the most commented issue but it is quite normal in France and Switzerland where a/cs are turned off until mid-Spring (heaters are turned on instead). But then again, you can have a hot day/evening in Spring and this kind of set up can be uncomfortable. We tried opening the window but the wind was insanely strong that it’s impossible to sleep with the noise. Second was that aside from the receptionists, I struggled with the staff who didn’t understand even a little of English. They are quite friendly but it can be frustrating to explain as simple as canceling a room service order. The receptionists weren’t that very helpful as they kept on forwarding me to the non-English speaking staff when I asked for help to convey a message to them. Don’t get me wrong, as I said, these are just minor incidents and they don’t out shadow the best points about this hotel.

Hotel Review: Hotel Barcarola (Van Der Valk Hotel Restaurant Barcarola)

Hotel Barcarola (Van Der Valk Hotel Restaurant Barcarola)

Hotel Barcarola (Van Der Valk Hotel Restaurant Barcarola)

As part of our Easter road trip, my partner and I drove to Costa Brava, Spain to enjoy the sea. We stayed at Hotel Barcarola in Sant Feliu de Guixols. We stayed in this hotel for 2 nights.

Location/Accessibility (4/5)

Sant Feliu de Guixols is an hour far from the busy and touristy Barcelona and about 30-minute drive from another tourist hot spot, Girona. I honestly don’t know how one can reach this area without a car or via public transportation. I see this as an advantage though as it really gives you a “city break experience”. With this, it will not be fair to give the hotel a low accessibility rating; therefore, location-wise, the hotel is conveniently located close to the beach. It is not immediately right next to the beach but it is like 60-seconds walk to the beach. I prefer this because the main street immediately right next to the beach or the beach front has the restaurants and bars. I imagine this can get pretty busy and loud in the summer.

Important note: the reception is located in the restaurant. I know that sounds weird but the reception, breakfast room and restaurant are detached from the actual hotel. The reception and the restaurant is located across the hotel and on a street corner and has a big sign. The parking area is just across the hotel’s restaurant/reception (it’s an open air/outdoor parking).

Hotel Barcarola's reception and restaurant

Rooms and Facilities (3/5)

We had the luxury room with balcony. It is by far the largest hotel room in Europe that I’ve stayed at.  It was clean and the bed was comfortable. The bathroom was huge too. I enjoyed the balcony as it gave us view of the sea.

What I didn’t like is that if you need water in the middle of the night, your only chance is the vending machine by the hotel entrance that didn’t work sometimes. I’m not sure if the reception can do that or if room service will be available (I highly doubt it). I guess that’s the inconvenience of having a detached bar, restaurant, reception, etc. If you need anything from them, you have to walk across the street.

Staff and Services (2.5/5)

The staff were very friendly. However, they seemed unorganized when we were there.

I also got a wine and bodega package to surprise my partner. According to the package, it includes a bottle of cava, a visit to a bodega (I assume that’s a cave or wine cellar) or an olive orchard and a “welcome drink” in their Tucan beach bar – which is located at the beachfront.

After checking in, I was expecting the cava in our room but there was none. I thought that maybe they will bring it tomorrow. We were also given 2 vouchers for the welcome drink in their Tucan beach bar. We asked if the bar has a particular opening hour, considering the siesta practice in Spain. The receptionist said the bar is open all day. It was 7 pm, which is too early for dinner in Spain so we decided to just grab an aperitif at the Tucan beach bar. It was close. The bar was closed the entire night. The following day, we mentioned to the reception that the bar was closed last night but she insisted that it was open. When the bar finally opened, we were told that the welcome drink is only beer. For non-beer drinkers, there goes your free drink.

When we checked in, I also asked the reception how the bodega or olive orchard tour works. The receptionist said we should just tell her when we want to do it and they will do the necessary arrangements. The following day, we told the reception we wanted to do the tour the next day. She explained to us that she’ll see if the olive orchard is open since it’s a holiday. I explained to her that we obviously paid extra for the package (room rate is from EUR 60 per night while we paid EUR 139 per night for the same type of room). Later on that day, the receptionist rang us to say that they’ve booked the tour, gave us the name of the olive orchard, was told that we can research the exact address in the internet or come by the reception and she’ll give us the flyer. So basically, the “olive orchard visit” in their package is just ringing up an orchard and you drive yourself to the place. The tour is free and the transportation is not provided… so, I don’t know what they charged us extra for.

Lastly, that bottle of cava almost didn’t happen. Again, I had to ask about it at late in the afternoon on our second day at the hotel. The reception told me I had to ask for it (they don’t automatically put it in the room).

Security (3/5)

Apparently, there was an access control on the hotel’s main entrance where guests have to use their room key cards. I only learned about it on our third day because the door just automatically opened in our entire stay.

Price (2.5/5)

According the hotel’s website, the average rate per night for their luxury room is EUR 60. We paid a total of EUR 278 for 2 nights or EUR 139 per night. For a 3-star hotel with a package that technically only had breakfast, 2 beers and a bottle of cava, it’s not a good deal.

Overall, I rate this hotel 3/5. It’s a nice 3-star hotel with a good location. It can potentially be a reasonable hotel – just don’t get the package. It’s not worth it.

Weekend Brunch-at-home Idea: Guacamole, Bacon and Poached Egg

Guacamole, bacon and egg

Guacamole, bacon and egg

In Geneva, there are few good Sunday brunch places but can be very pricey! And I must say, the best brunch I’ve had in Geneva was probably when we did a potluck brunch at a friend’s place. So, When I don’t have anything to do on a weekend, I usually get inspired to whip out something from my fridge and treat myself for a yummy brunch.

I woke up today craving for a salade Lyonnaise but, of course, at 10 am I found it too early for that. I opened my fridge to survey who needs saving and saw an avocado, cherry tomatoes and some lemons. So, I thought I’d make myself some guacamole with tomatoes (I’m normally a purist when it comes to guacamole but it’s brunch and my tomatoes need saving).

As I was doing my guacamole, I realised that I’m really craving for bacon. I’ve been cutting down on meats lately for a healthier diet and I decided that Sunday is bacon day because I’ve been good at going to the gym and yoga this week too.

Then, I also thought that why not make it like salade Lyonnaise? with a poached egg! So, there it was, my yummy brunch!

Here’s how I put them all together: 1-2 servings

Guacamole, bacon and egg

Guacamole, bacon and egg

(I love cooking but I’ve never shared a recipe before and I just always wing it in the kitchen. So, by all means check other recipes for more detailed instructions or measurements)

1 Avocado, mashed

1/2 medium-sized red onion, minced

1/2 lemon

4 pieces of cherry tomatoes, diced

1-inch of a thick pancetta, diced (maybe 3-4 slices of bacon?)

1 egg (2 if you plan to serve for 2)

1 slice of bread per serving (I used a Schard gluten free bread for this), toasted

salt, pepper and wild olive oil (any olive oil will do but I love this wild olive oil I got in Spain recently)

Combine the mashed avocado, minced red onion, diced tomatoes and lemon in a bowl. Mix them evenly. Taste and add salt and wild olive oil, as required. The wild olive oil has a peppery taste to it that I love that’s why I’ve been using it a lot lately. Done with guacamole.

Put the pancetta or bacon in a skillet (without oil) and turn up the heat. Watch out though… don’t burn them!

For the poached eggs, I like them runny. There are hundreds of video tutorial for poaching eggs out there. Try what you think is the most effective and easy. For my poached egg, in a simmering pot of water, I put a table spoon of vinegar, whirled the water and dropped the egg carefully (it is easier for me when I crack the egg in a ramekin first and not dropping the egg straight from the shell to the pot). I let it simmer for a minute then covered the pot for another 2 minutes. To make it less runny, I guess you just need to leave for another 30-60 seconds.

I put a generous amount of guacamole on the toasted bread, then the pancetta and lastly the poached egg. I garnished it with some parsley, salt, pepper and paprika.

There you go! Bon appetite!

Spring 2015 Caves Ouvertes: A biking adventure to Satigny and Dardagny

IMG_6627 (1)

A popular event in Switzerland is the Caves Ouvertes where vineyards open their wine cellars to public for free tasting. In Geneva, this is usually done in May and in November. The May Caves Ouvertes is always the most popular one as people welcome the warmer weather.

 

It is also an opportunity to buy really good wines at a cheaper price since you are directly getting them from the vineyard owners. I remember last year, I really liked a Sheurebe in Satigny but since we were biking, I was too lazy to get bottles at the Caves Ouvertes. It was sold at around 16 francs. After a couple of months, I saw bottles of it, from the exact same vineyard, at Globus but they were sold at 38 swiss francs per bottle. Ridiculous, right? Well, it’s Geneva.

 

It is also very common to combine a biking/cycling adventure with the Caves Ouvertes – although it can be a dangerous activity once you had too much to drink. This year, my friends and I decided to bike to Satigny and all the way to Dardagny. The entire route was approximately 40 km with seriously steep uphill. Same as last year, we also had a really good weather at this year’s Caves Ouvertes. Although we were dying of exhaustion at the end of the day (most of us are not really serious bikers), we had a really great time. So yeah, I look forward to another Caves Ouvertes next year.

xo, I.

May Destination: Helsinki, Finland

I’m still trying to catch up with blogging and sharing my amazing travels this year but between school ( I’m taking my Masters at the moment), dance classes, crisis all over the world and deadlines, it has been challenging. Anyway, moving on to my 2015 travel destinations, for spring, I went to Helsinki, Finland to visit one of my best friends in the world.

It was my first time to travel to northern Europe and I find it interestingly different. To get there, I took KLM flights. It was more or less a 5 hr flight with a lay over of an hour in Amsterdam. FinAir flies directly from Geneva to Helsinki but I was going in for the miles.

Hietaniemi Cemetery

leave it to us that our walk end up in a cemetery… typical! hahaha!

I was in Helsinki for 5 days but I actually didn’t do a lot of sight seeing – I was too lazy and it was unexpectedly very cold. My friend and I were joking that it was more like a lola’s vacation (lola is the Filipino word for grandma). On my first day, my friend picked me up at the airport, we stored my luggage in her restaurant (my friend is an amazing chef in Helsinki) and went straight to her friend tattoo artist to get inked. After I got my tattoo, we stopped by a bar to say hi to her fiancé and had coffee with one of her friends. After that, we went home, had dinner and talked for hours – just like old times! You see, my friend is an old roommate of mine when we were in university. There were five of us in that dorm who became so close that we’re more than just friends… we’re family up to this date.

IMG_4245On my second day, we went walking (it was supposed to be a running activity but I can’t sweat because of my fresh ink). That was sight seeing for me. After our morning walk, we grabbed breakfast in a little café close to her place. I think on that day we also went shoe shopping, or maybe that was on the first day too, and we met up with her fiancé for a late lunch where I had the Finnish version of filets de perche. Afterwards, we took a quick look at the city via tram and grabbed coffee at the city centre.

On my third day, I had brunch with my friend’s fiancé since my friend had to go to work. After brunch, I went shopping and then picked up my friend after her work. We had an early dinner in an Italian restaurant close to her restaurant then we went to a bar to quickly say hi to her fiancé and his friends. In the evening, we just sat

Kauppatori, Helsinki

Kauppatori, Helsinki

On my fourth day, I went around the town by myself since my friend had to work. She advised me to check out the food fair happening because there was a Filipino tent in that event. The food fair was in a park and they had food from all over the world. It started raining after sometime so I went to the oldest café in Helsinki called Edberg. They had an amazing coffee and one of the best tarte au citron with merengue I’ve had – my favourite dessert in the world! After the rain stopped, I went around town to check out some of the touristy sights and of course, ended up in another culinary fair. After my sight seeing, I met my friend at the city centre and we went to another nice café for coffee and patisserie. Afterwards, we went home where my friend prepared her specialty for dinner – salmon soup. Yes, my friend, born and raised in Philippines, is known in Helsinki for her salmon soup because she makes them in the most traditional way. When I asked around where to get salmon soup, they told me to ask my friend to make it. We didn’t stay up to late that night because I had a very early flight the following day.

When I told my Finnish friend that I very much enjoyed Helsinki, she laughed at me and told me I was being nice – not because it’s not a pretty city but because there’s nothing to see there. True, it’s not your typical European city and you can’t compare it with France, Italy, Germany or even Czech Republic where the cities are buzzing with tourists. I find Helsinki quieter and calmer than Geneva but it has it’s own beauty. I also think I very much enjoyed my stay in Helsinki because it allowed me to spend time with my really good friend who I dearly miss.

So yup, I loved Helsinki! It was a good choice indeed.

 

xx, I.