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And that was Argentina! Some highlights

So, that was Argentina. I am back, it’s only 5am BA time , and I have already been awake 3 hours. My flight back was rammed with a noisy school tour and lots of turbulence, so I am, well, very sleepy!

What a trip though. It was wonderful. So much to write about. For now, the first in a two part photo post, a little trip down memory lane for me and some highlights and a peek at future posts for you.

Roadside Parrilla in Buenos Aires

Ceviche at Sipan in Bueos Aires

Street tango dancer in Buenos Aires

Wood roasted empanadas in Mendoza

Veal cheek on the tasting menu at Astrid Y Gaston

Agronomists at the Argento Vineyard

Rush Hour Mendoza

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Oooops! Accidental Week Off. And LOOK!

Oooops! Accidentally took a week off. Forced in part by a lack of internet in the pampas, a giant party and resulting incapacity in Buenos Aires and 27 hour door-to-door trip home, followed by – and currently in – jet lag.

BUT! Look at what greeted me when I got back?! So exciting.

LOOK! It's my BOOK! :)

Next people to get theirs will be folks that buy on Amazon – usually a little before the real life launch date.

Buy Comfort & Spice on Amazon :)

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Comfort & Spice Update! New Lovely Cover

Comfort & Spice! Remember that? My cookbook! It seems so long ago that I handed the manuscript in and I have been travelling so much since. We are drawing closer to the publish date now though (September 5th) and it is getting exciting.

Exciting, and I am slightly nervous, I must confess. It is normal to be so, I think. Especially for your first book. I have put so much of myself into it, it feels a little raw. I think it must be like watching a first child go to school and hoping that they will be ok. Of course I am very proud of it too. I just hope that you like it as much as I do.

I love the new cover. The first cover was a temporary one and this one I feel really represents me and the content a bit better. As one reader said, it’s roast beef pink too!

So, don’t forget you can pre-order it on Amazon, and if you do you will get it earlier than in the shops. It is usually at least a week earlier, from my own purchases. If you hit “like” on the amazon page (just beneath the title on the amazon page), it helps increase the profile of my book page on Amazon too :)

On a seperate note, the OFM Awards votes close this week on the 24th, so don’t forget to get your vote in! If you want to just vote for the blog section, you can do that too, and it just takes seconds. Every vote does really count, and I appreciate yo taking your time to do it.

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Eating Buenos Aires! La Cabrera: Your Sweetbreads, are My Weak-Ness

(the title should make sense to those compos mentis in the 80s ;)


In Argentina, you seek out beef. That’s a given. The Argentine and particularly gaucho diets until relatively recently consisted almost entirely of beef and all sorts of offal. All cuts fired over parrilla flames and served toppling on platters.

Nothing is  wasted when an animal is slaughtered here, Argentines absolutely love offal. The sweetbreads (thymus and pancreas) are some of the best that I have ever eaten, simply cooked with lemon juice over some hot coals, the crisp offal taste rich and delicate. The chewy rich chitterlings (intestines) are fought over by children. When the bullocks are castrated, the testicles are slung on the parrilla to be eaten. It’s a time of year that all farmers here look forward to.

Wine list at La Cabrera

So, the Aubergine Parrillas (BBQs) are a must and they are everywhere. In Buenos Aires, I explored and visited quite a few. I have 3 favourites (so far!), the first being La Cabrera in Palermo.

Palermo is like the Notting Hill of Buenos Aires. Once quite a rough area it is now all glamour and gloss, with the associated price tag. It does have some really good restaurants though, and naturally the tourists flock here. With La Cabrera there is a lot of hype and so it is insanely popular (even now in low season) but it really lives up to the chatter.

It is actually split over two restaurants, and we chose to sit outside as it was a beautiful sunny day. We were lucky that we didn’t have to wait, but worry not if you do, they will give you sparkling wine to ease the torture.

Provoleta at La Cabrera

A must when in Argentina is the provoleta, a hallmark of the strong Italian influence here, it is an Argentine variant of Italian provolone cheese, waxy and firm, it cooks beautifully. Cooked in cast iron little pots until gooey and crisp, usually with herbs and olive oil it’s incredibly more-ish. A rich starter when lots of meat is due, but it is a must.

La Cabrera in Buenos Aires

La Cabrera is famous for its sweetbreads so we had to order those. We also, wisely, ordered a large rib eye between 3, and trust me that at lunchtime, with all of the side dishes and the salad (simply to ward off scurvy you understand!), it was enough. We needed to leave room for dinner.

Spinach with Tarragon / Mustard Sauce at La Cabrera

A word of warning when you order here, the Argentines like their beef well done, so be sure to order it to your liking. The sweetbreads arrived, and were enormous. Beef pancreas I expect.. I was grateful that I wasn’t eating on my own as I often do.

Sweetbreads at La Cabrera

A thin crisp coating gave way to a succulent rich mass. An uninitiated diner described them of tasting of delicious crispy fat. I couldn’t put it better although it does ignore the gorgeous lighter interior. The steak was rich and large. And all of those sides (all delivered with every order on the house) were playful and a nice distraction from all of that meat. Some spinach with a tarragon mustard sauce was gorgeous and we just slathered it all over the steak.

BEEF! Lots of beef at La Cabrera, Buenos Aires

Meaty spread at La Cabrera, Buenos Aires

We toddled off happily after. Not slayed but pleasantly full. Which is an acquired talent when eating out in Buenos Aires. A siesta is always in order here though, especially after a parrilla indulgence, so make sure you fit one in.

La Cabrera, José Antonio Cabrera 5127, Buenos Aires

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Eating Argentina: Horseriding in the Andes and a Gaucha Lunch

So, if you’ve been reading for a while, and especially if you are on twitter and follow me there, you will know that this trip to Argentina has been delayed twice.

I was supposed to go last November, after I won a trip for a piece published on Bibendum Times, sponsored by Argento Wines with my friend Denise, The Wine Sleuth. I watched from the sidelines (through wet Irish windows) as Denise explored, extended and eventually stayed for 3 months. Pure torture, I couldn’t wait. I had to postpone to January, and then had to postpone again. But, finally I am here, and it’s almost winter, but winter here is like Spring in the UK and it’s lovely.

I finally caught up with Argento Wines in Mendoza, and visited the Bodega, Casa Argento and had a wine tasting (more on that later, for now my favourites, as – almost – always, were the reds, especially the reserva Cabernet Sauvignon & Malbecs). The absolute highlight of the 2-day trip to visit them was a trip to Walter Subillo at his estancia, Estancia San Pablo at the foot of the Andes. I say the foot of the Andes but it’s actually at 1200 metres, which is higher than Ireland’s highest mountain (no great claim I know!).

Walter is a real life gaucho, farmer, and winemaker and lives self sufficiently here with his family. He takes people out on gaucho days, horse riding and fly fishing the traditional gaucho way. So, my crash course in being a gaucha began.

We started with a terrific breakfast of hot crispy gaucho bread with jams – one a lovely stringy melon one and the other cherry – with walnuts before progressing to some horse riding in the Andes.

Horses are notoriously big and cranky, and I am a bit unpredictable myself, so I was nervous but I really wanted to do it. After loading my carcass on to the horse we proceeded and I was thrilled to see that my horse was as lazy as me so we plodded along gently, always behind the others. I was afraid to use the accelerator (by kicking him) with much force.

We rode through the river, up a steep mini mountain, back down, up another, you get my drift. For about 2 hours. I was very proud of myself on my return until I saw a 3 year old get up on my horse. I know my place.

The day really kicked into gear with a terrific lunch. The Andes can be a harsh environment so food is preserved as much as possible, and mostly in Walter’s case it is homegrown.


In his cave were lots of preserved peaches in jars, brined olives, sun or woodoven dried tomatoes with herbs, a leg of ham, homemade salami, lots of jams including cherry. And lots of wine too.

We started with olives, homemade salami and tomatoes and – WOW. Those tomatoes were some of the best that I have ever eaten. The salami and olives were terrific too. Two plates towering with empanadas were too attractive to resist. We washed it all down with some Argento Malbec and proceeded to the next course.

Walter cooked up some trout he had caught in the river and some vegetables over an open fire and served it with a gorgeous fresh salad, more tomatoes with his own vinegar and bread. Delicious and so fresh tasting, it was nice to get a break from the meat.

And then the kid goat was served. Again, Walter’s own animal. Everything was served and I was very impressed to see the kids run to the wood oven and request the chitterlings. Walter’s 9 month old daughter was teething and nibbled on a warm goat bone. Argento Cabernet sauvignon accompanied me as I chowed down on some gorgeous kid goat ribs.

And then the beef. A big plate of beef. I was almost defeated but could fit a bit more in. It was – you guessed – terrific. New adjectives please.

Then to the fire where we had dessert of homemade fresh cheese, with some of those conserved peaches, homemade membrillo, Walter’s walnuts and preserved cherries. Beautiful and fresh, I was grateful for it, and left my coffee sit next to the fire to stay warm as I ate it. I envied the cat and dog sleepy underneath it. But they don’t have tv, eh?

And that was it. Not quite a gaucha (yet) but what an experience.

Details

Estancia San Pablo http://www.estanciasanpablo.com.ar

I did: US$150 per person horse riding or fly fishing with breakfast and lunch

Also available: US$250 per person for a full day horse riding /fly fishing / breakfast / lunch / dinner / accommodation

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Eating Argentina: Mendoza! We’re in Empanada Country Now

Best Empanadas Ever? Well, so far, yes :)

Where are the best empanadas in Argentina? Everyone says Mendoza but where exactly in Mendoza you will only know if you are a local. Happily I was with one.

I was feeling a bit peckish so asked if we could stop off for some empanadas after a long day whizzing around wineries. (It’s a hard life!). It was 5 hours since lunch but still 3 hours from our Argentinian dinner time so my tum was protesting severely. Sure, of course! And she promptly picked up the phone and put in an order.

Home of Amazing Empanadas!

20 minutes later we were at a small typical house outside Mendoza in a small town called Chacro. These are the best empanadas in Mendoza, I was confidently informed, she is very famous and lots of people come here.

An old lady in an apron answered the door and proceeded to joyfully tell us all about a local wedding the week before where one of 5 daughters of a local doctor married an Irish guy and 100 people from Ireland came for the wedding (we do that kind of thing!). She was very proud and thrilled to be there herself.

I got a quick tour of the rotisseria, I was only sad it was too late in the evening to try it. At the side were big jars of preserved peaches and large bottles of homemade tomato sauce. She proudly showed me her enormous outdoor wood oven where she makes her empanadas and her specialty, suckling pig. I was salivating.

Amazing Woodoven, Terrible Photo (Sorry!)

Then came the empanadas. In exchange for 25 pesos (£4) she gave us a paper wrapped parcel which I could not wait to open. In side were twelve gorgeous wood blistered empanadas, about half the size of their bigger Buenos Aires cousins, filled with the traditional Mendocian filling of beef, onion and eggs. Some use olives too but not these ones. apparently that is something the younger people do.

I wondered if we had over egged it, 12 empanadas for 2. I quickly discovered I had no trouble demolishing my 6. The crisp roasted pastry, incredibly savoury and with a gorgeous bite from pork lard, encased a rich gorgeous beef, onion and finely chopped egg filling.

Sadly, and appropriately, the recipe is secret. But, wow, another trip highlight. How will I ever leave Argentina? (I shouldn’t tempt that volcano).

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Eating Argentina: The Unexpected Magic of a Roadside Parrilla

Well, hello! What's this?

Some awful days have the most amazing ways of turning themselves around. Take last Monday. I was stranded in Buenos Aires due to that nuisance of a Chilean volcano ushering an ash cloud east. No flights were to be had out of Buenos Aires so my long planned Mendoza trip was on hold and I was at a loose end. What to do?

I took a random decision to hit Buenos Aires on a bicycle and see what the city might hold. It was a wonderful day, made extra special by my phenomenally bad sense of direction leading me to a motorway on my bicycle.

I know.

(But don’t worry it has a great ending)

Bicycles aren’t allowed on the motorway, as I quickly found out, and so I got off and walked only a short distance before I spied some red chairs and a food truck. Well, what could it be?

Next to a crazy motorway where trucks whizzed and dirt whirled was the most amazing roadside parrilla (Argentinian BBQ), run by a young guy and girl and frequented by truckers.

They thought my arrival curious and hilarious, so promptly handed me the most terrific sandwich with a slice of meat cut from some beef ribs and some super spicy chilli sauce (most unusual in Argentina, they don’t like spice).

My pigeon Spanish wasn’t much use but enthusiasm and hand signals powered me through, and that terrific sandwich, the fantastic two who run the parrilla and those truckers made my holiday.

I loved it so much and found it so magical, in an attempt to share it, I turned it into a cartoon for you (from my photographs).

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Silly Me! I Forgot to Mention YOU Can Win Great Prizes

…. if you vote (for me? :) in the OFM awards.

There are lots of prizes and the chances are pretty good!

So, in exchange for a litte vote, you might win:

• A wine lover’s trip to Bordeaux

• A meal for four at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

• An overnight stay and Michelin-starred lunch at The Manor House in Wiltshire

• A year’s supply of Riverford Organic vegetables

• A Gourmet Picnic hamper (for two winners)

• A Weber One Touch premium BBQ with tool set

• A personal wine tutorial and dinner at Orrery in Marylebone

• Afternoon tea at Bar Boulud

• Tickets to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition plus dinner at the Royal Academy restaurant

• A year’s supply of Cafédirect coffee and Presso coffee-maker

• Harvey Jones chopping boards (for 10 winners)

• A tour of London’s Sipsmith distillery for 10, plus a bottle each to take home

Not bad now, eh?

So, what are you waiting for? VOTE HERE.

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Observer Food Monthly Awards – Last Chance to Vote!

Hi folks! One last mention of the Observer Food Monthly Awards. I was close last year but didn’t win, and that was mainly because I didn’t ask you to vote, so I am not making that mistake this year! The votes close soon (June 24th).

I would be very grateful for your vote. It takes seconds, you need a UK address, and you only need to fill in the blog bit unless you have other stuff you want to vote for too (I am sure you do). You can win great prizes too! A wine lover’s trip to Bordeaux, a meal for four at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, an overnight stay and Michelin-starred lunch at The Manor House in Wiltshire, and lots more.

Aside from making me very happy, if I get shortlisted I *promise* to publish my chorizo jam recipe. See? Shameless. I withheld it for my book but I had so many recipes it didn’t make it in.

Otherwise, more Buenos Aires posts very soon, including the best truck stop parrilla eveer, ceviche at Astrid y Gaston (a sibling of the Peruvian original placed in the Worlds 50 Best Restaurants) and STEAK. Of course.

Observer Food Monthly Awards Voting Form

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Eating Buenos Aires: Pizza, Fugazzetta & Empanadas at El Cuartito

So you’re in Buenos Aires. Well, you’ve got to eat like a Porteño and go get yourself some pizza. You weren’t expecting that now, were you?

El Cuartito has been making pizza in downtown Buenos Aires since 1934. Not just any ole pizza, they serve the pizza peculiar to Buenos Aires, the fugazzetta (or fugazza con queso).

Fugazzetta at El Cuartito

Why pizza? There was a huge influx of Italian immigrants, particularly from Genoa in the 19th and 20th centuries to Argentina. Now, 25 million Argentines are of Italian descent (that is up to 60% of the total population). So, this naturally has had an enormous influence. There are Italian restaurants and pizzerias all over Buenos Aires, and El Cuartito is one of the old standards.

El Cuartito

Why go?

It’s brusque, big and noisy and fun. Bustling and joyful, I loved it. Eat at the counter or queue for a table. Either way, you will be having a proper local experience.

El Cuartito

The fugazetta is a slightly insane extremely rich deep cheese and onion pizza. If you eat a whole one I will clap you on the back and then call the ambulance. A couple of slices though, particularly at the end of the night, is heavenly. You haven’t been to Buenos Aires if you haven’t tried the fugazzetta.

El Cuartito

Empanadas are very good. Try the spicy beef one and the jamon y queso one.

El Cuartito

They serve fainá, a traditional chickpea based flatbread. You have to try that too.

El Cuartito

So go, and love it as much as I did. And don’t make the same mistake as me, have the dulce de leche flan. The fugazzetta and empanadas floored me and I couldn’t face it. In my defence, I had had a big lunch and dinner!

El Cuartito, Talcahuano 937, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Palate Cleanser: A Postcard from Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Streets - gorgeous paper shop in Palermo

So, here in Buenos Aires it is definitely all about the food. From the parrillas to the Peruvian ceviche, the asados to the empanadas.

There is so much more here though, it would be a crime to speak only of the food. Colourful shops and streets, eccentircities and lots of style. So, here’s a little palate cleanser before my next food post of things I’ve noticed and loved on the Buenos Aires streets and a few other random bits.

Buenos Aires Streets

Lovely light in my hotel room

Buenos Aires Streets

Buenos Aires Streets

Buenos Aires Streets

Superb ( and huge) breakfast at Fierro Hotel, Buenos Aires

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Recipe from Argentina: Rabbit Empanadas

Rabbit Empanadas at the Fierro Hotel, Buenos Aires

Rabbit Empanadas! I loved them. You loved the idea of them. I couldn’t just sit there and scoff them while tweeting the pictures then blogging about it so you could covet them, now could I? Well, I could but I didn’t think that fair. So, I asked the chef at Fierro Hotel – Hernán Gipponi – if he wouldn’t mind sharing, and very generously he did, and in English too. Thanks so much Hernán.

I read the recipe and thought, but of course! Rabbit confit, that explains why they were so rich and delicious. The wonton wrappers give a crisp, light and delicious shell. And the piquant little bites of apple, the sweet onion and the crunch of the pecan nuts. Well, I have to stop typing as I now want to order them again.

Make them, do! They’re gorgeous.

Rabbit Empanadas Recipe

Ingredients
1 Rabbit (clean, about 2kg)
rosemary (to taste)
garlic (to taste)
Olive Oil (enough to cover the rabbit)

2 Granny smith apple
2 onions, finely diced
50 grs pecan nuts

Wonton dough (8cm x 8cm)

1 egg (beaten)

Preheat the oven to 90 C. In a deep oven tray place the rabbit, crushed garlic and rosemary. Cover with plenty of olive oil. Confit for 45 minutes per kg of rabbit (about 90 minutes for a 2kg rabbit).

Clean the rabbit and shred the meat (taking care of not leaving any bones)

Saute the onions in a little olive oil. In a bowl mix the shredded rabbit meat with the apples, onions and pecan nuts (all finely chopped).  Season to taste with salt, pepper and olive oil.

Place the mix with a spoon in a wonton dough square and paint the edges with egg. Fold in the middle forming a pocket and squeeze tightly so the empanadas won’t open while cooking.

Deep fry or bake the empanadas until golden brown.

Serve with a sweet & sour sauce dip of your choice. (we use a Hoisin / Worcestershire mix)

This makes about 60 empanadas, that can be kept in the freezer.

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Greetings from Buenos Aires: Now *Almost* Awake!

Rabbit Empanaditas on the terrace (oh YAWH!)

Greetings from Buenos Aires folks. I am on holiday – true – but have also been working writing more recipes, so I don’t feel like I am on holiday just yet.

Tomorrow.

The beauty of being on holiday here in Argentina, is that in the lovely hotel that I am staying in (Fierro Hotel), I can work from my desk in my room and eat Rabbit Empanaditas (with rabbit, onions, nuts and apple) served with a gorgeous sweet and sour sauce. I will definitely have to try and make something similar when I get home!

Otherwise there has been steak, and it’s as good as you’ve heard. The portions are enormous too. I had a half portion of steak ribs for lunch yesterday and had to waddle home after. (I had also had another large empanada and some morcilla – you just have to try, don’t you?).

I had such steak and malbec confusion that I tried to pay the waiter 4 times the price in the wrong currency. Thankfully he was honest and kind. He was actually quite cross with me and told me off. I then gave him a really generous tip in thanks, which seemed to annoy him further as he clearly thought I just didn’t get it. Hey ho.

Gorgeous heated roof top pool (*sad face*)

And it is for this reason sadly, and for many similar ones that preceded this, that I won’t be exposing my empanada pocked bod-ay at the rooftop pool. Next time when I am a slim jim once more! When I started blogging I was a svelte size 10 and a big eater, so it should be ok to get back to it, no?

Sorry, I couldn’t hear you, I was eating an empanada.

Ciao for now folks! Back soon with some steak stories and some Buenos Aires tasting menu action. A supper club too! (Although they are called something else here).

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Some Thoughts on Book Writing and Starting a Food Blog

The Guardian Word of Mouth published a piece today on bloggers that write books, or blogs that become books, including a mention of mine, and it prompted some interesting conversation. I find that I am talking to people about this topic more and more when they meet me now, especially when they hear that I have written a book. There is a always a lot of questions, somehow people want to understand how this phenomenon or trend has been taken seriously by publishers, also why the hell do I write a food blog so obsessively in the first place? So, why not a few words on that?

Firstly, starting a food blog (in the UK) in 2007, was a very different thing to starting one now. There was no expectation of anything coming of it. There were a few pioneers, but there simply wasn’t a culture of blogging about food particularly, certainly not in the way there is now. There seems to be far more food blogs than any other type of blog in the UK at the moment. Nor were there any success stories, book deals or expectations of free things to review like meals or products as there is now (if bloggers choose to accept them, I am not getting into that argument now!).

Instead, it was a raw, and I believe, honest pursuit. I am not for a second suggesting it is dishonest now, but new bloggers are in a far different environment. Paths have been beaten to journalistic careers and publishers doors, and there is now the possibility of a trajectory and of success in a food related sphere.

Starting a blog for me back then was little more that creating a trough for obsession and dissatisfaction with current pursuits. For me, I was very unhappy in my job and felt unhappy when I looked at where I was and where I was going to be, but I loved food, loved to cook, loved to create recipes, and I also loved to write. It was a natural, if unexplored path for me to follow, and from when I started, I enjoyed every minute and just wanted to get better at it. People responded well to the recipes which was incredibly encouraging, and I started to enjoy it more and more. It started to define my everyday existence.

Over the years publishers started to get in touch about doing a book, but the timing always seemed to be appalling for me. The last few years have been peppered with dramas which I won`t go into here and now. Writing a book has aways been a dream of mine (I realise it is for a lot of people), so I took it very seriously as I wanted to do it properly, and so I held off until I felt that I was in a place where I had something concrete that I wanted to write about in a book format. I think where people make the greatest assumption is the next bit, that a publisher will publish any blogger with an audience. That is simply not the case.

Before any publisher would take me seriously, even if they were the ones that made the first move by getting in touch, I had to have a concrete book proposal with a hook, something that defined it and made it stand out. For me that also meant something that made it very much me. My proposal was almost 30 pages of overview, book structure, recipes, feedback, table of contents and all other pertinent things. I met publishers to discuss it, defended my concept, took their feedback on, and when I found the publisher that was right for me – Quadrille – I signed with them.

Writing a book itself, is more difficult than I imagined. Writing full time for weeks and weeks, running into months and months is challenging (if still the best job that I have ever had). Recipe testing over and over begins to feel inhumane (but essential). At the end of it, I am left with my first book – Comfort & Spice, published this September by Quadrille – which I am very proud of, and I hope that you like it too.

And that is it. My story so far. Who knows what comes next, but I am not thinking like that. I am still enjoying this for what it is, and still loving writing about it all, every single minute.

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A Sleepy Hola from Buenos Aires

Greetings from Buenos Aires, folks! You remember that trip to Argentina that I have had to postpone twice? The one to Argento in Mendoza and also a little while in Buenos Aires back in November, rescheduled to January, then rescheduled to, well, now? Well, finally I am here. Yeehaw!

I arrived this morning after a night flight so I am a little fuzzy, but I have had my first meat and malbec escapade in a local Parrilla so I am happy. Very pleasant half bottle of malbec, very pleasant bife de chorizo, chimmichurri to rub it all in, a big pile of mash and a lovely pickled aubergine thing. A huge basket of bread too. Just me to eat it all!

The steak was lovely, even though they cook it well done here, it was still very nice. Never thought I would say that. I have been practicing the Spanish for rare steak since as imagine how much better it would be?  It all came to £20 and was a lovely afternoon. Who’s complaining about how the steak was cooked? Not me, I just want to try it rare, that’s all.

The hotel I am staying in is billed as the hotel for gourmands in Buenos Aires. Happily, it’s also near lots of the places that I want to try. I somehow completely missed that the restaurant here is supposed to be great too. I just don’t generally expect that in a hotel.

How so? For one, there are goat sweetbreads on the menu, which I am very excited to try. Also, a rooftop pool, but I am more excited about the sweetbreads. That’s my priorities right there for ya! It’s linked, those kind of obsessions don’t make for a good bikini body.

A sleepy over and out for now. Apologies if this is meandering, that’s the way my brain is set right now. Clogged with cakes, steaks and a little veen-oh. I fear that I shall be like a mis-shapen dumpling in a dress with two peg legs by the time I return. But I will be happy, won’t I? I think so.

I will be back soon with more including details on the hotel, dinner et al. I know lots of you have plans to visit Buenos Aires and you have asked me to tell you all about it. Well, I would have anyway, wouldn’t I? Because that is what I do :)

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Polpo Has a New Sibling & Da Polpo Hits the Mark

Da Polpo has hit Maiden Lane, yet another great place to eat in Covent Garden. I could not have typed that 2 years ago.

Da Polpo comes from the team behind Polpo, Polpetto & Spuntino. It’s very hard to criticise anything that these guys do, because they do it so well. Impressive in itself, and doubly so when you consider the speed of the rollout.

Ordinarily I would be worried that somewhere I liked was expanding so quickly, but they do so in style, retaining the quality of the food and each place has its own distinct character. Styled, as the others have been with superb attention to detail to create a place that looks like it has always, effortlessly, been there.

Da Polpo & Prosecco = Happy Birthday! :)

Polpo Prosecco at Da Polpo

Da Polpo sits behind a traditional Venetian style bacaro facade. A long bright room with tables and seats at the bar sits above the aperol bar downstairs, which serves, of course, aperol, plus the full Da Polpo menu. The menu is similar to Polpo, with more of those meatballs.

Pork Shoulder & Pickled Pepper Pizzette at Da Polpo

I popped in for lunch earlier this week which was during the preview at 50% off. We treated ourselves to a bottle of Polpo prosecco along with meatballs (traditional and pork and fennel in a tomato sauce) – both very good, a pork shoulder and pickled pepper pizzette, terrific umami rich potato & parmesan croquettas (how I love that two new places José and here – have great versions of my favourite thing!), a lively and light fritto misto and a bright healthy heritage tomato salad. A perfect and indulgent lunch for two.

Fritto Misto & Heritage Tomato Salad at Da Polpo

Potato & Parmesan Croquettas at Da Polpo

We finished with some ice cream, mine was cherry & yogurt. I couldn’t help a cheeky dessert too, cheeky as it was basically a posh float of lemon sorbet with prosecco. It was my birthday you see, so I went to town a little.

Cheeky Dessert at Da Polpo

Ice Cream at Da Polpo

Prices are very good, as you would expect from their other establishments.  Another notch on the polpo bedpost, and I certainly will be back for more.

Da Polpo, 6 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden

PS. I wouldn’t normally review a soft launch, but this was lovely, and I am off to Argentina on Saturday, so it was then or not for a month. Those of you that didn’t know about it will surely forgive me once you visit.

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Ola José! José Pizarro’s New Sherry Bar Hits Bermondsey

José Pizarro

At long last, José Pizarro, former head chef at Brindisa Group, has opened his sherry bar in Bermondsey. It’s as good as I hoped it would be, terrific food & wines are served at really decent prices in a lovely cosy room. Better than that, Josés warm personality is evident throughout, it’s really friendly and welcoming. Warm wood counters grace large windows, it’s predominantly standing room here, but that adds to the bustling vibe.

The wine list has been put together by Tim Atkin MW and Jo Ahearne MW, and features a terrific house cava by Babot at £6 a glass. I also really enjoyed a glass of Verdejo from (2010 Cuatro Rayas), a fresh and lively sauvignon blanc from Rueda at £6.50 a glass. There is of course the sherry which has its own comprehensive list. I have yet to explore this properly but will definitely be going back there to sample.

What of the food? There wasn’t a dud dish when I visited. My favourites were the divine croquetas, perfect tortilla, pisto with fried duck egg, albondigas iberico with spicy tomato sauce, gazpacho that tastes like it has come straight from Andalucia, and hake with allioli. Tapas prices range from £3.50 to £7. There are no reservations so just turn up.

José, 104 Bermondsey St, London, SE1 3UB

http://www.josepizarro.com/news/660