Trail of Crumbs

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St. Albans is incredibly charming, and it’s a very short train ride from London, and there are plenty of other reasons to visit. All of them, however, are being crowded out of my memory because during our visit we ate at a place called The Cock Inn, and I find that to be utterly hilarious.

I wish to make many jokes. Though they are, essentially, all the same joke.

 

I am fairly sure that half of all the establishments in the country are named by a bunch of American middle schoolers who can’t stop laughing at how silly those words sound when someone has a posh English accent.

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I love these goobers.

 

“I can’t figure out what this is.”

“It’s … slimy.”

“I can’t cut anything.”

“Cut? I’ve just been using my hands.”

“Speaking of hands, Geraldine, keep yours to yourself.”

“GOD DAMN IT, JON. Lisa, I swear, I’m not touching him.”

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I have heard that if you take one sense away, the others rush in to cover for it, like dutiful coworkers. When Molly Birnbaum lost her sense of smell after an accident, she talked about how she focused on the texture of food (as the subtleties of taste were now lost to her – she could only detect sweet, salty, bitter, and sour). When my own grandmother was near the end of her life, and nearly blind, I found she focused a great deal on touch, and she’d express alarm when she reached for me on the couch and felt a sockless foot or a too-chilled hand (“Sei scalza? Fa freddo!” You’re barefoot? It’s cold!).

And I’ve heard that eating in pure darkness makes you enjoy a meal more. You appreciate flavors and smells and texture in a way you couldn’t otherwise.

This is, in part, true. You also spill on yourself and accidentally end up eating zebra.

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Spoiler: We eat spiders. If you do not want to see photos of this, then you may want to read another post. (May I suggest this one? It’s about the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. It’s totally safe and spider-free.)

The outdoor patio at Romdeng.

 

On our last night in Phnom Penh, we had dinner at Romdeng. Nicci had read wonderful things about it. It was a training restaurant, part of Friends International, an organization that provides assistance to marginalized children and their families throughout Asia. The bulk of the staff at Romdeng are former street kids (along with a few of their instructors).

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Itty-bitty fried pizzas magically appeared at our table.

 

It is very, very hard to find a good, reasonably priced meal in Amalfi. Most places we went to were subpar. They could afford to be – they’d have a steady stream of tourists coming in regardless of the quality of the food. There were a few more restaurants that were staggeringly well-reviewed, but also absurdly ridiculous.

But what if you don’t want fancy? Or expensive? What if you just want good food at a reasonable price? And hey – cozy and candlelit with a charming waiter looks like a well-fed version of Ralph Macchio circa Karate Kid II wouldn’t be bad, either?

Then you should probably go to Taverna Buonvicino.

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Good thing I don’t drink, or we would have had to sell my car to afford it.

 

We should have learned from our experience back in Frigento that Google Maps could not be trusted in Southern Italy, but it was around the time we reached Positano that the lesson hit home. We’d spent the better part of the afternoon looking for a restaurant that Rand had read about, and found that it was nowhere near where the map had said. In fact, it didn’t even seem to be in Positano.

So we struggled to find another restaurant that came well-reviewed, but it had yet to open for the season. Another was open, but when we came in, we were told that they weren’t actually serving food until the following day (this baffled me, and I was at the point of hunger where I wanted to sit them all down and explain to them how Capitalism worked, but Rand wisely led me away).

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Italian lunchtimes proved difficult for us. Jet lag meant we weren’t hungry until 3 pm or so, and by then, everything was closed. So we spent most afternoons wandering around in a fog of hanger, snapping at each other until we found a gelateria to hold us off until dinner. It wasn’t our finest travel moment.

By the time we left Villa Rufolo, we found that it was once again too late for lunch. The first few restaurants we stopped by were closed until 5pm.

 

Miraculously, though, Trattoria Cumpa Cosimo was open. I can’t remember how we found it – if Rand had managed to get enough cell phone reception up in Ravello to look it up, or if it was just dumb luck. But when we tried the door, it yielded, and when I nervously asked a waitress if the kitchen was still open, she looked at me like I had inquired if they had walls.

“Of course,” she said.

So please, mark this one in your notes, folks: there is a place in Ravello where a starving pair of jet lagged tourists can eat lunch at 3 pm. And it’s quite good, actually.

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Rand and I stopped in Garmisch for a quick snack at a bakery (because if I say I need a snack, 90% of the time what I mean is “I need a pastry). Upon leaving, I noticed the sign on the restaurant across the way, and went in for a closer look.

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It’s a little distressful when your favorite restaurant in Munich topples from the pedestal on which you’ve placed it. It’s like when you encounter your first love again, years after the fact. You find that his voice is higher than you remember, or his eyes lack that trademark twinkle, and you start to wonder: did he change, or did you?

Guido al Duomo was once my favorite restaurant in Munich. It is no longer. Don’t get me wrong: it is still very good, but it is now packed to the gills and the prices have risen dramatically.

This is likely the last dish I’ll ever eat at Guido. I am both heartbroken and entirely okay with this.

 

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