Thursday, June 12, 2014

Weekend in Xiamen part 3

Xiamen Island is pretty small, so getting to everywhere we wanted to go was pretty easy. There is more to the city than the island, but we weren’t there long enough to explore the outer reaches – and we really didn’t care anyway. We mostly went for the grocery store. That was on the other end of the lake. We could have walked to it from the hotel, but then going back with all those groceries would have been too much.

We actually went to the grocery store twice. The first time, they were out of a lot of the things we wanted. They said another shipment would come in on our last day in Xiamen, so we went back just before we left the city.

Across the street from the American grocery store are two Italian restaurants. We didn’t try either of them the first time we went to Xiamen because we were on a cruise ship full of free food – or at least food that was already paid for. This time we had to find our own meals, so we went to one of the Italian restaurants on our first night and the other one right next door on our second night.

From the outside, both restaurants looked basically the same. You could tell they were two different restaurants, but there was nothing that distinguished one from the other. From the inside, one definitely looked more like a traditional Italian restaurant that the other. We assumed that one would have the better food. We were completely wrong.

The restaurant with the more generic cafĂ© interior had much better food. I don’t know who runs either restaurant, but I’d be surprised if the chef in the better one wasn’t Italian – or at least trained in Italy. The pasta was as fresh as could be and the sauces were excellent. The best part – to me at least – was the garlic bread. I love garlic bread. It’s one of the hardest things to find in Hong Kong. Lots of places have Chinese bread. Some places have what they call garlic bread. No one has real fresh bread with real garlic and real olive oil.

Even if you find a place that says it has garlic bread, it’s usually Chinese bread – which is nothing like Italian or French bread. Sometimes they’ll put Chinese butter on it or Chinese vegetable oil. Chinese butter doesn’t taste anything like what I think of as butter. I don’t know how they make it, but something’s just off. Chinese oil is usually corn or peanut oil – which isn’t always a bad thing – but it’s not olive oil. Olive oil is more expensive and not a traditional Chinese ingredient, so few places will use it.

Cheaper places use something called gutter oil. The less said about that the better. Foreigners can usually tell which places use that since you’ll have a dramatic reaction to the food right away. My rule is if any food comes out of me right after I put it in, I don’t go back to that place.

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