Casa Pacheco – A haven amongst the acorn fields

Casa Pacheco

This past weekend, we took a day trip out to Salamanca.  Neither Paolo nor I had ever been, and we had been gifted a night at the Parador, so we decided to take a nice road trip to ham country.  That is, Jamon Iberico country.  Wow.  I am speechless as to the incredible amounts of ham we had, but it was worth the dieting that I am now embarking on.

We arrived just about lunch time, so Paolo said I should get on Trip Advisor to see what places were near that we could grab a bite.  I chose the #2 ranking, Casa Pacheco.  Funny enough, there was no #1 ranking, and honestly, Casa Pacheco should be bumped up to that space.  Not knowing really what to expect, we certainly were incredibly surprised!  Driving past Salamanca into the heart of Bellota (acorn) fields, filled with happy Pata Negra pigs roaming vast expanses of land, feasting on thousands of acorns.  There were also happy cows and sheep roaming, and I love to see that an animal that I am going to consume, is having a great, stress-free life.  That in itself should have clued us in to the amazing meal we were about to have.

The town itself is small, I’m talking about drive past it in 20 seconds small.  And if we had not looked on Trip Advisor, we would have completely missed it.  Situated right on the main road that crosses the town, is a small unassuming doorway to foodie heaven.  We walked in, and my first thought was that we had made the wrong choice.  A pintxos bar to your left, and two small tables on the right, nestled between two enormous bull heads.  Me being an anti-bullfighting kind of person, I thought, oh boy, we’ve walked into the dragon’s lair.  Then, as we were taken into the main dining room, still small but with about 8 tables, I felt as if I had just landed in Spain.  Yes, I’ve lived here for 10 plus years, but you can hardly say Barcelona is Spain.  THIS is Spain.  A veritable shrine to a specific bullfighter was the decorative theme of the restaurant.

Casa Pacheco

 

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As it turns out, the bullfighter Julio Robles, used to live very close to the restaurant, and he was a regular and a very, very good friend of the owner’s father.  I guess you could classify this as his museum.

We sat down and received the menu and the owner started to tell us what specials there were out of the menu.  It was a very, very difficult choice.  If it was humanly possible, I could have ordered all of it.  We finally made our choice, to eat some traditional ham, Jamon de Guijuelo,

Jamon de Guijuelo

 

and some croquetas, but the twist, they made the with oxtail.

Oxtail Croquettes

 

The jamon was perfect, shiny, flavorful, delicate yet robust.  The croquetas were fantastic too, I have never tasted croquetas made with oxtail, and I have to say, the béchamel was one of the lightest and best I have tried.  The owner told us that it was their first time making the croquetas with oxtail, and honestly, I think they need to make them again!

Then we chose to try a dish that is typical of that region, called Patatas a la Importancia.  This basically translates to Potatoes of Importance.  Just from the name, I had to try them.

Patatas a la Importacia

 

Now get this, it’s potatoes that are sliced, battered, fried and then cooked in broth.  Battered and fried potatoes.  Can it get more decadent than this?  (Actually yes, just wait to see what I ate next.)  It was a pleasantly peculiar dish.  I really liked it, and I think it is an amazing way to “class” up the simple potato, I guess hence the name Of Importance!  It definitely had a very home-made feel and taste, the broth was delicious, thickened slightly by the batter and potato starch.  I am really happy we chose to try it.

Now, on to our mains.  Paolo and Cassia decided to share an Entrecote, cooked on the stone.

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Look at that beef.  It was divine.  So delicious, so much flavor.  It was very tender, and the good part was that they could choose how much they wanted it cooked, since Paolo likes his beef still almost moo-ing.  The thing that really surprised me was the salad you see in the back,

Ensalada de Maruja

 

This, I was told is called Maruja or Pamplina.  On first inspection, I thought it was some type of sprout, but then after tasting it, I realized it is more akin to watercress in taste.  The owner explained that this grows on the side of river banks for only a few days a year, and it is a specialty in Salamanca.  It blew my mind.  Obviously I looked it up, and found out that we call it Chickweed.  I had never tasted it before in my life, and I find it so awesome to discover new tastes and food!  It was lightly dressed with a vinaigrette, pomegranate seeds, and a good dousing of crushed garlic……not for the faint hearted I assure you.  Make sure EVERYBODY else at the table eats this, if not you’re in trouble!

And, now to the most decadent dish I have ever consumed in my entire life :

Braised Oxtail

 

Braised oxtail with caramelized onions and foie gras.  Yup.  Heart attack material.  But man, oh man….this was beyond delicious.  There are actually no “real” words to describe how good this is.  The oxtail was perfectly cooked, it fell apart at the mere touch of it.  Then mixed with the onions and the foie……Oh boy.  I unfortunately could not finish it, because we had gorged ourselves with so much food before, but had I known how incredible this was going to be, I would have starved myself for weeks so I could consume not one, but two helpings of this.

Obviously we had no room for dessert, I was in sort of a food coma at this point so I can’t tell you what they were, even.  But, let me tell you this, I recall that they all sounded delicious.

If you are ever on your way or passing through Salamanca, make this is the number one priority on your list.  You seldom find little gems like this anymore, a small unchanged restaurant, tucked away and run by the 4th generation of the same family.  It is food at its best, rustic, homey, delicious.

Casa Pacheco

C/. Jose Antonio s/n

Vecinos (Salamanca)

Tlf. 923 382 169

http://www.casapacheco.net

 

Can Pineda Restaurant – My absolute and a local favorite off Barcelona’s beaten path

Restaurant Can Pineda

As most of you know, I am living in an empty house, with just a few kitchen utensils, waiting on my impending move to Madrid.  Eating out has become more of a necessity rather than a luxury.  But, all that said, Can Pineda is a luxury only reserved for special occasions, such as birthdays, anniversary’s etc.  It isn’t somewhere you can make it to everyday, or once a month even.  Your wallet and your waistline would suffer, that I can assure.  It most definitely is somewhere you HAVE to go one time, or 3 as I have been.

This time around the special occasion was my birthday a few weeks ago.  Paolo introduced me to this place way back in 2009, and go ever so often to whet our appetites when we can.

Again, Can Pineda did not disappoint.  One look at the menu and I knew I was in culinary heaven.  Being truffle season, the menu did not disappoint.   We decided to go the full monty, and order whatever tuber-inspired item was on there, with a good measure of Chuleton!

The place itself is fantastic.  Packed with knowing locals, who return time after time, it is a nice change from my neighborhood, which caters mostly to tourists.  The decoration is slightly kitsch bordering on outdated, more like your grandmother’s kitchen, rather than culinary hotspot.  But, all those insignificant details are forgiven the moment you place your first forkful in your mouth.

Our first plate was a simple, and the only way it should be really, yet perfect plate of Tagliatelle with White Truffle-

White Truffle Pasta

 

Butter, pepper and a small fortune of the good stuff, Tuber Magnatum, or better known as White Truffle from Alba.  The reigning queen of the truffles.  We decided to share all of our dishes, so we could taste more than just two, and I was left wanting more.  Not that the portion was small, it was perfect, it’s just that I don’t get to eat white truffle very often so I wanted to go all Miss Piggy on it.

Next up, is a Can Pineda classic.  None other than the orgasm inducing Poached egg, Seared Foie Gras, Shaved Black Truffle over a bed of blood sausage.

Poached egg, foie gras, black truffle

 

This is what I call paradise.  The egg, that humble ingredient, is totally elevated to royal status in the company of foie and truffle.  For being a half sized portion, this was enormous.  We each got a whole egg, (otherwise, how do you separate a poached egg?)  Loaded with the good stuff, there was nary a crumb left when we finished.

Up next, a Catalan classic, meatballs in a wild mushroom ragout -

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The meatballs were as soft as pillows, the ragout was rich and unctuous.  This is Catalan food through and through, these flavors are unmistakable.

And our final plate, the pièce de résistanceChuleton de Vaca Vieja,  which is basically bone in prime rib from “old cow”.

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And no, we don’t eat it this rare, we were brought our own very personal hot stone to cook it on, which I love.  Paolo likes his very rare, and I medium rare.  That way, each of us gets our way!

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Can Pineda will always be one of those places that we return to on our visits back to Barcelona.  And it should be on the top of your list too, whenever you come!

Carla

Can Pineda

Calle Sant Joan de Malta 55

08018 Barcelona

+34 93 308 3081

http://www.canpineda.com

 

 

Tele Pescaito: Andalusian Delights in the suburbs of Madrid

Tele Pescaito

 

Hello all my lovely friends!  I am so sorry for being away for so long, the last few weeks have been madness I tell you!  Two weeks ago I spent all my days packing up and shipping my things to Madrid, our future new home as of 2013!  And then unpacking them, and last week was work work work and then my big birthday bash on Saturday!

I have eaten and cooked in between, but just did not have any time to post.  Now, I have a whole month with no telly, a couple of pans and some plates and cutlery, a sofa, a bed and a teeny little table.  I have now started “Survival Mode”.  So, it will be interesting to see what I can come up with, now that I don’t have my barrage of culinary utensils.  I kind of feel like when I was in university.  The basics only.  Oh, how spoiled I have gotten since then.  Nary a cookbook, I tell you!

After having unpacked TWO whole households, we needed to eat, and not use any energy whatsoever.  We are completely unfamiliar with our new surroundings, but luckily my cousin lives in Madrid and she clued us in to a fantastic place down the block from our new house.

Tele Pescaito.  Literally translated to: Phone Fishy.  Yup.  Not a very glamorous name, but basically they are telling you that they deliver.  See, the pizza delivery in Spain is called Tele Pizza.

What a great surprise though, on the outside it is really nondescript.  Inside, it’s like you’ve walked into another world.

With all of four tables, this place is tiny.  But, it was packed!  People come and go, eating a couple of bites and then mosying off to another bar for another bite.  The walls are covered with photos of bullfighters and ceramics, the chairs are hand painted and so are the tables.  The service, well, it was like being in your friends bar.  We were welcomed as if we had known each other forever.  That was  a really nice change to Barcelona, where service is bare minimum bordering on rude.

Once we were settled and the drinks were ordered, our server brought out our cutlery, with a really nice surprise.

 

As our drinks were put on the table, so was this:

Beautiful Boquerones (white anchovies) over Salmorejo, which is a thicker version of gazpacho.  This is a real treat, that I am staring to get used to every time I go to Madrid.  When you order a drink at a bar, free of charge, you’re brought out a tapa.  Life is good, friends, life is good.  Topped with some lovely parsley garlic oil, it was a perfect start to a very rustic afternoon of  delights!

The menu to me was mostly incomprehensible.  I have never travelled to Andalucia, therefore, things like panochas, parrochas, puntillitas, chopos, pijotas and the like were all lost in translation.  I look forward to discovering all of these things at my soon to be new local digs!

We ordered some ham croquetas, because I am a croqueta freak.  I was really happy when they arrived, none of them being the same size or shape as the other.  This is the true test of their freshness, and that they just weren’t taken out of a box and dropped in the oil.

 

These have to be hands down some of the best that I have tried.  They were luscious without being heavy, full of meaty bits of jamon.  Then I decided on having something that I had no idea what I was ordering and I was in for another happy surprise!

 

I cannot for the life of me remember what they call them, but they are battered and fried squid tentacles.   I love tentacles, always grabbing the legs first when I order calamari.  I was struck by the sheer size of them though, this was a massive squid!  They were chewier than squid rings, but I tend to like that.  Meatier also.  I am sure my blogger friend Chica Andaluza could help me out on the name though!

We also ordered some Flamenquines.

Flamenquin

 

Yes, I admit it looks like a bread coated hot dog.  But looks can be deceiving!  What this is, basically, is Chicken Cordon Bleu’s Badder, Bolder and more Rebellious cousin!  It is a thin steak, stuffed with Iberian ham and manchego cheese!

 

It was ridiculously delicious!  I can’t wait to have some more soon…..and then I will need to get myself some cholesterol medicine, but hey, you only live once!  By the way, the chips (fries) were pretty spectacular too!

Now, we moved on to dessert.  This also was something that I had never heard of, but I will never forget.

Piononos

 

The Pionono.  WOW.  LUSCIOUS.  LIGHT.  MOIST.  RICH.  It’s all of those things all rolled up into one tiny little cake.  This hails from Santa Fé de Granada.  It is a little cake, that is soaked in a light syrup, then topped with cream and lots of cinnamon.  Paolo was triply excited, because he absolutely loves these.  And to think it is only about two minutes walk from our house. We are definitely going to have to up our workout schedule.

Then, the server brought us out a glass of Pedro Ximenez, a truly decadent Sherry, on the house with these delightful little bread sticks!

 

These are fried bread sticks covered in cinnamon sugar and anise seeds.  I love anise seed.  We dipped them in our sherry, and stroked our full bellies.  What a wonderful afternoon.

Conclusion.  They eat a lot of fried food in Andalucia.  But, it is damn good.  We will be back, in fact, I think Paolo has already been back a few times.

So, if you’re ever in Madrid and want to get off the beaten path, take a trip to Tele Pescaito.  Or you can just get some delivered! It is totally worth it!

Tele Pescaito

Taberna Andaluza

Av. de San Luis, 166

28033 Madrid  -    Tel. +34 91 7670513

 

Enjoy!

Carla

 

 

 

Restaurant La Estrella – A fantastic surprise in Barcelona’s Borne Neighborhood

Restaurante La Estrella

I have lived in Barcelona for 10 years.  Currently, I live in the Borne neighborhood, in the heart of the city’s old town, where tourists out number the locals.  Restaurants in this area generally cater to the former, so as a local it is almost impossible to find some place that isn’t completely overrun by snappy waiters bringing you over priced and totally under-whelming food.

Not so in this case.  Tucked in a side street next to La Estacion de Francia, you would pass by this place and not even give it a second thought.  I myself have passed by about a thousand times, and only because a very good friend of mine, whom I trust completely when it comes to food and restaurants, told me that this was a pretty spectacular place.   Last night, Paolo and I decided to try it, because it was close to home and we really didn’t feel like cooking.  From the look of it on the outside, I honestly expected very normal food, more like these places you go to that have some salads, some croquetas, some beef, some fish but nothing out of this world.  One look at the menu, and boy, how wrong I was.

The first thing I realized, that if you like cod, this is the place to go.  Barcelona is a city that adores its cod.  You can find it in so many different ways, from fritters to salads, to croquetas and then more than 20 main dishes.  Stuffed with foie, “a la llauna” which loosely translates in the can, but that just means it’s braised in sauce in an earthenware dish, al pil pil….the list goes on.  La Estrella had about 6 different dishes paying homage to this humble yet delicious fish.

The Maitre, Jordi, came to our table, and started to explain all the dishes that were off the menu that night.  First of all, let me tell you it is a true joy to go to a restaurant that has no Michelin stars and find such impeccable and truly passionate service.  You can tell that this is what he loves to do, and it comes through.  After he explained the aforementioned, we chose 3 dishes off menu.  How could we not?  We were completely enthralled and practically salivating at the descriptions.  And I kid you not, they surpassed our expectations.

After we placed our order, I chose one of my favorite white wines.  Vallegarcia Viognier, from Castilla- La Mancha.  He replied that it was an excellent selection, and promptly brought out a very large decanter on ice.  I was incredibly thrilled, because not many restaurants decant white wine for you, and I thought it was a wonderful touch.

Vallegarcia ViognierJordi explained that he loves decanting this wine, because it changes as it breathes.  I wholeheartedly agree.

We were brought out an amuse bouche of Codfish Brandade, very popular here in Catalonia and also in Southern France, it’s a smooth mousse of cod baked in cream and spices.  Rich, decadent and delicious.

Codfish Brandade

 

It’s more common incarnations is actually stuffed in piquillo peppers, but I love the stuff, and was very happy that it was schmeared on some buttery toast.  Perfect small bite that was a harbinger of the rest of our amazing meal.

Our first appetizer was razor clams from the delta of the Ebro river with walnuts sautéed in olive oil.

Razor Clams

 

Our maitre explained that these razor clams from the delta, are much smaller than the ocean variety that you find here.  Also, being much sweeter and fatter on the inside, the one very big difference is that they contain no sand.  We were pleasantly surprised to find he was right, not a trace to be found.  The walnuts were a perfect match, giving it umami, and not even salt was necessary since the razor clams were super sweet and tender.  I personally devoured about 8 of them in the matter of minutes.

Next up is one of the house classic specialties, Gratineed Asparagus with Cabrales cheese and sautéed walnuts.

Gratineed Asparagus with Cabrales Cheese and Walnuts

 

Cabrales cheese is a very strong blue cheese from Asturia.  On its own it can be overwhelming in taste.  Combined with the nuttiness of the asparagus and the walnuts that tempered it, it became softer and more nuanced.  Something that needs to be mentioned, is that the asparagus were cooked to perfection.  Perfectly crispy.  There is nothing more horrible than limp watery asparagus.  This dish is meant to be eaten with some bread, because you will be mopping up the cheese after you’ve eaten all the asparagus.

Now on to our main dishes.

I went for another reiteration of “Surf and Turf”, this time with something that I just started eating this year.  Pigs trotters.

Pigs Trotters with Porcini mushroom and shrimp sauce

 

What a fabulous combination!  Completely de-boned pigs trotters, lightly crusted with bread crumbs, with porcini mushrooms and a shrimp sauce.  This is Catalan food at its best.  Taking one of the most unassuming and honestly peasant like foods and pairing it with royalty, the porcini and a smooth veloute of shrimp.  The layers of flavors is amazing, the brininess of the shrimp veloute, then you get a punch of the smokiness of the trotters, lastly being rounded out with the earthy umami of the porcini’s.  I was glad that we chose off menu.

The star of the night, in my and Paolo’s opinion was the tuna.

Yellowfin Tuna with smoked salt and tomato confit

 

The über fresh (brought it at 9pm that night) Yellowfin Tuna, with a touch of smoked sea salt and tomato confit.  One bite and fireworks went off in our mouths.  The tuna, being so fresh, was treated like any fresh fish should, let it sing on its own.  The smoked salt elevated the tuna, and the tomato confit was the perfect partner in this amazing duo.  I secretly wished I had ordered this, not because mine wasn’t amazing, but I just know that tuna this fresh and perfect is hard to come by.

Now, on to our desserts.  By this time, I realized that the chef, a.k.a, the Maitre’s wife, had attended the same culinary school that I did.  That basically means, the desserts are going to be spectacular.

Tiramisu with chestnut ice cream

 

Tiramisu with home-made Chestnut Ice Cream.  It was delicious.  One of the best tiramisu’s I have tried here in Barcelona.  The Mascarpone was creamy and light, the biscuits soaked in espresso were dense and moist without falling apart.  The addition of chestnut ice cream was an excellent choice.

Paolo chose the homemade Salted Caramel ice cream.

Salted Caramel ice cream

 

Whoa Nelly!!!  I love caramel.  I love salted caramel.  I kept on going back between the two and uttering “Oh my God, it’s so good.”  Honestly, they were both amazing.   I can’t wait to go back because they have all these other desserts that I want to try, like a six layer homage to chocolate in different textures, a cactus and lemon sorbet, goat cheese ice cream….and a few more that I can’t remember but I know that when he mentioned them, I wanted to eat them all.

This is an absolute “must go” restaurant in Barcelona.  Service, food and wine all impeccable.  Go with an empty stomach, you won’t want to leave a thing on your plate!

Restaurant La Estrella

www.rst-laestrella.com

Calle Ocata, 6

08003 Barcelona

+34 93 310 2768

 

Shorty’s Bbq…..a Miami legend

Shorty's BBQ

 

Ever since I can remember, when I lived here, my family would reunite with my aunt and uncle and we would go to Shorty’s for some ribs.  And honestly, nothing has really changed.  Every time I visit Miami, it is the one stop that we always, always go to.  Especially since my boyfriend Paolo has become such an assiduous fan!

Shorty’s has changed little since I was a kid.  I think the one thing that’s changed is that it is not constructed all out of wood since the fire in 1972 completely burned it down!

Shorty's bbq fire

One of the things that I love most, is that their menu is almost exactly the same as I remember it,  except for some new additions as of the last year.   It is refreshingly the same, picnic style seating, wood tables, and all sorts of Americana to be found along the walls and tables.

 

Shorty's BBQ

Shorty's BBQ

Shorty's BBQ

Obviously though, the star of the show are the ribs.  Oh man.  Fall off the bone, slow cooked baby back ribs.  And the corn on the cob.  I’m not sure which one I like better.  As I said, the menu hasn’t changed in years, but why mess with perfection?  There is Baby back pork ribs, Beef Spare ribs, Chicken, Pulled pork sandwiches, Brisket, and a few new additions that I hardly paid any attention to.  Their cole slaw is always delicious, chock full of celery salt, giving it a bite amidst the creaminess.  But the ribs and corn.  Oh oh oh.  The corn on the cob is always sweet, perfectly cooked.

Shorty's BBQI have professed my love for corn before.  So you can imagine how happy and excited I get to have this delicious cob, drenched with butter, all to myself.  I have to pace myself to eat it…..I mean, halfway through, I always think….should I order another one?  (Yes, that is my inner Miss Piggy talking.)  But then I think I need to save room for my ribs!

Shorty's BBQ

These ribs are perfection on a plate.  They are so flavorful, completely fall off the bone, and I drench them in Shorty’s home-made spicy barbecue sauce, which is less sweet, more tangy.  Delicious.  The fries are great, but I rather concentrate on that pork goodness.  It’s something that you really can’t get in Spain.  At least, not as amazing as this.  A couple of years ago, I heard that Shorty’s employees have to sign a confidentiality agreement on how the ribs and corn are cooked.  And if it is true, they are right to do so.  They are THAT GOOD.

I also get the bbq baked beans.  I love beans.  In all ways.  And these are a perfect accompaniment, along with the cole slaw I mentioned before!

So, if you live in Miami, or are here for a visit, you need to make your way to Shorty’s!  Open since 1951, I hope they never change!

Carla

http://www.shortys.com

Naples Pt. 3 – PIZZA PIZZA PIZZA…..AND MORE PIZZA!

Brandi Pizzeria Naples Italy

Mind you, that was NOT the pizza we ate.  I am sure that one was good too, though.

Our main quest in Napoli, was to eat pizza.  Yes, I know it’s a shallow quest, not like searching for the Holy Grail, but it was OUR Holy Grail!!!

Our first day we wanted to go to Gino Sorbillo, which had been recommended to us by the hotel.  After wandering aimlessly up and down the street (passing it a few times, mind you, and this was something of a recurrence on our trip) we finally found it, super excited because we had been told it was THE BEST pizza in Naples.  It was closed.  For two weeks.  Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!  No problem, there are about 75,000 pizza places in Napoli.

Our next stop, either Da Michele or Di Matteo.  We had read about both in the guide-book, but we chose Di Matteo because of proximity.  Honestly, we walked right past this place and had not the guy at the door showed us where to go in, we would have missed it.  A very small and unassuming place, no frills, no fuss.  Just paper napkins, plastic cups and a fork and knife.  I wanted to try the original, the Margherita, to have a base on what to make my further decisions on.  But, I couldn’t help ordering it with Bufala mozzarella.  Paolo chose to have the 4 Stagioni, with black olives, artichokes, ham and mushrooms.  Normal mozzarella too.

Pizzeria Di Matteo

Bufala mozzarella Margherita

 

Pizzeria Di Matteo

4 Stagioni Pizza

 

Oh, my, God.  What a pizza!  This is not your crispy- crust- like- the- rest- of- Italy- Pizza.  This is the original, soft, chewy dough, fluffier crust.  You can like it better or not, but either way, this is the real deal.  The tomato sauce was to die for, and needless to say, my Bufala mozzarella was just sublime.  And at 4 euros……I think that is a steal!   This was definitely a contender, a pizza to mark all other pizza’s we had by.  My score: 9 out of 10

The next pizza, was only had by Paolo.  That was my, I’m going to be good day.  (Mind you it only lasted a day.)  We went close to our hotel, to a place called O’Munaciello.  There, Paolo decided he wanted to have the Alla Diavola, which had a spicy pepperoni on it.

 

Ristorante O'Munaciello

Diavola Pizza

 

This was good, but by no means the best.  The crust was slightly thicker and puffier.  It really reminded me of American pizza’s, in that sense.  It was good, but as you can see, the cheese was kind of plopped in the middle, and the pepperoni was a bit dry after being in the oven.  I would give it a 6 out of 10.

Our next pizza venture was at a place called Matozzi.   Not to be confused with Matozzi Ristorante Europa, which apparently is very expensive, this was on a small square on Via Toledo.  We sat outside, and ordered our pizza’s, Paolo choosing now the Bufala mozzarella with cherry tomatoes, and I chose the 4 Stagioni.  Ok, so the problems started really early in this place.  Paolo received his pizza and beer in like 5 minutes, and I was still waiting for my water.  We asked the waiter several times, but he kept on blaming the pizzaiolo, which also turned out to be the owner of the restaurant.  So, they finally brought my water out five minutes later, but they had forgotten to make my pizza.  You know those cartoons when steam is coming out of someone’s ears?  Well, that is me when I am hungry.  And I was VERY hungry.  But I played it cool.   So I finally got my pizza, but Paolo was done with his.  So much for eating together.

Ristorante Pizzeria Matozzi Via Toledo

Bufala and Cherry Tomato Pizza

 

Ristorante Pizzeria Matozzi Via Toledo

4 Stagioni

 

The pizza was good.  But not my favorite, by far.  The ham was great, it had a wonderful smoky flavor, but there wasn’t enough cheese, and too much crust.  And since I think they forgot about it in the oven again, it was a bit burnt.  So, for that, 5 out of 10.

Our last night there, a taxi driver asked us if we had eaten pizza, and we started to list off all the places where we had been.  He said to us, that we couldn’t leave without trying Pizzeria Brandi, which is the birthplace of the Pizza Margherita, 150 years ago.  Well….obviously we didn’t want to miss that!

The next day, off we went, not really expecting too much.  I mean, a pizza is a pizza is a pizza.  Whoa Nelly.  We were so wrong.  Ok, the place already was great.  Real tablecloths.  AIR CONDITIONING.  Oh, yeah, a singer too.  The pizza’s were slightly more expensive, the basic ones starting out at 7 euros, but that is still darn cheap in my book.  So Paolo and I ordered a variation on one of our favorite Pizza’s, that is the Rucola and Prosciutto.  The difference was, his had cherry tomatoes, mine had bufala mozzarella.  So, we get our pizza’s, take the first bite………….

Pizzeria Brandi Naples Italy

 

Pizzeria Brandi Naples Italy

 

We both looked up at each other and made all sorts of silly faces, those that you do when your mouth is full and you know you are tasting the most amazing thing.  HOLY. COW.  THIS IS PIZZA.  THIS IS PIZZA HEAVEN.  PIZZA PERFECTION.  PIZZA….ok, ok, you get the point.  10 out of 10.  (just had to add that in)

You ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE TO GOTTA BETTER get yourself to Pizzeria Brandi on Via Chiaia in Naples.  If you don’t, your trip will be wasted.  Ok, maybe you aren’t a pizza nut like us and you came here for the art.  But, if you remotely like pizza…..YOU MUST COME HERE!!!!!  I wish I could teletransport myself there now.  The first picture is the both of us congratulating the Pizzaiolo.  They were so pleased that some waiters and staff got into the picture too.

So, that is our quest for pizza.  And we found it.  THE HOLY GRAIL OF PIZZAS.

Tomorrow my friends, I am hopping on a plane, destination…..Miami, my birthplace!  So, I will be posting some local delicacies from there!

See you on the other side of the Atlantic!

Carla

 

 

Naples and The Amalfi Coast Pt. 2

Neapolitan Food

Eating in Italy is a religious experience.  Eating in Campania, well…..let’s just say it is one of a kind.  What is great about the food in Naples and it’s surroundings you say?  Wellllllll…….Let’s start off with the basics.  Tomatoes.  The best tomatoes in the world come from this area.  Namingly, the “Pommodori di San Marzano”

Tomatoes, Italy, Campania, San Marzano

This is the queen bee of sauce tomatoes.  Much like the roma, or plum, it is slightly longer and thinner, and juicy so perfect for that “Marinara” sauce on your pizza, or pasta.

Then there’s “Mozzarella di Bufala”.  This also hails from this region.  Delicious, sometimes tangy taste of pure Buffalo milk.

Mozzarella Cheese, Bufala, Italy, Campania

And then of course there’s “Pasta di Grangnano  trafilata al Bronzo”…..which is basically, excuse my home region of Emilia-Romagna, the best dry pasta, or Pasta Asciutta, your money can buy.

Faella, Pasta, Grangnano, Italy, Campania

And of course, I cannot forget all the seafood.  From squid, mussels, clams, octopus, and the queen of the sea, Ricciola, or Greater Amber Jack as we would call it.

But there is also the lemons….to make Limoncello, Granita, Salads, Lemonade……it is really a rich and diverse food basket that serves all of Italy, and the world.

Well, you know that one of the main reasons I went there was to eat.  So eat we did.  Here is the best of the best that we found in Napoli and around!

Our first night we were basically directed by a young lad to try “Oste Pazzo” restaurant, near the Lungomare and right below the “Castell dell’ Ovo”.

The waiters basically harassed (well, not too much, I mean, in terms of food you really don’t have to push me too far) to try the “Antipasto Tipico Napoletano”  This was basically comprised of a few octopus and squid salads with the typical “Fritti misti di pesce”.  That is mixed fried seafood.  I love me some fried food.  And it was awesome.

Fried Mixed Seafood, Italy, Naples

On the left is fried baby squid, quite like what we get here in Spain, but they were absolutely tiny and tender, and the batter was crazy good, crunchy, just a tad spicy, perfect.  In the middle we had two fritters with “neonati”, basically little fish in a delicious parsley spiked batter.  And on the right, fried white anchovies.  Paolo, my sweetie, wasn’t a big fan of these, he thought it was too fishy.  I however, loved it.  Something about munching on these, or any anchovy, is truly delicious.

Next up on the friend band wagon, is the Arancini.  I love arancini, and have featured them before on my blog.  But I have always eaten the Sicilian variety.  Never had I tried the Neapolitan ones.

Arancini, Fried Rice Balls, Italy, NapoliOn the left is the anemic looking “Arancino Bianco”, or white arancino, and on the right is the, you guessed it, “Arancino Rosso”, red arancino.  I was in for a huge surprise.  What looked like the bland, plain white arancino, turned out to be the tastiest one!  The white one stuffed with a pork sausage type of filling, and the rice was chock full of pepper and cheese.  It was absolutely amazing.  The red one, on the other hand, was more balanced, but also, less flavourful.  It is red because they cooked the rice with tomato sauce, and then it stuffed with a tomato meat sauce.  Both were delicious, but the white one won!

Neapolitans love their fried food.  Nary a street corner or restaurant menu that wasn’t filled with these guilty pleasures! Even for breakfast.  Upon arriving to the hotel we were instructed to go to a café called “Scaturchio”, a hundred year old café that has some pretty amazing pastries, and Napoli’s most famous, the Sfogliata.  Sfogliata is a filo-type pastry filled with sweet ricotta and candied fruits.  And one of the bonuses, is it’s served warm!

Scaturchio, Pastries, Naples, Italy

The pastry selection at Scaturchio

Sfogliata Pastry

Sfogliata Pastry from Scaturchio

It was delicious!  Crispy and buttery on the outside, warm, dense and moist on the inside.  Perfectly warm, so all you had to do was enjoy it without letting a drop of the ricotta fall!

In Capri, I mentioned we had a lunch with a view.  But obviously one of the things I wanted to eat in Capri was the Caprese Salad…..I mean, that is its birthplace!  So simple, but let me tell you, it was the best Caprese I have ever had.

Caprese SaladGorgeous, juicy, vine ripe “Cuore di Bue” tomatoes, with perfect spheres of “Mozzarella di Bufala”, accompanied only by a bit of rucola, extra virgin olive oil, and some salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Perfection on a plate!

We also enjoyed the “Insalata di Polipo con Agrumi”.  Octopus salad with citrus fruits.  This dish was made for summer in Naples.  Meaty, tender octopus bathed in lemon juice.  So refreshing for the unbearable heat!

Octopus salad with lemon dressingPaolo decided to go for the pasta, which was equally delicious, but I was trying to be “good” that day.  He had a very typical pasta that I have only tasted on this trip, called Sciallatielle.  This is a thick, flat, medium long noodle.  This pasta had been made fresh that day, and topped with Shrimp and cherry tomato sauce.

Sciallatielle Pasta with ShrimpThe shrimp in Naples are less briny than our mediterranean counterparts, equally delicious, but sweeter, and it complements the absolute star of this dish, the tomatoes.  Bursting with flavor!

Now the dessert here at Punta Tragara deserves special mention.  I was not very impressed by the title, Almond Crumble with Limoncello pastry cream.  But Holy Moses!!!!!  What an incredible dessert it is!  It is part lemon meringue, part lemon curd, part cheesecake crust!  All topped with the most beautiful and colorful summer berries.

Almond crumble with Limoncello Pastry Cream

In Positano, we went to a restaurant called “Le Tre Sorelle” that a friend of mine recommended.  It was a perfect beach-side lunch.  Although, Paolo chose the better (in terms of beachy-ness) option, but I just couldn’t be that close to Sorrento and not have “Gnocchi alla Sorrentina” which has to be one of my favorite dishes in the world.

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina is gnocchi with a tomato and mozzarella sauce.  But this was definitely the best I have tasted.  Again, it comes down to the tomatoes my friends……I am having withdrawal symptoms already.

Paolo ordered the fish, with an “Aqua Pazza” Sauce.  The fish was perfectly cooked, fork tender and juicy.  Again….with amazing tomatoes and this time, potatoes!

Fish with Aqua PazzaThe presentation is gorgeous too, I have to say.

 

Oh my goodness….I can’t believe I forgot our starter at Tre Sorelle…..Zucchini Flowers stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto.  Just sublime.  I mean, it doesn’t get any better than this lunch.  Until the next one I guess.  Ok, I am a sucker, they are all really good.

Zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto

 

And on our last night, we went uphill in one of Naples’ ritzier and more residential areas to a restaurant called “La Sacrestia”.  The menu looked amazing, the views were breathtaking, of the bay and Vesuvius.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a good picture of the view, because the sun had already set….but here’s one so you can imagine!

Bay of Naples Also unfortunately, the restaurant was due to close the next day for holidays, so they didn’t have many of the dishes on the menu.  One of the dishes I wanted to eat was the Ricciola, the fish I had spoken about before.  But instead, they brought out a little tasting dish of pasta that really amazed me!  And I ended up recreating it at home.  I was really, really surprised because when they described it, it just sounded, well, blah.  It was Pasta with Mussels, Cherry tomatoes, Pepperoncino and Pecorino.

I loved it.  Obviously, the ingredients are the best of the best, so why bother adding more things that are unnecessary?  Gorgeous.

Well kids, I hope you enjoyed my culinary extravaganza of a trip through Campania.  Tomorrow…….PIZZA!

Carla

 

 

San Sebastian – Donosti- Basque Country

San Sebastián.  What can I say.  Eating capital of Spain?  Hollywood of Gastronomy?  With 6 Michelin stars, it definitely is a place to diet beforehand and then eat with reckless abandon.  We did nothing but….eat, and eat, and eat my friends.  And that is the only thing I have really ever done in San Sebastián.

Tucked in Spain’s northern coast on the border with France, it is a place of beauty, and brawn.  Not only are the chefs heavy weights, here, but the people themselves are from a different ilk.  Taller.  Paul Bunyon-like, if you will.  I mean, they have log chopping and stone throwing competitions, for Pete’s Sake!  But, that wasn’t why we came.  We came looking for “Chuleton” and “Pacharan”.  The former being a succulent, Fred Flintstone like bone in rib eye, and the latter, an after dinner (or lunch, in many of my cases) digestif, made with anise and endrinas, a type of wild berry.  And we found it.  Our first stop, was a place that was recommended to us called “Patxiku-Enea”, which basically means, Patxiku’s House.   A couple of kilometres outside of San Sebastián, it is a small, unassuming house on a grassy knoll.

 

But once inside, you get the feeling of the place.  More winter hunting lodge than anything, this is what I come to know as  “we are going to have a really amazing meal” place.

We were told to order the Chuleton, aka, the bone in rib eye.  And we did.  But first we had the guindillas, which are small green chili peppers that are flash-fried to perfection.

And another starter of scrambled eggs with porcini mushrooms.  I don’t think I need to reiterate my love affair with both.

Then, on to our main course, the stellar, and unbelievably delicious Chuleton.  With a side of roasted red peppers sautéed with garlic please.

If I could have sucked on the bone, like a good cave woman….I would have.  But, we were in a public place.  At home….no holds barred!

After this belly filling lunch, we went out on to their terrace, and I indulged in a very large glass of Pacharan.  My sweetie had the little one.

This lunch was amazing.  Simple, rustic, mouth-watering.  If anyone gets to come here, this is a must do.

After that, we checked into the hotel, and took a nap.  We really couldn’t move after, so best to digest whilst you’re sleeping.

Then, we took a stroll into town to, you guessed it, eat some more.  Here are some highlights of the night.

Crowded Pintxos Bar in the old town

 

Piquillo pepper stuffed with goat stew and idiazabal cream

 

Another Pintxos Bar

 

Peek-a-Boo!

 

“La Concha” Beach

 

Old bullfighting square, now Pintxos galore!

 

Crowded street with pintxo seeking tourists!

 

Eduardo Chillida’s Peine del Viento – The Wind’s Comb

 

If you ever come to Spain, try to make it to San Sebastián.  Not only is it a beautiful, charming city, it is probably the best food vacation you’ll ever have.

 

PATXIKU-ENEA ERRETEGIA
| TEL :  943 527 545 | MAIL : INFO@PATXIKU-ENEA.COM 
CAMINO DE GAINTXURIZKETA, HERRIKOETXEA KALEA, 20100 LEZO, SPAIN

http://www.patxiku-enea.es

 

Carla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mosquito: Cheap and Cheerful in Barcelona’s Sant Pere District

I’ve been going to mosquito for years now.  It is a place I discovered through friends, and what a discovery.  It is possibly, hands down, the best dim sum and authentic Asian food I have tasted here in Barcelona.  It has been, at sometimes, a weekly tradition with a friend of mine, and every time I go, it always delivers the flavours that I am looking for.
It is a small, unassuming space, if you were walking down the road, you would probably pass by it without a thought.  Once inside, you know immediately that the food will be Asian.  Is it the little paintings on the wall?

Or maybe it’s the Chinese newspaper plastered along the wall of the bar?  Or just the smells emanating from the kitchen?  Anyway you realize, it always satisfies, and your wallet will be happy as well.  Never have I paid more than 35 euros, for two people, and that is a lot of food, wine and water included!

Today was like any other day, we ordered the same things as usual.  The only difference was I didn’t order the Peking Duck or the Sichuan Beef, because my friend is vegetarian.  But I did sneak in a tid bit just for myself!

Yup, the Pork Bun.  I have no idea if it is as authentic here as in China, but let me tell you, it’s delicious!  It’s soft and fluffy, yet dry and moist at the same time.  I love it.  It is a  new discovery, as of 2 years ago.  But, I am happy to have included it in my repertoire!  I love it.  But that is the only “meat” thing we had.  (Ok, I had.)  Can you tell that I love it?

Next up was our Shrimp Shiujiao.  Now, I have to order two of these, because I love eating all six of them on my own.  They are so good, it doesn’t matter how many times I come here and order them, I always, always end up moaning in delight.

They are always made as you order, never frozen, and don’t come from a package.  (As most dim sum here in Barcelona do.)

Of course we had to have our veggies.  We decided on steamed Bok Choy with Shiitake mushrooms, and an order of my absolute favorite….Kimchee.

 I can’t get enough of Kimchee.  I know it isn’t Chinese, it’s Korean.  But, one of my favorite things in the world.  I could eat it non-stop.  Really, I could.

Then, our last order was for Thai style Fish Cakes.  My friend Michelle loves these.  She could eat the whole basket, and then some.  And the dipping sauce….a sweet vinegar concoction with fresh sliced chilies…..heaven.

4 glasses of wine, and 2 large bottles of fizzy water….it all came down to an affordable 32 euros.  In Barcelona it is extremely difficult to find such amazing and affordable food!

So, if you’re in Barcelona, and you tire of tapas, try mosquito, you won’t be disappointed!

mosquito

Calle Carders 46

+34 93 268 7569

http://www.mosquitotapas.com

 

Gaig Restaurant: One Michelin Star restaurant with roots in traditional Catalan Cuisine

Last night, my boyfriend and I were lucky enough to eat at this amazing restaurant.  I’ve lived here for ten years, and this is the first time I’ve been, and I am so incredible pleased.  I know the now defunct El Bulli changed food forever with the inception of molecular gastronomy, but that has never been nor will ever be my cup of tea.  Yes, I recognize the importance, and have had a lot of fun trying some of the things that they have come up with, but if I never had to eat another foam or spherification of something, I would be a happy girl.  I like FOOD.  I like composite plates of perfectly cooked food, be it simple or complex.  But to give me a spherical olive, that isn’t an olive but tastes like an olive, well, the first time you’re impressed and surprised, the second time, it’s like, just give me the (expletive) olive for God’s sake.

Gaig is not one of those types of Restaurants, and I am so, so happy.  A week ago it was my boyfriend’s “Santo”, which is Saint’s Day.  Here the celebration of your Saint is almost as important as your birthday.  In Catholic tradition, you are generally, if not exclusively, named after a saint, and there is a Saints Calendar which tells you what day your name-saint is celebrated.  Anyhow, I digress.  So, as a present to my man who has almost everything, I took him to Gaig.  We both enjoy food, be it casual burgers and ribs, to places like these.

Gaig can be found in the second floor of Hotel Cram, in the center of what we like to call midtown Barcelona.  It is a small, warm and inviting space, the decor in red, white and black.  It is very calm and elegant.  It’s very much understated, and I believe that it to let the food be the star.  Which it is.

I always like taking a picture of the place setting and the menu before the meal.  It gives me an inkling into the personality of the restaurant.  This was beautiful and simple.  The menu was beautiful as well.

A head of garlic, star anise, the third one looks like an apricot stone, and a vanilla pod.

The house hors d’oeuvre were, from left to right, Ham crisp, Cod fritters, Croquettes, and Wonton chip with parmesan cream and sage.

We started with the wonton, because of the delicate flavor.  The sage was powerful for its tiny size, complementing perfectly with the creamy parmesan.  The cod fritter was creamy and subtle, the ham crisp was just that, a tiny morsel packed with that wonderful Iberian ham, and the croquettes, well that was the best I have ever tasted.  These are simple, Catalan flavors.  Done well, they are truly incredible.  And these were just that.

  Our first starter, on the left, creamy scrambled egg with yellow chanterelle mushrooms.  Ok, I have mentioned in the past my love affair with eggs.  For me, an egg is a thing of beauty.  This was a PERFECT scramble, super creamy, the only addition to it was the delicate chanterelle.  Such a humble, yet divine dish.

Next to it was a cold Vichyssoise.  Also perfect in its simplicity.  Food that is well done does not need any smoke and mirrors.  I really applaud chefs that present food like this, because, no they aren’t giving us anything we haven’t tried before, but it shows their confidence that they are giving you the best of an already amazing dish.

Here we have a beautiful and colorful plate.  This was Oyster, mussels, scallops, razor clam with pickled (escabeche) vegetables, with tuna lightly marinated in soy sauce.  I really commend the Chef on this dish.  This dish was über delicate.  The vegetables were almost raw, and there was almost no seasoning.  The accomplishment to this was that the seafood sung.  I have never tasted mussels this good.  The oyster was sublime.  I loved my razor clam, my boyfriend found his too chewy.  In the mix was a little bit of shiso…..and that was just about all the flavor this dish needed.  Shiso is such a delicate and lingering flavor.  It paired well with all the crustaceans without taking away their natural sweetness or briny flavor.  And the tuna.  It was again, perfect.

Meat cannelloni with a Truffle Bechamel.  This, my friends, is what I am talking about.  This is what put Carles Gaig, head chef and owner of Gaig, on the map.  This is heaven on a plate.  I cannot tell you how incredible this was.  If I was at home, I would be running my finger over the sauce to sop up every last teeny bit of it.  It was that good.  Why mess with perfection?  He didn’t.  By far, hands down my favorite dish of the night.

Baby octopus with artichokes in a red wine sauce.  This is a dish that is just fantastic.  The octopus was so tender, the artichoke hearts perfectly cooked.  The red wine was never overpowering but lending it a depth that it could not have had without it.

On the right, is another very traditional Catalan dish called “Suquet de Peix”.  I am not sure how to literally translate, but to sucar is to dunk.  I imagine the reason is because the sauce begs to be dunked or dipped by your fish, potato, bread, spoon….whatever.  This was a perfectly cooked piece of John Dory with potatoes.  The sauce is very rustic, onions, tomatoes and peppers, slowly cooked until their natural sugars come out.  Lightly seasoned with Pimenton, which is spanish smoked paprika.  It was heavenly.  Another one of his triumphs.  Why mess with it, again?

Now we are starting off with the meat courses, the first one is pan seared foie gras, with salsify and a baby red swiss chard leaf. I have never tried salsify, which is a root vegetable.  But it was caramelized, and paired with the foie, along with the swiss chard, it really lightened up the whole dish.  It was equally umami, tart and bitter.  Wonderful.

Our last savoury dish was “Pichon”.  Pichon is a young pigeon that is bred for eating.  Not the street pigeons.  It is a dark, very tasty meat.  But, this was my least favorite dish.  Although the preparation was fantastic, on the left you have the breast that was grilled, and on the right the leg was in confit.  The only thing that made me not enjoy this dish was the sauce.  It was made from the birds own kidneys.  I am not a fan of kidney.  It just reminds me of my mother making me eat kidney as a kid, and as soon as the plate came out, that brown hue just took me back there.  It was delicious, but I didn’t enjoy it, having my thoughts plaguing me with images of me crying as soon as I saw what my mother was putting on the dinner table.  But, to you kidney lovers, this was a very, very good dish.  The kidneys were very delicate, and I am assuming if you love them, you would give this a thumbs up.

Here we have the cheese plate.  This was lackluster, at best.  I love cheese.  But I think that my boyfriend and I have had so many cheese plates, and buy cheese so often, that this just did not measure up to our standards.  By no means was it not good, just not what we have gotten used to.  The plate is amazing.  And the apricot and orange marmalade was fabulous.  But you had to use it sparingly so it would not over power the delicate cheeses, except the Stilton.  And even with that one, it only needed a little bit.  The one to the left was a Petit Nevat.  It’s a creamy goats milk cheese, from Catalonia.  In the middle we had a dry and cured sheep’s milk, which I don’t remember the name.  It wasn’t my thing.  Very reminiscent of a Manchego, which I am not a huge fan of.  And on our right, Stilton.  I love Stilton.  So, obviously this was my favorite one.

When our first dessert was brought out, I was about to cry.  I knew exactly what it was going to be.  A deconstructed Crema Catalana.  I was going to cry not because I don’t like crema catalana, but because I make this on a weekly basis for my cooking classes, and cannot have another bite of it.  But thank God I did.  It was incredible.  On the bottom, Lemon jam.  Middle, caramel ice cream.  Top, catalan crème foam with the caramelized sugar.  Amazing.  Delicious.  I ate the whole thing with reckless abandon.  This is probably the best Crema Catalana I’ve had in my life.

Having said that, the chocolate textures dessert was rather disappointing.  Yes, it was chock full of “African Chocolate”, but it was lackluster and failed to deliver that rich chocolate flavor I so crave and desire when I eat it.  But the dish and presentation was beautiful.  It was a chocolate sponge cake, with chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, and dark chocolate crisp.

My favorite part of the night, was when the Carles Gaig, the head chef, came to our table, and invited us into the kitchen.  I am definitely starstruck with chefs, as how some people would be with celebrities.  They are my celebrities.

Except for those two teeny things I didn’t enjoy as much, this evening was perfect.  It was a special night for both of us, and it was an incredible meal.  If you can, you must make it to Gaig.

Gaig Restaurant

Aragon 214, 08011 Barcelona

+34 93 429 1017

http://www.restaurantgaig.com