El Cisne Azul : Mushroom lover’s heaven in Madrid’s Chueca neighborhood

cisne azul

Once in a blue moon, you come along a little slice of heaven.  This is just what happened to me and two good friends yesterday.  After a weekend full of food debauchery, sampling some of Madrid’s best tapas bars, we never thought it could end on a better note than it did.  That is El Cisne Azul, easily discarded as a shabby bar in this vibrant neighborhood full of modern and beautiful bistros.  You will be very sorry if you do, though.  A true diamond in the rough, this little bar probably hasn’t changed its appearance in many, many years.  You know what though, I am kind of glad.  I much rather they keep spending their hard-earned money on quality ingredients rather than jazzing up the place.  And this shows.  Their specialty is wild mushrooms, proudly written on the front door, “Fresh Wild Mushrooms all year round”.  You walk in, and it’s a small place, with only about 4 tables and 2 high tops, with a very large bar for standing room only.  On one end of the room is a large refrigerator/display cabinet that holds the prized bounty, only the freshest wild mushrooms and vegetables.

We were lucky to grab a table, as 10 minutes passed the place was jam-packed with people waiting to eat their delicacies.  One man was at the grill, proudly and rapidly serving up all the goodies.

The menu is quite extensive, you have your house specialties, sautéed mushrooms, Revueltos (scrambled or fried eggs) with mushrooms, Foie gras with mushrooms, and then some Chuleton.  But we came for, yup, the mushrooms.

We started our bacchanal with some beautiful house wine and a plate of sautéed Amanita Caesarea, which is known as Caesar’s Mushrooms, because it apparently was a favorite of the Roman Emperor Claudius.

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This mushroom has an orange cap and a white stem, with a slight nutty flavor.  It can be eaten raw, like a carpaccio with some oil and parmesan shavings, but we decided on the sautéed version.  Lightly salted, it was a fantastic started, since it really has a very delicate taste.  Mind you, the servers know what they are doing, because they chose the order!

Next up was Zucchini Flowers sautéed with Truffle Oil.

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This was very nice, but call me crazy.  I prefer the Italian version, where they are stuffed with cheese and fried.  Nonetheless, they were very, very good.

Our next dish was a Fried egg with Black Trumpet or Black Chanterelle mushroom.

 

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I am sure you know my love for eggs, so there is nothing more delicious than a plate of eggs with wild mushrooms.  Black Trumpets have a deeper, earthier taste.  They can also be made in stews with beef or venison, since it really handles red meats very well.  But, a risotto or pasta with them is equally delicious.

The star of the day, was the Porcini mushrooms with Torta del Casar Cheese.

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Torta del Casar is a sheep’s milk cheese from Extremadura region in Spain.  It is a nutty, slightly strong cheese, which is traditionally eaten from its rind, since it is quite creamy.  We knew this had to be good, but it was a religious experience, really.  The two combine so perfectly, and quite frankly, really balance each other out.  I could eat this every day, but then I would also have to run a half marathon every day to compensate.  I really don’t have words to describe how good this is, so I will just leave you to look at the picture and imagine it.

So, after this the server asked us if we wanted anything else, and we thought that we should leave a good thing be.  But, he told us that to finish off our meal, we should try the “Majorero” cheese from the Canary Islands, that is grilled and served with onion marmalade.  YES PLEASE!

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This cheese is similar to Manchego, sheep’s milk, and can be cured, semi-cured and soft.  I imagine this was the last variety, because of it’s ability to melt.  This reminded me so much of our queso tierno in Colombia, which we also grill to get that beautiful crispy crust and gooey center.  But props go to the boys at Cisne Azul, who paired it beautifully with the onion marmalade.  We were crazy about this.

So, then the server asks us if we wanted dessert.  We thought we had already had dessert, thinking the grilled cheese with jam was our last plate.  So, we said no, we were fine.  Then he told us that they had some house made Macarons, with Porcini cream custard filling.  What the what?  It was so odd sounding, we just had to try it.

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Upon taking the first bite, we all looked at each other with this perplexed look on our faces.  Our mind couldnt’ really process the incredibly weird combination of sweet porcini’s.  But as we kept chewing, our faces started contorting in these orgasmic expressions.  Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?  It is a spectacular flavor combination!  I can’t get enough of these, and I will order them every time I go!

So folks, if you are in Madrid, you cannot afford to miss this place.  Good service, authentically kitsch decor, exceptional quality food.  Who could ask for anything more?

El Cisne Azul

Calle de Gravina 19,

28004, Madrid

Metro:  Chueca Line

+34 915 21 37 99

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basque Country

Needless to say, the Basque Country is Food Country.  We planned this trip around a Basque/Russian wedding, and ate our way through these spectacular Spanish regions.

Our first stop was Santes Creus, which is actually in Catalonia.  But we were hungry.  So, it was naturally a good stopover for us, since it was only about an hour and a half from Barcelona, and it had a very famous monastery.

We didn’t plan where we were going to eat, but let me tell you, what a wonderful surprise it was.  We happened to just plop ourselves down in the first restaurant we saw, which was right outside the monastery.  And it was amazing.  And cheap.  I was so happy and surprised to be able to enjoy such wonderful simple fare at real prices.

Melon with Iberian Ham

 

 

Gazpacho with all the trimmings

 

Toast with a mix of sautéed veggies, tuna and cheese

Grilled Chicken with Potatoes

All for 22 euros.  It was amazing.  I was so pleased, that once you get out of the city, you can eat like a king and not have to pay their ransome.

So after that, we were merrily on our way to Pamplona.  Pamplona is obviously known for the Running of the Bulls, which happens in the beginning of July.  It is a beautiful city, small and recently restored.  But HOT.  Oh, my God.  HOT HOT HOT.  The heat was unbearable.  So, we just went in search for the most air-conditioned places (few) and lots of good food and wine (many).  See , Pamplona is right near the Lodosa area, where the most delectable vegetables in Spain are grown.  And we’re talking about white asparagus and piquillo peppers my friends.  And that’s talking business.  But, since it is also very close to the Basque Country, almost like a sister province, they have amazing Pintxos.  Pintxos are tapas on a piece of bread with a toothpick stuck in it.  Darn good.  No, Amazing.

Pintxo bar in Pamplona

Blood Sausage Pintxo with Caramelized Onions, and Chistorra Sausage Pintxo with Padron Pepper

Idiazabal cheese covered in walnuts in a tomato jam

Micuit Foie Gras, Apple Chutney and Gold Leaf Powder

Toast with Tuna Belly, Anchovies and Piquillo Peppers

Seared Foie Gras with Caramelized Pineapple

I guess you can see, that the night’s theme was foie gras.  It was sublime.  An absolute treat for the both of us.

The next day, we drove to San Sebastián, and it deserves a post all on its own.  So I am going to skip to the real highlight of the trip, the reason we did it, our friends’ Russian/Basque Wedding!

Our friend Patrik is from Bilbao, and had been working in Moscow for about 4 years.  That is where he met Galiya.  Then, cut to the 3rd of August, 2012.  Their wedding.  It was beautiful and bountiful.  Definitely one to look up to food wise!

Traditional Basque Dance done for the Bride and Groom after they are married.

Jamon de Guijelo….need I say more?

Smoked Salmon, Pistachios and Dates

1st course, foie gras with pedro ximenez sherry reduction with summer berries

2nd course, tuna belly, tomato and caramelized onion salad

3rd course, gambas a la plancha….aka….pan fried prawns

My favourite by far, sautéed porcini mushrooms with truffle cream sauce

1st main course, Grilled monkish. Heaven.

Ok, after this, there was prime rib served, with piquillo peppers, and then a strawberry sorbet with cream cheese, and then the cake.  But I couldn’t eat anymore.  I know right?  What is wrong with me.  I’ll tell you.  I ate like a total pig the whole 5 days.  I cannot eat another thing until tomorrow, when I go to Naples, Italy!

If I don’t post anymore, you will know that I have exploded.

See you in a few!

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

 

Peretallada, Spain and Collioure, France

As you all know, I have had some visitors in town.  On Saturday we rented a car, and got on the road.  It was two magical, whirlwind days driving up the coast of Spain to get to Collioure, France; our destination for the night.

Peretallada is a small, very well-preserved Medieval town in the Baix Emporda, Girona.  It’s only about an hours’ drive away from Barcelona, but you feel like you have stepped into a completely different world, untouched by time.  It is just absolutely breathtaking, every corner you turn more beautiful than the other.  It was a hot, hot, hot afternoon.  So our first stop was obviously to eat, and somewhere in the shade, if possible.  We passed quite a few quaint little restaurants, that had almost doll-house like decoration.  My family wanted to eat in one of those, but me being the foodie that I am, was reading the menus of each, and settled on one that had a recommendation from the Guide Routard.  For those of you who don’t know, the Guide Routard is kind of like the Michelin, with recommendations of restaurants, routes and hotels.  The restaurant itself was a charming little space with an indoor courtyard, but we were luckily offered a table on the outside terrace.

It was cool and breezy, perfect for our escape from the searing Iberian sun.  The menu was also really interesting, all tapas, but a mix between traditional and more unusual fare.  The best part is that each plate was worth 3.3o euros, and it included wine and dessert.  We each chose 3 tapas.

The dish on the left, was Boquerones (white anchovies) with avocado on toast.  You can see a little piece of my aunt’s Smoked Salmon on toast as well.  On the right is Chorizitos a la Sidra.  This is a typical Basque dish, that is chorizo sausage cooked in Cider.

Here are two more of our dishes, on the left, seared ahi tuna with mashed potatoes and a wasabi soy sauce.  It was so tender and flavorful, and the mash was super creamy.  The sesame seeds were the perfect addition.  On the right are my Porcini mushroom croquetas…….what can I say?  Porcini mushrooms in a delicate béchamel sauce, then coated with breadcrumbs and fried?  Yummy.

On the left was one of Maggie’s dishes, A Sobrasada and Brie “Pizza”.  Sobrasada is a cured meat from Mallorca, it is more of a spreadable consistency, so it’s especially lovely on flat bread like this.  It’s chock-full of paprika, so super tasty.  And melted brie?  Yah, you know what I mean.  Then on the right is my aunt’s simple and delicate Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette.  So beautiful, so delicious.  You don’t need anything else in it.

On the left is my super refreshing Watermelon “Soup” with mint.  It was a perfect starter for this hot, sunny lunch.  The mint just made it that much more refreshing.  And on the right…..Oh Lord.  Too delicious.  Codfish with a tender garlic Mousseline.  We could not stop sopping up this sauce after my uncle devoured (well, poor guy, we all devoured) the fish.

These two dishes, one traditional one not, were, in my opinion, the show stoppers.  On the left is the traditional “Gambas al Ajillo”, basically prawns in garlic-chili oil.  Ok, you can imagine.  So simple.  So perfect.  Sauce on bread with oil dripping down our chins while we groan like little piggies.  On the right, Salmon with a Coconut Cream sauce.  Who would’ve thunk????  Oh my God.  Fantastic!  The coconut sauce was so light and delicate.  Neither flavour overpowered the other.  Can you see a theme?  Dipping sauces.  We were all about dunking and dipping our bread in each other’s plates.

This was the last of our savoury dishes.  Very, very traditionally Catalan.  It’s meatballs with Cuttlefish, and it is one of the classic “Surf and Turf” dishes that graces menus all over Catalonia.  This was homey, comforting and again, dippable!  Now, we just prayed we had enough room for dessert!

We did.  On the left, chocolate mousse and Tiramisu, on the right, Crepes with Violet jam.  Fantastic end of our meal.  We could not have chosen any better, and were absolutely amazed by the quality of the food, the preparation, the presentation of each dish.  And it was so CHEAP.  We were so happy, with our bellies full.  We took a stroll through the town after lunch to help us digest this mini-feast.  Here are some pictures of Peretallada.

The Menu at our restaurant

major 10   |   peratallada   |   girona   |   17113   |   +34 972 63 50 30   |   info@papibou.com

Tomorrow……Collioure!

Tortilla Espanola : Spanish Potato Omelette

It took me a while to get onto the Tortilla bandwagon.  I just didn’t see the amazing simplicity of this fabulous dish.  Obviously it was because I had not had a good specimen until I had a really good home-made one.  And now that I’ve mastered it, I make it at home more often.

Now here comes the great debate:  Onions or no onions?  And, as any true Spaniard will attest, the other great debate, is runny or dry?  Well, as all things, I think it is really preference.  I personally like mine with onions, it lends it a certain depth and sweetness.  Now the runny and dry bit, well, that was another point.  As you all may know, I used to hate eggs, so when I first moved here, the obvious answer was a dry tortilla.  I now love the runny ones, but not as runny as some of my friends.  And here in Catalonia, it is served with the ubiquitous “Pa amb tomaquet”….which is our version of the bruschetta.  (Shh, don’t tell anyone, it isn’t as nice as the Italian version, although it is still delicious).

Tortilla is one of those simple, feel good dishes that is great to serve as a light dinner.  Mind you, it is not easy to master, and it does take quite a bit of preparation to make a perfect tortilla.  It’s not one of those things that you say, two minutes into your famished guests arriving, “I’ll make a tortilla!”  because you will all be eating the cutlery by that point.

Since I teach how to make tortillas on a weekly basis, I have mastered the technique which I am going to share with you.  Step by step.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

6 eggs

2 potatoes, peeled, cut in half, and sliced horizontally

1 large onion, sliced

Salt

1 liter of olive oil (trust me on this)

In a large stockpot over medium high heat, add 3/4 liter of olive oil.  When it is hot but not smoking, add the potatoes and onions.  Lower heat to medium.  Cook, poaching the potatoes and onions until the potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, crack your eggs and beat.  Add salt.    At this time, get all the things you are going to need for the tortilla.  A large plate, two frying pans, one medium, one smaller (optional).  IMPORTANT NOTE:  THEY MUST BE NON-STICK FRYING PANS.  If not, your tortilla will stick and the whole process is ruined.


When your potatoes and onions are done, strain them, reserving 2 tbsp of oil.   Let cool for at least 10 minutes.  When your potatoes are cool enough to touch, then mix them in with your scrambled eggs.

In a medium frying pan, add 1 tbsp of your reserved oil.  Heat over medium heat until almost smoking.

Now add your egg and potato mixture, and as soon as it hits the pan, start stirring the eggs so that they coagulate and the uncooked part goes to the bottom, and you get some cooked egg on top……like this:

simultaneously, as you are stirring the center, with your wooden spoon, drag it along the edges to make sure that it is drying up.

This enables you to make sure that the tortilla is not sticking on the edges, so it will flip loosely onto your large plate.  Keep doing these movements until you see little runniness in the middle, and it seems like it is drying up.

When you feel that there won’t be enough egg mix lost when you do “The Flip”, then place your large plate (it must be larger than the circumference of your frying pan) on top of the pan,

And with a flick of your wrist, flip the tortilla onto the plate, and then slide back into the frying pan.

At this point, you can choose if you want to place it into a smaller frying pan.  I learned this tip from a proper Catalan, who said always move your tortilla into a smaller frying pan to get that nice rounded shape.

If you do switch to a smaller frying pan, then add the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil, and heat over a low flame.  Either way, if you do or you don’t, you have to start to tuck in the edges of the tortilla, to give it a nice round shape on the edges.  And, now the key is if you want it a bit runny, or “JUICY” as they would say here, you either cook it for 2 more minutes, or 7 more minutes.  Since I like mine in between, I cook it for 5 more minutes.

Slide it back on a clean plate, let rest for at least 5 minutes, and serve warm with nice crusty tomato bread.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Final Hurrah to Brit Week: Barcelona’s One and Only Fish and Chips in the Raval

5 years ago, Fish and Chips in Barcelona was born.  Two lovely young ladies and good friends of mine, opened up Fish and Chips, after having a hankering for their countries’ ubiquitous food.  Barcelona is full of Doner Kebap shops, Pubs, and Burger Joints, but there was nary a Chippy in sight.  So, after travelling to Leeds to complete their National Fish Fryer’s Association course, they came back to their new home town and embarked on a new path in life.

Yesterday I went down to the Chippy to have some Fish and Chips, because how could I possibly have Brit Week without having probably the most English of dishes other than Chicken Tikka Masala? ;)  The Raval is an area of Barcelona that is chock full of Kebap joints, making the chippy stand out if you are in the mood for something that is completely different.  I grabbed a friend, and we plonked ourselves on the terrace, under the shade of Acacia trees and hungrily waited for our food.

Which took a while, since the chippy was plagued today with a group of British students having their lunch.

But no worries, it was such a gorgeous day that with a beer in hand, and idle chatter with good friends, I didn’t mind waiting. We ordered the fish and chips menu, with all the sauces, because my friend is Catalan and he had never tried any of them.

Baked Beans, Mushy Peas, Curry Sauce, Onion Gravy

My favorite is the curry sauce.  If you are missing all your typical chippy food, well you are so in luck.  They have just about everything an expat Brit’s heart can desire.

They also serve a Full English Breakfast, and an American one, all day long.

And now….for the Food.  I have tried Fish and Chips maybe once or twice in London, and was not impressed.  These ladies, to me, make hands down the best fish and chips this side of the english channel, and probably on that side too.  They only use flash-frozen fresh Cod fillets, and they made sure they got the highest quality potatoes that have very little water content, which are perfect for frying.  And I was not disappointed!

It was perfectly crispy on the outside, and juicy and tender on the inside.  We both ate everything off our plates.

But, those of you that have been there before, and those who haven’t will have a big surprise.  This year marks the Chippy’s 5th Anniversary, and they are having a big blowout this Sunday, 10th of June, from 3 pm onwards.  There will be mini-canapes of yorkshire pudding and roast beef, all sorts of baked goodies, and lots of the usual stuff too!

But, the best part is that they are unveiling their new menu items.  I will certainly be going there really soon, to try all the new yummy things!

Apart from the regular menu, they are doing a Burger menu, with 100% beef, Chicken, Fish and Veggie burgers; a Hot and Cold Sandwich menu that will have the regular Sausage, BLT, Bacon…..and then Egg and Cress (LOVE),  Cheese and Pickle (LOVE LOVE) Chicken Salad and Ham and Mustard.

And for those who want something completely different, there will be Lasagna and Veggie Lasagna.  And another option of sides will be the coleslaw!  Can’t wait to try it all.

So, if you want to have a great time on Sunday, with some great British grub, drinks, music and fun, go down to the Chippy for their 5th Anniversary!  And if that weren’t enough to make you want to go, all their bestseller’s will be sold at a discount!

Fish and Chips
Rambla del Raval 26
08001 Barcelona.
Tel: 93 4411134
info@fishandchipsbarcelona.com

Say hi to Julia while you’re there!


Tomorrow, I am off to Switzerland and Italy for my 20 year high school reunion,  so will be photo blogging all my wonderful eats and sights!

Ciao e ci vediamo Lunedi!