Paris picks the best baguette for 2010
The baguette—created here in Paris in 1830—is taken very seriously by locals. So much so that there's a contest organized by City Hall every year to name the best loaf.
This competition—the Grand Prix de la Baguette de la Ville de Paris—was held today, and the big winner is Djibril Bodian from Le Grenier à Pain in Montmartre (38 rue des Abbesses, 18th arrondissement). Bodian is no stranger to Grand Prix competition. He came in 5th place in 2009 and 4th place in 2007 before taking the top prize.
Bodian beat out more than 160 other bakers to win in 2010, garnering a cash prize of €4,000 and a contract to keep President Nicolas Sarkozy in baguettes throughout the coming year.
Watch this blog for more on Bodian's winning baguette, plus a guide to our favorite prize-winning Paris bakeries. An in-depth report on the competition and its winners will be posted very soon. In the meantime, check out this account of the event from Phyllis Flick, an American food writer who participated as a judge in this year's Grand Prix baguette competition.
San Francisco: 3 worthy bike rides
Surprisingly, San Francisco, even with its crazy-steep hills, is a bike-friendly town. In fact, one of the best ways to explore is on two wheels, thanks to the extensive network of connecting bike lanes—45 miles total, with another 34 miles in the works. The lanes go along blessedly flat areas, circumventing the steepest inclines in the city, making for fun and easy rides all over town. So many people bike here that motorists are used to looking out for them, making it a safe way to get around. Bike-rental companies do offer pricey tours, but now that Google Maps just added a bike-route mapping feature, finding a route is easier than ever. In the meantime, here are three of the city's best rides that are scenic and easy on your body: Downtown to Ocean Beach Known by locals as the "wiggle," this route heads south down Market street and then west through the Lower Haight, the Divisadero, through Golden Gate Park (with plenty of biking diversions of its own), and on to Ocean Beach, where you can bike along the shore. Plus, you'll avoid the imposing Haight Street hill. The Embarcadero A bike lane runs the length of the Embarcadero along the bay's edge. You can start at the AT&T; Park (which happens to have free valet bike parking for major events) or at the Ferry Building and ride down to Fisherman's Wharf. Feeling fit? Keep going around the water to Crissy Field park, a great waterfront picnic spot (grab a lunch to go at Greens) and all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, which itself is a great ride. If you'd like to tackle the Golden Gate Bridge by bike, try going at night, when pedestrians aren't allowed. After 9 p.m., bike riders can cross the bridge by pressing the buzzer on the security gates on the east side. Angel Island No cars are allowed on Angel Island, which just opened this month for the summer season. The five-mile loop around the perimeter of this island is a worthy ride, with jaw-dropping 360-degree views of the Bay, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin. All 740 acres compose a state park, so there are plenty of picnic spots along the way, as well as a Harbor Front cafe serving fresh oysters. Take your bike on the Blue and Gold Fleet ferry from Pier 41 to get there. A few things to remember If you get tired or have a flat, there are bike racks on the front of San Francisco Muni buses. No bike racks? Chain it to a parking meter. Helmets aren't required by law, but you should wear one anyway. When riding in the bike lanes, keep to the left side of the lane. Watch out for people opening their car doors: This is a major source of accidents in the city. Where to rent Bike and Roll: 4 locations, including Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, and Embarcadero. 415/229-2000, from $28 per day or $7 per hour. Blazing Saddles: 7 locations. 415/202-8888, from $28 a day. Check out the non-profit San Francisco Bike Coalition for more information about safety tips, bike laws, and a downloadable topographic biking maps. UPDATE May 12: The San Francisco Bike Coalition has just launched a new and improved planning site, sfbikemapper.org.
Readers' best doorway photos
A few months ago we noticed doorway photos emerging as a theme on myBudgetTravel, our online community. Excuse the mixed metaphor, but these remarkable doorways are real windows into other cultures. Here are 23 of the best images. MORE READER SLIDE SHOWS Mexico | Food | Nighttime STILL IN SEARCH OF... We're now collecting your unusual shots of famous monuments. Upload them through myBudgetTravel, tag them, and check back in the coming weeks for a slide show of the best submissions.
Rome: Where to eat when you need a pasta break
I had lunch last week with a new press attaché for the American Embassy in Rome, and he asked a question that boggles the mind of most new residents. "Why aren't there any ethnic restaurants in Rome?" In fact, for a city synonymous with good eating, there is an often shocking lack of choice. The reason is a combination of bureaucracy and lack of interest. It's extremely difficult to open a restaurant in Italy, and foreigners have it much harder than Italians. But few Italians have the culinary background to open an authentic ethnic restaurant, and there's no real drive to offer choice. Tourists mostly want to eat Roman cuisine, and the local population isn't what I'd call gastronomically adventurous. It's even difficult to cook ethnic food in Rome. The vegetable market on Piazza Vittorio near Termini station has the largest selection of dried spices and vegetables, but it's almost impossible to get fresh items like snow peas, Thai basil, lemon grass or fresh cilantro with any regularity (or at reasonable prices). Luckily, over years living in Rome, I've uncovered some satisfying ethnic restaurants for times when you just can't eat another noodle. My go-to Indian restaurant is Surya Mahal. The owners are wonderfully friendly (though they have a tendency to lower the heat on the vindaloo), and there's outdoor seating in a garden overlooking Piazza Trilussa. Via di Ponte Sisto, 67, 50; 011-39/06-589-4554. I recently discovered Green Tea near the Pantheon, which has a great ambiance and authentic Chinese dishes. Via del Pie' di Marmo, 28; 011-39/06-679-8628. Zen Sushi is a sceney place for Japanese; the decor may be obnoxious, but the sushi is great. Via degli Scipioni, 243; 011-39/06-321-3420. The best Mediterranean fusion option is the super-swanky Ketumbar, just beyond Trastevere in the nightlife-centric district of Testaccio. Via Galvani 24, 011-39/06-5730-5338. While calling it authentic "tex-mex" would be an exaggeration, The Perfect Bun does serve up a great plate of nachos and spicy wings—right by the Pantheon. Largo del Teatro Valle, 4, 011-39/06-4547-6337. A long-time favorite for Vietnamese food is Thien Kim, which is on a quiet street near Campo dei Fiori. Via Giulia, 201; 011-39/06-6830-7832.
San Francisco: Gourmet to-go windows
Award-winning chefs at establishments like Fish and Farm and Chez Spencer are now serving lunch out of to-go windows, all for about half the price of what you'd spend in the restaurant. Now that the weather is getting warmer—and the sun is actually coming out—a picnic seems like an idyllic way to spend an afternoon. It's easier than you think with these delicious options at to-go prices. One caveat: These windows draw crowds, so expect lines—but it's well worth the wait. American Box Lunch 'Hood Union Square Grub Sandwiches, salads, and burgers. During lunch hour on weekdays, Fish and Farm, a much-buzzed-about new restaurant serving local seafood and meats, sells boxed lunches just across the street from the restaurant's main entrance. Called the American Box Lunch, the to-go meals are becoming even more popular than the restaurant itself, mostly due to the line-caught, house-made tuna sandwich with heirloom tomatoes and tartar sauce ($9) and a cheeseburger with Niman Ranch beef, house-made pickles, and grilled onions, which local magazine 7X7 named one of the best in the city ($8). Where to sit Take your boxed lunch three blocks over to the park in Union Square, which has benches and tables. Details Cash only, Mon.-Fri. 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 339 Taylor Street. Spencer On the Go 'Hood SOMA Grub French. Instead of the fine-dining experience at Chez Spencer, enjoy French food by the same award-winning chef Laurent Katgely at the restaurant's taco truck, parked in the evenings at the corner of Folsom and 7th Street. The menu features items like caper-braised skate cheeks ($8), Sweetbread with Sherry ($9), and escargot puffs ($2.) Where to sit Pop a squat right there on the sidewalk, or take your food across the street for a glass of wine at Terroir, an organic wine bar that also provides wine for Chez Spencer and welcomes Spencer on the Go patrons. Details Cash only, Wed.-Sat. starting at 6 p.m. Greens to Go 'Hood Fort Mason/Marina Grub Vegetarian Green's is one of the first and most famous vegetarian fine-dining restaurants in the country. Entrees are made with all-organic, local ingredients, some grown at the restaurant's own garden at Marin's Zen Center. While Green's has a $15 minimum during sit-down lunch, the to-go counter features a seasonal menu, along with mainstay items like vegetarian curry ($6.50) and a peanut noodle salad ($ 6.50) at a more reasonable price. Where to sit The Marina Green park, two blocks south of Fort Mason, which overlooks the Bay and has excellent views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Details Mon-Thurs. 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri. 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sat. 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Fort Mason, Building A. The Sentinel 'Hood Financial District Grub Sandwiches and salads. Converted diner Canteen serves a prix-fix menu of organic-fusion food (aka California Cuisine) and is a favorite among locals in the Tenderloin. But, their prices can break the bank. Luckily, chef Dennis Leary has started the Sentinel, a to-go window about eight blocks from the restaurant that serves salads and sandwiches through lunchtime, like the much-coveted corned-beef sandwich with Swiss ($8.75), polenta soup ($5.65), and seasonal specialties like roasted salmon, avocado, and fennel salad, with a rhubarb crisp on the side ($11.65). Where to sit Enjoy your food at the steps on Market and Post Streets with the bike-messenger crowd for prime people watching, or head to Yerba Buena Center for the Art's lawn at Mission between 3rd and 4th Streets, two blocks away. Details Mon-Fri. 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 37 New Montgomery Little Skillet 'Hood SOMA Grub Soul food. Farmer Brown's serves its signature gourmet take on southern comfort food at Little Skillet, a take-out window in a side alley in SOMA. The restaurant, on Mason Street, supports local and African-American farmers and uses sustainably raised foods and even beverages whenever possible. Get two pieces of fried chicken with a waffle ($8) or with a buttermilk biscuit and a side of potato salad or grits ($8.50) and top it off with a red velvet cupcake ($3). Where to sit Most people eat right on the spot at the loading docks (the food is that good), but grassy South Park is two blocks away, and it's got benches and manicured lawns. Details Cash only, Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., 360 Ritch Street at Townsend.