Dear Diary: Jonathan Mendick




Jonathan Mendick is the entertainment editor for the SNR. He is the best young food writer around, and often works my favorite beat of South Sac and “ethnic” restaurants. He just went to Europe on his honeymoon. Cute! Here’s his food diary:

I recently went on a two-week honeymoon to Europe. I spent five nights in Paris and six nights in Rome. My goal was to eat cheaply, but eat well. Here’s a diary of a week’s worth of meals during the trip. It starts in my third day in Paris, when I’ve just become a pro at using the Metro system. I wake up really wanting to see everything, since I’ve only got three more days in Paris.

Saturday, February 22nd

Breakfast: I travel across the river from my hotel near the Eiffel Tower to Galeries Lafayette near the Opera for some shopping. Everything’s too expensive, but that’s fine, because I have a ham and cheese baguette for breakfast from the food court. I eat that and drink a half-liter bottle of orange juice and window shop. It’s cheap, simple and delicious.

Lunch: Using the Metro again, I zip all the way across town to see Notre Dame. My lunch is a Nutella-filled crepe and a cafe au lait from a street vendor. I walk along the Seine River and eat my second on-the-go al-fresco meal of the day on the way to the Musee d’Orsay.


Soon, I need a reward for walking around the whole Musee d’Orsay, so on the way back to my hotel, I stop at a Carrefour supermarket and pick up a small bottle of Belgian lambic for about two Euros. I promptly fall asleep for a late-afternoon nap.

Dinner: I wake up for dinner and find an affordable Italian restaurant. My wife gets an anchovy pizza, and I get a salmon lasagna. It’s creamy, hearty and delicious. It pairs well with a carafe of the cheap house red wine.

Sunday, February 23rd

Breakfast: On Sundays, basically everything but restaurants shuts down in Paris. My wife’s Cambodian and I’m going to be meeting up with an aunt we met a few years ago in Cambodia. The aunt’s currently living in Paris with a grandpa-in-law. But first, breakfast at a nearby fast-food cafe. I share a ham, cheese and butter breakfast crepe and a coke with my wife.

Lunch: Go to any Cambodian house anywhere in the world and there’ll be a pot of soup or stew. Today it’s nom pachok, a noodle-soup with a curry chicken base that’s related to a Thai and Lao dish called khao poon. The best part: Dipping fresh, fluffy Parisian baguettes into the broth once I’ve cleaned out the bowl of noodles and meat.

Dinner: Grandpa-in-law drives us to spend the day in Versailles and eat at his mom’s house. We have more Cambodian food: four different types of prahok (raw, fermented fish) with raw veggies and salaw machu Yuen, a sweet-and-sour seafood soup that’s related to Vietnam’s canh chua ca.






Midnight snack: It’s our second-to-last night in Paris, so we decide to hit the bar near my hotel, Cafe des Officiers. First just a Delirium Tremens and peanuts. Then, hunger sets in and I subsequently order a Mort Subite Kriek with foie gras and escargot, basically the perfect midnight snack. The foie gras tastes like butter with a slight meaty aftertaste. Delicious on baguettes with jam. I close out the bar at 2 a.m.

Monday, February 24th

Breakfast: I can’t quite remember, but I don’t think I wake up in time for breakfast. Come to think of it, that makes sense, considering I closed out a bar at 2 a.m.

Lunch: It’s another family day with the aunt- and grandpa-in-law. First a bowl of katiew, basically the analogous Cambodian dish to Vietnam’s hu teiu: Simple pork broth with liver, kidney, pork slices and rice noodles; garnished with cilantro, bean sprouts and lime. It’s not as good as the one place to get it in Sacramento, Bamboo Noodle House on Stockton Boulevard.




Dinner: We spend the day sightseeing at the Sacre Coeur and take a night-time cruise on the Seine. We grab a late dinner at a restaurant that was billed as a Chinese and Thai restaurant, but its owners are Cambodian. I have a delicious salaw ka-koh (beef noodle stew) with wide flat rice noodles. (Just to continue the trend here, it’s analogous dish in Vietnamese cuisine is bo kho.)

Midnight Snack: It’s my last night in Paris, so back to Cafe des Officiers for a nightcap.

Tuesday, February 25th

Breakfast: I grab a delicious last-minute baguette sandwich—ham, cheese, tomato, aioli—and cafe au lait before a train ride to the airport.

Lunch: I consume my liquid lunch, a pint of Affligem Tripel, in the Orly Airport before flying to Rome.

Dinner: I check in to my hotel in Rome which is near the Trevi Fountain. I’m pretty beat and starving at this point from stress of traveling, so we pick a place near our hotel that’s a restaurant-deli-tabaccheria all in one. It’s a poor choice and we order what tastes like frozen pizza, mediocre pasta and under-seasoned kale. It’s my most regrettable meal of the whole trip; not a good way to start out in Rome.

Wednesday, February 26thmendick6

Breakfast: Delighted by the sight of vegetables at the free continental breakfast that comes with the room, I create and eat an heirloom tomato salad with arugula, ham, cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. And I drink a perfect cappuccino made by a server.

Lunch: I explore the Roman Forum and the Coliseum all day, so I don’t have time for lunch. Instead I eat gelato and chocolate from street vendors. From here on, I average about two gelatos per day.


Dinner: I have a pizza with mushrooms and salami for an early dinner. It’s incredibly thin and easy to eat the whole thing without feeling guilty. It pairs well with a Rossa Moretti beer.

Midnight snack: I grab another gelato, and then an Irish beer called Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale at an Irish pub near the hotel

Thursday, February 27th

Breakfast: It’s a nutella croissant and cappuccino from the hotel breakfast bar.

Lunch: I take the subway to see the Vatican museum. It’s pouring after we’ve seen the museum, so we wait it out by stopping in a random cafe for an impromptu three-course lunch: green salad, lasagna and gelato. It comes with house wine and only costs 11 Euros. It’s a good deal, but not that great.


Dinner: Back near the hotel, my wife and I share a charcuterie plate. This is the best charcuterie plate I’ve ever had, even better than one I had on my first day in France. It comes with a plate of flat bread, five or six types of cured meats and five cheeses—including an incredibly sweet and slightly wet fresh mozzarella served still-in-the-strainer. I also split a carafe of house red wine with my wife and think of how much better this is than the first night’s dinner. Note to self (and others): When in Rome, get the charcuterie plates.

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