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For complete information, photos and virtual tour, view the listing here:






In early October we attended the Hudson Valley Dance Festival, sponsored by Dancers Responding to AIDS, at historic Catskill Point in Catskill, .  Stanley and I continue to be members of the host committee, and we made more ticket sales this year than in previous years.   Both the afternoon and early evening performances were once again  sold out.  Between the afternoon and evening performances there was the usual outdoor reception, and though it was a bit chilly and cloudy, we were spared any rain.  We nibbled on some excellent charcuterie and cheese, and had a few glasses of wine.  The reception was open to all who bought orchestra seats.   Seven hundred attended in total, and ticket sales and donations were well in excess of last year’s $150,000.

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After the reception, we moved indoors for the performance. This year featured performances by ten dance companies, which were quite impressive, as always.

Bryn Cohn and Artists – Photo by Whitney Browne:

Marcus McGregor – Photo by Daniel Roberts:

The Washington Ballet – Photo by Whitney Browne:

Doug Varone and Dancers – Photo by Daniel Roberts:

Annmaria Mazzini Michael Trusnovec – Photo By Nina Wurtzel:

Ricky Ubeda – Photo By Alon Koppel:

Wendy Whelan – Photo By Whitney Browne:

Ray Mercer – Photo By Nina Wurtzel:


The VIP reception following the evening performance was again at W + G Space, an art and photography studio in downtown Catskill.  There were both passed hors d’oeuvres and a buffet, which made a fine dinner.

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To view the Hudson Valley Dance Festival website:



Empellon Taqueria – An Old Favorite Still Shines

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Empellon Taqueria has been at the corner of West 4th and West 10th since 2011, and is still going strong.  We love having it in the neighborhood.  While so many restaurants either close or just become stale, Empellon has been consistently wonderful.  We love the spicy cucumber Margarita, and the tacos are more imaginative and better executed than what is typical.  They are not afraid to use organ meats (head cheese, sweetbreads, pork tongue) which we adore, and the service is always  faultless.  Ordering tip:  Ask for corn tortillas, they are more flavorful than the flour ones, and more authentically Mexican.

Europe 2018 – Part 6 – Paris

Thursday, 9/27

After a nice, simple breakfast at the hotel in Venice, we walked the 2 blocks to the station for our train trip to Paris, which took 12 hours, with 2 transfers, at Milan and Basel.  We thought we would pick up lunch at Milan, but the station did not seem to offer much.  As it turned out, this was a good thing as the next train had a dining car.

Unfortunately they were out of most of the dishes on the menu.  Nonetheless, we ate reasonably well.  Stanley had polenta with ratatouille.  I had Thai chicken curry with basmati rice, and both were surprisingly good. A bottle of Primitivo was ridiculously priced at 34.50 euros, but it’s always a nice part of the train travel experience to have a meal in a dining car. The bill was 65 euros.

We had plenty of time in Basel before getting the TGV to Paris, so we bought food for dinner to eat on the train.  The Basel station has some wonderful food choices.  First we bought some Matjes herring filets for appetizers and sandwiches of baby langoustines, cucumber, cheese and chopped red and yellow peppers from Nordsee, which we knew from a trip to Brussels some years ago.  The quality of their seafood is impeccable.  Total here was $20.  We then stopped into a grocery and  picked up a bottle of a Swiss rose and a bottle of water, and some plastic cups.  $10 here.  Last was dessert from Sprungli, a patisserie and confectionery that has been in business since 1836.  $10 for 2 chocolate cups filled with raspberry mousse on top of a raspberry coulis and topped with a raspberry and some pastry cream.  A fabulous meal for $40, all right there in the Basel station.

Arriving in Paris, we took a taxi from Gare de Lyon to Ana and Bertrand’s house in La Varenne (St. Maur).  We began giving them a report on our trip, as they told us about their recent trip to St. Petersburg (Russia, not Florida).

Friday, 9/28

This was Stanley’s birthday.  We had planned lunch and dinner way ahead.  Lunch was with John Talbott, the well-known Paris food blogger, and his wife, at La Condesa, which is run by the Mexican chef Indra Carillo, who used to work at Pujol in Mexico City (See my Mexico City post from 2015 with a report on Pujol).

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Lunch was spectacular, starting with a crisp corn galette with goat cheese, and amuse-bouche of mushroom tempura with sorrel sauce.  I don’t have all the details, but from memory the dishes we had included tomatoes with tomato ice cream, cream and crumbled something, squid ink tagliolini with shreds of yellow and green squash and strips of squid in a spiced broth, plaice topped with a spiced sauce , Pyrenees lamb with tomato coulis and eggplant puree, figs with creme anglaise and Mexican spices with ice cream.  A red wine from the l’Herault region was quite good.  The 3-course lunch menu is 38 euros.  With 2 bottles of wine, water and coffees, the total was 240 euros.condesa.jpg

On the way back, we picked up 5 bottles (half litre) of Pedro Ximenes sherry at the Andalucian gourmet store in La Varenne, enough for our after-dinner drinks for the time we were here.

Ana and Bertrand joined us for dinner at Zebulon.  This is the sister restaurant to Pirouette, which we have been to before, but under a different chef at that time.


The 3-course dinner menu is 49 euros, with small supplements on a few dishes.  Some of the dishes we had were marinated sea bass, marinated beef, bonito with bok choy and shallots with an Asian-style vinaigrette, lamb rib with shoulder confit, lemon tarte, and orange flower mousse with chocolate sorbet, topped with a chocolate wafer.  With a bottle of a Languedoc red, the bill for 4 was 232 euros. Note that service is very slow.  Allow 3 hours for dinner here.

Saturday, 9/29

Our original plan was to take a day trip with Ana and Bertrand to see a chateau, but they were not able to, so we made alternate plans.  There was a special exhibit at the Musee Marmottan, the mostly Monet museum with a few works by other impressionist artists. Before the museum, though, the first stop was lunch, at Quarante et Un, a bistro a few blocks from the museum on Avenue de Mozart.

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Stanley had veal scallopine Milanese topped with salad and parmesan, and I had the “fameux” Boudin Basque, with baked apple, mashed potatoes and salad.  With a bottle of   “vin de France”, which was pretty good, and coffee, the bill was 65 euros.

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The Marmottan is one of the “house museums” that we love so much, and Stanley had never been there.  I had, but it was many, many years ago.


The exhibit was of works lent by private collectors around the world, ranging from impressionism to fauvism.  Some of the artists featured, aside from Monet, were Caillebotte, Sisley, Gaugin, Dufy and Toulouse-Lautrec.

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Aside from the special exhibit, we explored the permanent collections.  This painting, “Impression Sunrise”, is regarded as the seminal impressionist work, for which the movement was named:

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We returned to La Varenne to shop for some of the ingredients for the Sunday dinner, which Stanley was going to cook, and several bottles of wine.  Later, we headed back into Paris for dinner, arriving half an hour late for our reservation due to a train line out of service and then walking in the wrong direction, but luckily the restaurant had not given away our table.

Le Desnoyez is a tiny restaurant in the 20th, near the Place Belleville.

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The menu is very limited, and changes regularly, but we were very happy with the choices.  Stanley began with oeuf mayonnaise, a variation that included black bean sauce, while I had ris de veau with lemon and capers.  My main course was rascasse (scorpion fish) with mussels, squid, and vegetables, all in a nicely spiced broth.  His was duck breast with braised cabbage.  The food here is simply prepared, no fancy plating, but it is deeply flavorful.  With a bottle of Cahors (25 euros) the bill came to 95.

Sunday, 9/30

The day was spent entirely in La Varenne.  In the morning we went to the farmers’ market with Ana, where we bought a pork loin roast, potatoes, ingredients for petits pois a la Francais, and marinated herring filets, and walked home along the quai.

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Their son Alex and fiance Marie came for the mid-afternoon dinner.  After kirs and hors d’oeuvres, we sat down to a fabulous meal beginning with the herring, then the milk-braised pork loin with potatoes and the petits pois.

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We liked the Minervois that we had bought at the supermarket for about 7 euros.

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Ana picked up a wonderful dessert, a tarte Tropezienne, a cream-filled brioche so named as it was created in St. Tropez (in 1955), and was named by the actress Brigitte Bardot when she was filming in St. Tropez at the time.

Sunday evening, Ana made a paella with seafood and chicken, which was absolutely delicious.

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We had a cheese course and then dessert, which was the remainder of the Tropezienne and several ice creams.

Monday, 10/1

I spent the morning updating the blog, then we went to lunch with Ana and Bertrand at Coretta, across from Martin Luther King Park in the 17th.

Beatriz Gonzalez, originally from Mexico, is the chef/owner of Neva Cuisine, and this is her more recent venture.

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The dishes are very creative and beautifully presented, similar to La Condesa in that regard.  Stanley and Bertrand started with the grilled squid. Ana and I had the langoustines.  For the mains, Ana and Bertrand had the fish of the day, cod, Stanley had the wild boar, and I had quail.  For dessert I had the baba, Stanley the pan di Spagna, Ana the brioche, and Bertrand the blanc manger.  I got tastes of most and everything worked perfectly.  With one bottle of Costiere de Nimes and coffees for all, the total was 219 euros.

After lunch Stanley and I took the metro to St. Denis to see the Abbey/Cathedral.

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We then headed back to La Varenne, where I caught up on emails and blogging, before going back into Paris for dinner at Chez Michel.

I had chosen Chez Michel despite the fact that it is very traditional, which is usually not our preference, because I had a feeling they might have some game dishes.  We were happy to find that they did, and also that the quality of everything we had was top-notch.

After they brought out a plate of periwinkles with a mayonnaise for dipping, Stanley started with fish soup, which came as a bowl of shaved parmesan and slices of spicy sausage, with a large pitcher of soup to be poured over.  I had chopped crab mixed with mayonnaise.  The main courses were what really excited us.  I had grouse, which I have found on a menu only about a half dozen times in my life, either in England or France.  This one was served with foie gras and girolle mushrooms and was cooked perfectly medium rare.  It carried a supplement of 12 euros on the 38 euro menu, but was worth every penny.  Stanley had partridge, also with foie gras, which had an 8 euro supplement. It was wonderful too.  For dessert we had a Paris-Brest and riz au lait, both classics done well.  With wine, the bill was 124.


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Tuesday, 10/2

Lunch was at Fulgurances.

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This is unusual in that they don’t have a regular chef but instead bring in young guest chefs from all over the world, each staying for a few months.  The current one is Mariana Villegas, originally from Mexico, who has worked for Danny Meyer in New York, then at Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York.  Though less creative than I was anticipating, the food was very tasty, the ingredients were first-rate and for 25 euros for 3 courses at lunch, it’s an unbeatable value. Choices are limited to 2 appetizers 2 mains and one dessert.  Stanley had a lettuce wedge with coppa (cured pork neck), figs and avocado, and hanger steak with red beans, avocado and a chili sauce.  I had a salad of mixed heirloom tomatoes on a puree of smoked eggplant, followed by grilled fish, listed on the menu as mulot noir (I could not find a translation) in a broth with grilled bok choy and very thin sliced potatoes.  The dessert was an interpretation of tres leches cake, a brioche topped with a dome of whipped cream mixed with mascarpone.  They were out of the Cahors I ordered, and substituted a wine that was not as good, for 28 euros.  Total with coffee was 85.

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Afterward, we went to the Petit Palais to see the special exhibit of impressionist paintings done while the artists were exiled to London during the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71.

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Once again, back to La Varenne briefly before returning to Paris for dinner at Le Radis Beurre.

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This is perhaps our favorite Paris restaurant, which we have been to twice before (See my posts from 2016 and 2017).  The food is wonderful and a bargain at 35 euros for 3 courses (same price at lunch and dinner).  As in the past, I started with pig’s feet, while Stanley had a country pate en croute, served with cornichons and jars of pickled vegetables.  Salad is also served alongside this course.  I then had rable de lievre (saddle of hare), which had a supplement of 10 euros, again satisfying my craving for game.  Stanley had the superb tete de veau.  For dessert, Stanley had baba au rhum (3 euro supplement) and I had riz au lait with salted caramel sauce.  I prefer this version to the one at Chez Michel, but that is just my taste.  We had a wonderful bottle of Cote du Roussillon for 39 euros.

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The service and ambience are really nice too.  Total was 122.

Wednesday, 10/3

For our last meal before heading to the airport, we treated Ana and Bertrand to lunch at L’Arcane, a Michelin starred restaurant in Montmartre which offers a 3-course lunch menu for 49 euros.

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It is really more like 5 courses as the amuse-bouche and pre-dessert are substantial.  There are no choices, but they do inquire about food allergies. So, here is a fairly detailed description of the dishes as I remember them:

Amuse – Salade niçoise – fresh tuna, anchovy, tomato, quail egg, olive, crouton

Entrée – 3 scallops in Champagne sauce, topped with chopped nuts in vinegar.  I am not a big fan of cooked scallops (love them raw and marinated) as I find them a bit too sweet and cloying, but the sourness of the nut topping offset that beautifully.

Quail – Stuffed breast, legs, mushroom fricassee, dab of potato puree topped with a braised shallot.

Pre-dessert – Pistachio panna cotta – Topped with toasted pistachios and a sorbet of spinach, parsley and lemon.

Dessert – Red berry sorbet in a white chocolate/raspberry shell, on a cream base sprinkled with berries and meringue chips.

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With wine and coffee, the bill was about 245 euros.

Now for the difficult question, how do each of these restaurants stack up in our opinion?

Best traditional – Chez Michel

Best updated traditional – Le Radis Beurre

Best creative – tie between La Condesa and L’Arcane

Best value – Le Radis Beurre, La Condesa and Fulgurances

Which would we go back to?  Definitely La Condesa and Radis Beurre. Very likely Chez Michel and Fulgurances.  Possibly L’Arcane.  Not that there was anything wrong with the others, just that we like to try out new places on each trip so some of the ones we have been to will take a back seat.







Europe 2018 – Part 5 – Venice

Wednesday, 9/26

After an easy 3 ½ hour drive from Croatia, we arrived in Venice just before noon, returned the car, and took the people mover to Piazzale Roma. From there it was just a few blocks to the hotel, but with luggage it seemed like miles. Hotel Dolomiti is basic but clean and just around the corner from the station, which was important to us.

There is no elevator, so beware if you have difficulty with stairs. Our room was 3 flights up. There is no air conditioning but thankfully the weather was cool enough and there was a fan. About $150 a night, breakfast included. not bad for Venice.

Once settled in, we made our way through the throngs along the main drag of Cannaregio, to Vini da Gigio, where I had reserved for lunch. This turned out to be a fabulous choice.

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The atmosphere is charming, with windows facing onto a quiet canal, and service was friendly and efficient. I started with Sarde in Saor, marinated sardines with pickled onions, pine nuts and raisins. It was the best rendition of this dish that I have ever had, and an enormous portion. Stanley opted for a Caprese salad, a hunk of fresh mozzarella with cherry tomatoes, simple and delicious. Next I went with fegato alla Veneziana, the famous calf’s liver dish, which was textbook perfect. He had turbot with mushrooms and roasted potatoes. Lovely. With a very nice bottle of Rosso Costiera from the Veneto (21 euros, cheapest on the list), coffees and water, the bill was 117 euros.

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As we walked around afterward, we observed that Venice had become even more overrun with tourists than it was on our last visit 11 years ago, if that could be possible, and the number of shops and stands selling junky souvenirs had increase tenfold. And of course, no one was watching where they were walking, all eyes glued to phones, or taking selfies. I didn’t take many pictures, as everyone knows what Venice looks like, but here are a few:

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This one made us laugh:

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We stopped off at Grom for a gelato, and were surprised to notice as we walked around that they had a number of locations, as there was only one back in 2007. Despite the hordes, Venice is still a beautiful and unique place, but if you’ve been there before, one day there is quite enough, in our opinion anyway.

Back at the hotel, I attended to emails and blogging, before setting out for dinner at Antiche Carampane, directions to which I had written down in excruciating detail from Google maps. It was supposed to be a 14 minute walk, but after a few blocks the instructions became meaningless, and we proceeded to get completely lost, finally arriving at the restaurant an hour later, after asking at least a dozen people for directions, with only half of them having any idea where any street was (and these were all locals). Arriving 40 minutes late for our reservation, we were told they had given our table away (don’t they know how difficult it is to find?) but luckily they had outdoor tables available, and we were actually quite happy to sit there.

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The food was very good, but perhaps just a notch below Vini da Gigio. We began with a shared plate of tagliolini with spider crab, then I had grilled sole with zucchini, and Stanley had braised veal cheek with pureed potatoes. Both were very tasty. Wines here are very expensive by the bottle, so we opted for a ¾ liter carafe of tocai, which was quite acceptable for 16 euros. For dessert we shared a pavlova with yogurt and mixed berries. Light and refreshing. With water, the bill came to 106 euros.

After dinner, we decided not to risk trying to find our way back on foot, and with not much difficulty found the nearest vaporetto stop and were quickly transported to our destination.

Thursday, 9/27

After a simple breakfast at the hotel, we walked the 2 blocks to the station and caught the 8:20 train to Milano, where we would change to another train to Basel, and from there to another train to Paris.


Europe 2018 – Part 4 – Croatia and Slovenia

Sunday, 9/23

Following our afternoon in Trieste, we headed down to Croatia, where we stayed in Draga, a suburb of Rijeka.  Our plan was to tour the Istrian peninsula on Monday and to go to Lake Bled in Slovenia on Tuesday.  Arriving in the early evening after a long day of driving, we settled into our apartment at “Studio Apartments Fancy”, which was not exactly fancy, but very comfortable and charming in a quirky sort of way.  The owner, Keli, was very welcoming and helpful with advice on restaurants, directions, etc.  We had made a wrong turn on the way and he was nice enough to drive to where we were and lead us to his place.  The apartment, set on a hilltop, has a patio with tables and umbrellas and a view down to the sea. It is very spacious, with a kitchen and a large bathroom.

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We didn’t want to travel far for dinner, so Keli recommended Konoba Brig, just down the road.  It was a very simple place with a pleasant outdoor terrace.  The food was tasty enough but not out of the ordinary.  Prices were very low. We started with a charcuterie and cheese plate, generous but not of top quality, for main courses Stanley had pork chops with potatoes, and I had pork medallions with a cream sauce with sage and prosciutto, which came with grilled mushrooms and vegetables. That was very tasty.  We also had a liter of the house red wine.  The bill came to about $40.

A note about currency in Croatia:

The Kuna is worth about 16 cents.  To make prices easier to understand, I am stating them in dollars here.

Monday, 9/24

This was our day to tour the Istrian peninsula. There is much to see here, so we could not possibly cover everything in one day, so we concentrated on Rovinj, with plans to stop in Groznjan and Buzet on the way back to Draga.

Rovinj is a picture-perfect seaside town, with a medieval core.  After driving around trying to find the reasonably priced and well-regarded restaurant I had picked out, but could not locate due to one-way roads, we parked in the main lot and strolled into the old town.

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The first restaurant we encountered was Puntulina, which I had been aware of but eliminated due to its being quite expensive.

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Seafood is costly in Croatia, apparently because no one is fishing here despite being on the sea, unlike Italy where fishing is still an important industry. In restaurants, meat dishes are typically half that of fish.  Wine, even though it is produced here and is cheap in stores, has a ridiculously high markup in restaurants, with no explanation other than they do it because they can.

We took a look at the menu and indeed, main courses were around $30, appetizers around $16, so we decided to walk on, but seeing that it was already filling up and not knowing if we would find anything good for less, we turned around and got a table while there was still one available. It was absolutely beautiful sitting on the multilevel terrace with a stunning view of sea and mountains.


The food was just as stunning. We shared a starter of local squid “Rovinj style”, tender and delicious, then an order of ravioli with black truffles. My main course was grilled sea bass filets with a green herb sauce, on top of soft polenta mixed with cherry tomatoes, while Stanley had a different fish filet with nuts.  We also shared some excellent grilled vegetables.  For the wine, we picked a local rose, about $35.  With water and coffee, the total was about $150.

After lunch we strolled around the harbor and old town, then drove North toward Groznjan, but unfortunately it was not on our map and there were no signs for it, despite the fact that I knew approximately where it was and we must have passed within a few kilometers of it as we continued on to Buzet.

We were surprised to find that Buzet, a well-preserved medieval hill town with a recently restored church, had no people in evidence and no stores, restaurants or other businesses. Curious.

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Back in Draga, we got ready for dinner, for which we went to Bevanda, a famous restaurant in Opatija, another seaside town in Istria.

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This was our big splurge meal, as our Croatian friend had told us we should absolutely not miss it despite the cost. Stanley was tempted by the roast lamb, which was half the price of fish, but I insisted we have fish as that is what the restaurant specializes in.

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We started with pasta, for him the seafood agnolotti with black truffle, for me the squid ink gnocchi with shellfish in a tomato saffron cream sauce. Both were superb. We then had a whole grilled fish, arbun, for which there is no equivalent English name.  It was excellent (certainly should be for $115 for 2 people!).  We had a side of Swiss chard with potatoes, a local specialty. Dessert was forgettable, a millefoglie of biscuits layered with whipped cream and (supposedly wild) berries. We had a really good, full-bodied Malvasia ($35), so with water the total was around $220. We would probably spend around that for a similar meal in New York, but as we find restaurants in Europe generally cheaper, it seemed a bit excessive.  Service was less attentive than it should have been in a top level restaurant.  It was not busy at all, yet our server kept disappearing or attending to other things and not noticing that our wine glasses were empty (she had placed the ice bucket away from the table) or that it was 20 minutes after we ordered dessert before we finally caught her attention or we might have sat there all night waiting for it. Regardless, I would recommend this place for a special dinner.

Tuesday, 9/25

We did a day trip to Lake Bled in Slovenia, which was about a 2 ½ hour drive from Draga.  The lake is beautiful and the drive up is scenic. Slovenia is very green and mountainous.

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We had planned on lunch at Restaurant 1906, a fine dining but not expensive place on a hill overlooking the lake. I had emailed in the morning requesting a reservation, not even sure we would need one in the off-season on a weekday, but it turned out they were fully booked.  We could see from the long tables that they were expecting a tour group. The hostess recommended a couple of other places, one of which (probably the better one) has no parking so would require a 15 minute walk from the nearest parking place, so went to the other one, Ostarija Peglez’n, a cute but simple place facing the lake.

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The waiter was genial and the food was decent enough, if nothing to write home about. We both began with fish soup, which was pretty good.  Stanley had pork Wiener schnitzel with French fries (not home made) and I had trout (not local as I might have hoped) with the typical chard and potato mixture.  A liter of house red wine (bottles were expensive). With 2 coffees, we spent about 65 euros, which is what we typically spent in Italy for much higher quality. Why is Slovenia so expensive?

For dinner on our final night in Draga, we drove the short distance into Rijeka, arriving early enough to stroll around and check out several restaurants I had in mind. Rijeka, as I had been warned by our Croatian friend, is a rather grim port city.  They’ve created a pedestrian zone on the Korzo, the main street, but even the café tables and umbrellas set up along the center of it don’t add much charm. The combination of poorly maintained 19th century buildings, and hideous modern ones from the Communist era, along with very downscale stores, does not make this a very inviting place.  The first restaurant we looked at, Konoba Feral, was recommended by Keli, and may have been very good, but their credit card system was not working and we didn’t want to bother with cash.  We continued to Volta, which had gotten great user reviews as recently as a month ago, but it was closed (by its appearance permanently but I can’t be sure).  The last one was Konoba Nebuloza, again a recommendation from our Croatian friend and of her friends who live in Rijeka.  It was a gem.

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We were tempted by a number of dishes, and the choice became more difficult as we saw wonderful looking plates of food going to the tables around us. The tuna steak looked great, but I decided to stick with my original choice of duck breast, and Stanley chose duck confit, but first, we shared cuttlefish on grilled polenta, and then Istrian pasta, homemade pasta tubes with sausage and bacon in a tomato sauce.  A liter of house red was good, and reasonably priced, as everything here was. The confit was succulent and served on a bed of potato puree with a polenta cake and small sides of beets, leeks and preserved lemon.  My duck breast, cooked to a perfect medium rare, was on a balsamic vinegar reduction, and accompanied by mashed sweet potatoes and an arugula and mango salad.  For dessert, a chocolate ganache made for a perfect ending.  The creative cooking, attentive service and nice atmosphere make this place special.  The bill came to just under $90.

All in all, we had a very nice time in Croatia, and would consider returning and seeing more of the country.  The next morning we were off to Venice.  See my next post for that part of the trip.