travel: brave new world…

Grand Palais

When the clock struck 2011, I quit my job and lept into a brave new world, vast and endless.

Scared?  Out of my mind.

Excited?  Brimming.

Unfettered, a free agent to the world, I shrugged off responsibility and began my adventure in Europe, grabbing life by the cheeks and squeezing as hard as I could.  And the world smiled back with a journey of a lifetime.

*          *          *

Whitstable in the morning.

*          *          *

Rarely is life like the movies.

But for the last month, I have lived a fairytale, moving through scenes too perfectly scripted, too beautifully framed to be real. From the wind-swept coast of Kent to the sunny Costa Brava, I pinched myself every day, counting my blessings and praying that my trip would never end.

I met friends, old and new.  I occupied spaces familiar and unfamiliar, high and low, simple and breathtaking.

I stepped foot in five countries, a dozen cities, and countless restaurants, patisseries, and cafes.

I slept little and ate a lot.  Over twenty-five Michelin stars passed across my plate in less than twenty-one days, towing with them my weight in cheese, butter, and bread.

I spent two lovely days among the oyster coves of Seasalter, reveling in salt marsh umami.

In London, I ate a glove of pig, stuffed with mousse made from chicken, sweetbreads, and morels.

I had mille-feuille near the Place de la République one day with my friend Sophie, and again at the Place de Trocadero the next. The day after that, we indulged in ice cream on the Ile St. Louis. Two days later, I returned with my friend Hue to the Place de la République for more mille-feuille. Such are the luxuries of lingering in Paris.

I attended the third annual Paris des Chefs conference with Food Snob, where graffiti artists and jewelers teamed up with chefs from across the world to explore the visible and invisible.

In Lyon, I was out late and up early with Team U.S.A. for the Bocuse d’Or competition.  There, I also bumped into my friend Bruno Verjus, who invited me to attend a private tasting with one of my favorite chefs, Christian LeSquer.

I learned to drive stick-shift – alone in the Vosges mountains – in search of tarte flambée.

In St. Moritz, I pretended to be rich and beautiful eating white Alba truffles on the slopes with my friends Talie and Scarlett.  That was a wild and short-lived dream.

And in sunny, breezy Spain, I finally arrived at the destination of all destination restaurants – el bulli.

About these things, and more, I’ll write in the coming weeks. But for now, I leave you with a list of restaurants and eateries I visited on this trip.  I’ll hyperlink them to the reviews when they are posted.  To everyone who has been a part of this amazing journey, I send you a big-hearted thanks – your support and encouragement has been invaluable.

*          *          *

United Kingdom

Koffman’s at the Berkeley (London)
The Sportsman (once, twice; Seasalter)
St. John Bread & Wine (London)
Viajante (London)

France

l’Arnsbourg (Baerenthal)
l’Arpege (Paris)
l’Astrance (Paris)
Berthillon Glacerie (Paris)
la Bigarrade (Paris)
Brasserie l’Est (Lyon)
Brasserie l’Ouest (Lyon)
Carette Patisserie (Paris)
Chez l’Ami Jean (twice; Paris)
les Fines Gueules (Paris)
Jacques Genin Patisserie (Paris)
Paul Bocuse (Lyon)
au Pont du Corbeau (Strasbourg)
Saturne (Paris)
Thomas (Lyon)

Switzerland

la Baraca (St. Moritz)
Dolder Grand (Zurich)
Johri’s Talvo (Champfer, St. Moritz)
el paradiso (St. Moritz)
Philippe Rochat, Hotel de Ville (Crissier)
la Stalla (St. Moritz)

Spain

elBulli (Cala Montjoi)
El Cellar de Can Roca (Girona)
El Moli (Pont de Molins)
El Quim de la Boqueria (Barcelona)


* Photos: The first photo is of the Grand Palais at night in Paris, France.  The second photo was taken on the coast of Kent, in Whitstable, The United Kingdom.

~ by ulterior epicure on February 8, 2011.

13 Responses to “travel: brave new world…”

  1. This is a wonderful introduction to your journey. Kudos on taking the plunge! We’re at similar points in our lives. =)

  2. Takes a lot of courage to quit a job and set sail on such a trip. I’ll be watching the coming posts as I plan my first overseas trip since I was in highschool. Congrats on such a wonderful trip and good luck with whatever comes next.

  3. Can’t wait to read the whole adventure and so very happy for you, my friend, that you took the plunge into self-employment!

  4. Wait a moment as there’s something wrong with this picture. I’ve quit jobs and ate nothing but ramen noodles for the longest time.

    All jokes aside…As far as I know were only here once. Follow your passion my friend and go for it. Bravo!

  5. SO now that you’ve quit your job…what are the plans for your new job?…or no job?

  6. This is quite a leap – a lot of people go through life only fantasizing about something like this. I’m curious as to how you managed to do it on a more practical level (at this point, the closest I think I may come to personally realizing something like this is fleeing the country to escape my law school debtors).

    Needless to say, I’m very jealous. I would say best of luck, but it appears that you’re doing all right on your own.

    Looking forward to the coming posts.

  7. I’m really looking forward to your reviews. I always enjoy reading them but now you will write about restaurants I know or that are easily reachable from where I live (Switzerland) and this makes it even better. You sure made some good choices concerning the restaurants you visited in Switzerand. Hope you enjoyed it!

  8. Only wish that can have your life ;-) just quit my job & travel the world ;-) Looking forward to see all your fantastic reviews, but most of all, I love all your pix on Flickr! Just simply amazing, you have eyes for the food like no others!

  9. Wow, congratulations on the big move. I had been following your amazing (and beautiful) escapades over the last few weeks on flickr and wondering how the heck you orchestrated this…i.e. “doesn’t this guy have to go back to work at some point?!”

    In any event, best of luck for your next venture(s) and I look forward to reading about your accounts of some of these (what I am sure were) amazing experiences!

    Best regards.

  10. Wait. Five countries? Which one didn’t you eat in?

    Looking forward to hearing all about it.

  11. This is going to be a great journey. I really can’t wait to read. Past year, I turned down a great job opportunity to cook at a 3 michelin restaurant in NYC to spend time with my mother who lives abroad(didn’t see her 12 years). Then back to US and did 1/2 country traveling/stages/eating/working in a farm/visiting artisanal food makers/farmers.

    Best experience of my life and spent 5 years of saving during that 8 months span. I am certain this is going to be the best decision you have made in life. 25 Michelin restaurants?

    Looking forward to your El Bulli, Pierre Koffmann, Juan Roca, Bocuse post and all. Chef John and Chef Karen were perfect dining companion, lovely/nice people.

    Cheers to you and yet thanks again for the inspiration.

  12. Thanks, everyone, for you kind words and encouragement.

    @Ben Bush: Germany.

  13. Amazing! Also how much money did you have to save up to eat at all those places? Curious to know how much i would need to make a similar journey?

    Looking forward to your week by week decloaking of the meals!

    Regards

    James

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