Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Netherlands - Amsterdam

Several other posts have mentioned our first train journey around Europe in 2016. We initially booked a round-trip flight to Amsterdam because that was the cheapest destination from Seattle. We planned to start our trip in Venice, Italy, but the layover was several hours. Instead, we looked for a short flight that would take us within a quick train ride of Venice and had a bearable layover. We found a flight leaving within two hours of our arrival to Milan. After a night in Milan, we traveled to Venice, on to Vienna, stopped in Cologne, and finally went full circle back to Amsterdam. The trip from Cologne was just about three hours so we got to have lunch and enjoy some scenery while we coasted along at about 270 mph! 

We booked the final three nights of our trip at Radisson's Park Plaza Victoria Amsterdam.  The hotel was originally opened in 1890. Inside it has the historic architecture, with narrow winding hallways and rooms with vaulted ceilings. It is situated across the thoroughfare from Amsterdam Centraal train station. We had an amazing view from our corner room. 

There are a lot of things that come to mind when one thinks of Amsterdam... art, coffee shops, canals, red light district, etc. What does not immediately spring to mind is a nice steak lunch or steak dinner. We managed to find three! Click the photos below for the full review.

Eetcafé Lusthof

La Estancia

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Canada - Victoria, Vancouver Island

Back in 2014, when we lived on the West Coast, we were in the Seattle area for business and decided to spend a long weekend in Victoria on Vancouver Island. We enjoyed it so much we went back for New Year's Eve that year.  The ferry runs from Port Angeles or Anacortes, Washington. We have taken both routes to downtown Victoria. Traveling to Victoria from Washington by ferry is easy and enjoyable.

On our first trip we stayed at The Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa for one night. The resort is beautiful with mountain views. There is a huge terrace, along with private terraces, for wining, dining or just relaxing. Although in our case, it was a place for working that first day! 

 As much as we enjoyed the resort and the suite that was enormous, the location is pretty far from downtown Victoria. It is perfect for golfers and families.

What we were looking for was a central location from which to explore the city on foot. Luckily we had scheduled the next two nights at Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour. We had a corner room with a nice city view. We booked the same room our full stay there for the second trip.

We love Victoria for its people, its charm and its walkability. You feel as if you are in an old European city. It is also very safe. During our explorations we found amazing watering holes with views of the harbour and seaplanes, Cuban cigars, and of course steak!

In a small out of the way place on Trounce Alley, we wandered to The Tapa Bar. The staff was warm and accommodating. The menu has a wide array of items sure to please any diner and we tried several items! Our favorite (no surprise) was by far the New York Steak served with salsa fresca and pickled onions.

They grill the steak to the perfect medium rare. We tried it with white wine garlic butter sauce and the chimichurri sauce. Both were excellent and our usual order was one of each so we could share - the way tapas are meant to be! I also tried it with shrimp, which was great! We fell in love with this place and ate there every day.  The sangria is made fresh and met all expectations. Even when we tried to venture out, we would wind up back on Trounce Alley. If you love tapas, you should try The Tapa Bar and prepare to be transported to Spain.
If you love steak, you can't miss The Tapa Bar if you are in Victoria. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Deutschland - Köln (Germany - Cologne)

In 2016, we took our first train trip around Europe. We started in Milan, Italy and ended in Amsterdam, Netherlands. One of the stops along the way was Cologne (Köln), Germany. Cologne was a stop-over night at Courtyard Cologne to break up the long trip from Vienna to Amsterdam. Neither of us had ever been to Cologne or knew much about the city so we watched some shows like Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown. We took time the following day for sightseeing before moving on to Amsterdam.

In our research we found and were delighted by the tradition involving Kölsch. Kölsch is a beer specific to Cologne and has an interesting history. In Cologne, if you order a Kölsch, you get continuous, bottomless, refills unless you place a coaster over your glass. 

We visited Max Stark because it had great reviews, was close to the hotel, and we wanted to try Kolsch. Let me tell you, they are not joking around. Servers walk with trays of glasses and as soon as you are dry, they do the switch. Somehow they keep up with it but you have no hope of keeping track.

We didn't visit for the steak but were thrilled to see a steak on the menu. After a starter salad, the food arrived fairly quickly but the people watching was great so we were thoroughly entertained. 

The steak was surprisingly good. It was tender and cooked a perfect medium rare. It was severed with a veggie medley, fries. It was nice to have a side that is not a root vegetable in Germany in the fall. 

I hope to go back to Cologne and spend the time needed to get to know the city. If you find yourself in Cologne, and I hope you do, Max Stark is worth a visit. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

France - Biarritz


In October 2017, we decided to take our first trip to Basque Country. Many people think first of Spain when hearing the term "Basque"but the Basque people call a geographic area that is located within both Spanish and French borders home. According to Britannica, "The Basque, who speak a language that is among the oldest in Europe, are ethnically distinct from the people who surround them in France and Spain, having preserved their identity among the waves of migrants who have passed through the region since prehistoric times." The region has not only a distinct language and culture, but also a distinct cuisine. Most of the traditional fare is fish based so I won't be doing a review of Basque dishes here. it was a highlight of the trip though!

On this trip we flew into Bilbao, Spain, and out of Madrid, Spain. We spent two nights in San Sebastian, Spain before traveling up the coast to Biarritz, France. Although the two cities are only 48.9 KM (approximately 30 miles) apart, traveling without a car is somewhat confusing. That is a story for another blog. 

Finally in Biarritz after figuring out the travel,we were happy to arrive and enjoy a glass of French wine at the first little cafe we came to.

Biarritz 2017

Biarritz is a beautiful city on the Bay of Biscay in the southwest of France. Well known for its world class surf, Biarritz is a mixture of a surf town and a resort town for the elite. Luckily, we traveled on the off season for tourism. We were told during high season it is impossible to navigate the narrow winding roads due to traffic. Surf town is more our speed and we found cafes and watering holes where the surfers gathered in the evenings. 

We booked two nights at Radisson Blu Hotel. We were given a corner room with a spectacular ocean view. The hotel has a rooftop area with panoramic views that were breathtaking. We normally try the restaurant when we stay with Radisson but on this trip we wanted to explore the city and dine like a local.

We dined at Le Café du Commerce which was trendy and overrated. 

Click the photo below for the full review.

California Kitchen Biarritz is a place to sit back, relax and dine like a local. We enjoyed the vibe and the food.

Click the photo above for the full review.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Italia - Milano, Lago di Como (Italy - Milan, Lake Como)

Before the world became frozen in time in 2020, we had the great fortune of traveling to Italy in September 2019. Back in 2016, we spent one night in Milan as a stop-over to Venice and always wanted to spend more time there. The first go-round we missed out on finding good steak. Instead, because it was our first time in Italy, we went for pizza in Milan at La Costiera. In Venice, known for seafood, it was some amazing salumi e formaggi at La Bottiglia and pasta at Ristorante Al Cavallo.

Charcuterie Board

The last time around, we were able to enjoy outstanding carpaccio in Milan before taking the train to Lake Como two days later. Lake Como offered some amazing sights and steak! Click the photos below for details...

Panino Giusto, Milano

Ristorante Kincho, Lago di Como

Saturday, July 27, 2019

New York - New York

Ah, New York, Neeewwww Yooorrrrkkkk! The most over reviewed, over scrutinized, overexposed city in the world. Well, here's another one or few. But for those of you who love a good steak, and love discovering new places or reading the praises of your favorite staple, maybe you will appreciate it. 

Having spent many moons in New York City, I don't feel there is anything anyone can read that will either prepare you for it, or do it justice. It is something one must experience for oneself. When you do, you'll either take it or leave it. I don't think I've ever met anyone who did not have a strong opinion one way or the other. So be forewarned... if you are a "this is my town" type, I probably won't talk about your neighborhood or the place you think is the best steak in the city. That will probably piss you off, like any true New Yorker! This is my first New York review but certainly not my last.

Click the photos below for details...

Mark Joseph Steakhouse, New York City
Ulysses, New York City

Gelso & Grand, New York City
Rosemary's, New York City

The Paris Cafe, New York City

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Spain - Madrid, Mérida,Talavera de la Reina

So far, most of my posts reminisced about restaurants and trips in the somewhat distant past. Now that the blog is a reality, I vowed to do better. I decided to post my review from our road trip vacation in Spain and Portugal that just took place from February 9 - February 16, 2019. (that was not enough time, by the way!) I'm on track so far as today is only the 19th! These reviews, you can be assured, are as accurate as I can get without setting up my laptop and reviewing the same day. 

During the trip, when were not enjoying the tapas Spain is renowned for, we enjoyed steak of varying levels. Click the pictures below for the details...

Kalma, Madrid

Restaurante Parador de Mérida -  Mérida

Restaurante Antonio- Talavera de la Reina