6 Fabulous Meals Worth the Extra Effort
The best meals are not always the fanciest, most expensive, famous, or easy to access. We always make the effort to find out the local specialties and tap into local sources for getting to the right place. Join me as I recall a few of my favs:
Breaking from our usual frenetic pace we enjoyed Geneva as the locals do. Under the tutelage of our good friends, Geneva residents Eva and Bob, we are seeing some sites, relaxing, chatting, and enjoying views of the tranquil lake. A highlight for us was visiting the nearby country village of Hermance and enjoying some of the fabulous local perch prepared the typical Swiss way (with a butter sauce), at La Croix Federale. No trip to this part of the world would be complete without sampling this delicious local fish. Good company, blue skies, perfect temperature, the harmony of the migrating songbirds, and cold white wine combined to create a day of really special memories.
My husband and I love oysters and make it a point of trying them wherever we travel. I don’t know how it took us so long to experience these delicious bi-valves in a state we both love. The Narragansett Indians inhabited this area and called it Matunuck meaning “lookout”. Maybe the name reflected a need for security, or maybe it was the view. But the real stars here are the oysters.
University of Rhode Island aquaculture grad Perry Raso farms the delicacies close by on Potter Pond. His pond-to-plate concept at Matunuck Oyster Bar is a winner and his restaurant is on our must-visit list whenever we are in Rhode Island. Three varieties: Matunuck, Rocky Road, and Wild Goose. So sweet and tender. Rocky Roads are our favs. Go Rhody.
Wanting to visit a typical Hawker Market while in Singapore I didn’t know where to begin. Singapore is famous for its Hawker Markets and one market stall even has a Michelin star. To prepare, I read a lot of articles and asked a lot of people, but in the end, we asked our young guide and trusted his advice. He took us to his favorite, the Tiong Bahru Market, away from the tourist fray. The array of food stalls was overwhelming and confusing so we entrusted him with $20 and the goal of just helping us sample some local favorites. Our only request was to watch the heat/spice level for our American stomachs to survive.
It was amazing. We had rice, noodles, pork, chicken, eggplant, soup, and more – all delicious. I tried hard to pronounce the names of all the dishes. And, he returned $8. Incredible. He told us the government is regulating these markets now and they do have sanitary ratings. Stick to the “A”s. We failed every attempt to guess the ingredients of the various dishes we tried.
Of note, Chwee Kueh, made with radishes and Char Kway Teow noodle dish – delicious.
Just north of Tampa Bay, you will find the gulf-coast community of Tarpon Springs. Well-known in central Florida as a colorful Greek community, the area was made famous by Greek sponge divers who arrived in 1905. Today, picturesque Dodecanese Street along the harbor-front plays host to tourists with shops full of sponges and shells as well as a high density of authentic Greek restaurants. Visitors can take a dolphin boat tour or a trip out in the Gulf to learn how early divers harvested the valuable sponges.
We chose Dimitri’s on the Water for a great Greek lunch, making the selection due to the waterfront location. We sat outside and watched tourists board the sponge tour boat while chatting with the tour “diver” suited-up in the old-fashioned dry suit and heavy boots that would anchor him to the seabed. He was leaving the next day for a two-week commercial fishing trip, still a thriving industry in this area.
No visit would be complete without a stop at one of the local bakeries (we stopped at Hella’s), for some traditional baklava or nontraditional baklava cheesecake – all delicious.
While staying at The White Elephant hotel, we skipped the afternoon port & cheese and got ready to head to dinner at a sister property by way of a 50-minute water taxi ride to Topper’s by Water at The Wauwinet. It’s an open boat that holds about 28, and you travel all the way to the head of the harbor enjoying the scenery (with beautiful waterfront mansions). Cheerful staff is on board to serve wine and cocktails along the way. I imagine many days would be either too hot, cold, windy or foggy, but we were lucky, it was a perfect day.
Dinner was a gourmet affair, three-course tasting menu; very continental, some foam, interesting combinations, very rich; my husband survived, and I got to try duck egg for the first time. I must report, the egg was good, very large and rich; it was part of my appetizer and pretty much would have been enough for dinner. My biggest takeaway: I now bake regularly with duck eggs. BTW, the night-time return trip to our hotel was thankfully by van.
They are famous here for their mussels and frites (moules-frites) and the Belgians lay claim to inventing frites (do NOT call them French fries here). We got away from the main square packed with tourists and found a great little spot, ‘t Fonteintje. I had their “maison” sauce with ginger, cream, coriander, and tomato; it was heavenly. The café was on Simon Stevinplein facing a small plaza and had indoor and outdoor seating. They serve the mussels by weight, one kilo, and there must’ve been 100 since they were fairly small; far more than I could finish. Another culinary point I’d like to make is that they eat their frites with mayonnaise here, which I have always preferred and been teased about. I feel vindicated and very continental.