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A Postcard from Stellenbosch, South Africa

Greetings from Toronto. My fast paced life is a little too full on at the minute, and while I am tired, I love it so I am not going to complain. However, after two long haul economy flights (from Capetown via Jo’burg to London, and London to Toronto), I was thrilled to wake up in a bed this morning. An actual bed! On the ground! Before I get stuck in here, for I have a busy week ahead, I wanted to share a little bit about Stellenbosch with you. I tried last night but fell asleep next to my laptop. I need to set some work / life boundaries.

So, Stellenbosch. All I knew was that they produced a lot of good wine, and that the surroundings were pretty stellar. Yes, that was all true, but there was so much more. Terrific restaurants, stunning views, the light, and the lovely warm generous people. Within a few days I was already starting to plan my second visit to the area, there is so much more to explore. [Read more]

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A Postcard from the Overberg, South Africa

Greetings from Stellenbosch, in South Africa. Although I am not going to share photos from there with you today. Today, I am starting with the Overberg, where I spent my first couple of days. There is only one hour time difference between here and the UK and so no jet lag (that beast), so we got started straight away.

The Overberg is to the east of Capetown in the Southern tip of South Africa. Roughly an 11 hour direct flight from London. I left in Spring and landed in Autumn to turning falling leaves and gorgeous sunsets. Wildlife and eco tourism is a focus, and wine is made here and lovely olive oils too. The Overberg, with it’s gentle pace and laid back approach to life, was a perfect place to start, relax and soak all that beauty in.

We started with a chilled day at The Marine, capped off with a lovely tasting menu matched with local wines at The Pavilion. We went on a boat to see seals and other wildlife and went on a plane ride over the sea, from where we spotted several schools of dolphins surfing (how joyful!) and a few enormous great white sharks (both activities with Grootbos)

First thoughts? Beautiful, obviously, but also, WOW, dining and hotels are very accessible here in terms of price. A tasting menu at The Marine in Hermanus (a five star Relais & Chateaux property) costs only £30, and a room at Grootbos, including all meals (a five star lodge with immense views and activities) starts from only (approx) £120 per person. I am planning a holiday here already.

Enough of the factual detail, I will compile a post on that soon for your reference. For now, a postcard. More on Stellenbosch and #Stellenblog soon.

This campaign was created and sponsored by the Stellenbosch Wine Routes and Destinate in partnership with  iambassador. I maintain full editorial control of the content published, as always.

 

 

 

 

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A Postcard from Brunei – Starting in Bandar Seri Begawan (Traditional Foods, Night Market, Monkeys, the Water Village and a Croc!)

Greetings from a very sleepy corner of the universe. I thought that travelling back west from Melbourne would be easy peasy, but it turns out that, well, it is a bit tricky. Perhaps only if you get up at 4am to climb 850 steps into the Brunei jungle, when what you normally do is busy but not all that active. For whatever reason, my legs hate me and sleep is evasive. Terrified by my clear lack of fitness, I now think of the gym. But then swiftly of making marshmallows. Ahem. Or is that Amen?

We stopped off at Brunei on the way back from Melbourne. Brunei is one of the worlds smallest and also wealthiest countries, tucked away on the north coast of Borneo. Brunei is surrounded by Malaysia and has a similar food culture, with its own unique twists.

Food and wine lovers, take note: Brunei is a dry country. You are allowed to bring in two bottles of wine (and must declare them, excess will be confiscated and I should know, it happened to me), but it is well worth a stop off to explore the food markets, the beautiful mosques, see some monkeys, crocodiles (yes!) and spend a relaxing night in the rainforest.

[Read more]

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A Postcard from Lima, Peru

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The view as we flew over the Andes into Lima, Peru

I am coming to the end of a brief trip to Peru. Deeply sleepy, quite full, and getting ready to go back to London, I am reflecting on a most inspiring 4 days. I have had 4 tasting menus in 4 of Latin America’s best restaurants in Lima, eaten at a superb home restaurant, eaten at an Amazonian restaurant, had lots of wonderful ceviche and acquainted myself with the magic of the Peruvian potato (so varied and incredibly delicious). I attended Latin America’s 50 best restaurants, met some really inspiring chefs and food writers, attended the Chowzter Latin America’s Tastiest Fast Feasts and ate my way around Mistura. I ate guinea pig (twice) and alpaca – both traditional Peruvian meats.

I am ready to come home and I feel so inspired to cook. The food is so vibrant and characterful, full of colour and flavour. I will definitely be back for longer and to explore more of Peru – particularly the Andes.

I have so much to write about. But lets start with a postcard, as I like to do :)

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Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants

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Astrid y Gaston receiving the best restaurant in Latin America award

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Javier Wong, at Chez Wong, making ceviche from flounder

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I met Rick Bayless at Mistura!

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Fantastic chicharron sandwich at El Chinito

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A wall of pork and pork crackling cooking over a fire at Mistura, Peru

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Tasting Menu at Central, Lima

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Virgilio Martinez at the pass in Central, with his head chef (and wife) Pia in the background

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Gaston Acuria at Astrid y Gaston

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Alain Ducasse and Diego from Astrid y Gaston

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Diego, head chef at Astrid y Gaston, presenting the elaborate (and delicious) desserts at the end of the 18 course tasting menu

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The winning dish at the Chowzter Tastiest Fast Feast of Latin America Awards

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Confit cuy (guinea pig) at Maido (part of the tasting menu)

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Terrific octopus dish at Maido, the potatoes were magical, as though a potato had been crafted from butter

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Squid ink pasta at La Mar

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A producer at the market in Mistura

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Potatoes! Lots of wonderful potatoes

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More potatoes at Mistura

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…. still more potatoes

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… and a potato rainbow (at the end of this rainbow is pure joy)

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One of the producers at Mistura

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Dancers at Mistura

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Tamale seller at the mercado (and they were delicious)

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Corn at the market

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Cocoa pods at the mercado (in the center)

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Lace maker at the market

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A Postcard from Newfoundland & Labrador

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An actual postcard!*

A street of colourful houses in St John's in Newfoundland at dusk

A street of colourful houses in St John’s in Newfoundland at dusk

I say Newfoundland & Labrador, on this trip I just went to Newfoundland, but lets say the whole thing, if only so I can say that that this is where the labrador dog comes from (they were originally the St. John’s water dog) and also, there is a Newfoundland dog too. And it has webbed feet. Webbed feet! Not just that but a water resistant coat. I saw fantastic over the top puffins, with their crazy orange lipstick. A MOOSE!, some eagles but no whales or icebergs so I will be back.

Not just for the wildlife, I loved it there. It is like a quirky mirror of Ireland on the other side of the Atlantic, but everything is much bigger (N&L is almost the size of Japan but with a population approximately 248 times smaller), and the people there are some of the calmest and most laid back that I have ever met. This is the place to go and detox from the big city.

This isn’t a wildlife blog though, so what of the food? Such fresh cod, cod tongues, cod cheeks, served with scruncheons – diced fried cubes of salted pork fat. What can be wrong with that? Nothing! Don’t be fooled with the fact that these are so called cheap cuts (or have that put you off, cheap cuts are almost always the tastiest anyway), the cod tongue is so light and delicious, fried and encased in batter it beats normal fried cod. If you are worried about eating cod, the cod is caught in a sustainable way now, post moratorium, and is very tightly controlled.

I ate homemade fish cakes (always with salt cod which is not called cod here, it is simply fish), and was shown how to make them too, recipe soon. Moose sausages, pickles, lobster benedict for breakfast. What an indulgence. I saw seal flipper pie, moose pie, rabbit pie, potted seal, potted moose, bakeapples (cloudberries), partridge berries (lingonberries) and lots more. Seal flipper pie & potted seal might sound harsh, but this is a traditional food there, and so I will document it. I had my first Jiggs dinner with Lori and her family.

I also went to hunt the Waterford blaa, which I had heard was there and was determined to find. I found it, in a way, at Lori’s house, but that is a story in itself and I will be back with that soon.

For now, some pictures, as always. See you soon!

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Ferryland lighthouse, where I had a great picnic lunch (the picnics are provided on site and are excellent)

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I grew up by the sea, and this used to be true for me too :)

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A flying puffin!

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Cannonised saints – they are actually standing on canons from the war between the French & the English in Canada

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Flying puffins and murres, three up close and many more speckled behind

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A view of St John’s and the harbour from Cabot Tower, Newfoundland & Labrador

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Cod tongues with scruncheons and tartare at Blue on Water, St John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador

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Lobster benny for breakfast at the Sheraton hotel, St John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador

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A murres in flight – Newfoundland

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Baking bread (blaas!) with Lori in Waterford Valley…

...and preparing a traditional Jiggs Dinner which we ate with her family

…and preparing a traditional Jiggs Dinner which we ate with her family

I travelled to Newfoundland & Labrador with the Canadian Tourism Commission

*everyone asks when I post one of these on instagram / twitter / facebook, so, if you are wondering, the postcard was taken using a function on the camera of my Samsung S4.

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New Zealand: A Day in Wanaka Cooking with Annabel Langbein

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One of the problems with doing what you love and writing about it – and believe me there are a few – is that sometimes you are so consumed doing things, it is difficult to find the time to write about it.

Take my trip to New Zealand this time last year. Only 8 days, too brief, but packed with brilliant and inspiring things. So many, that while I was there, I was so busy *doing* that there was very little time to write. I did manage two postcards, here and here, before moving on to Hong Kong (and doing so much doing there too, that I have yet to write about that also, which is ridiculous, as I booked a stopover in Hong Kong so that I could relax and slow down for a bit).

I was watching Saturday Kitchen this morning through jet lag goggles, when I spied lovely Annabel Langbein cooking, and was immediately transported to cooking with her in her kitchen in Wanaka, New Zealand, last year.

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Annabel Langbein is a food writer, cook and tv chef from New Zealand. She has been writing (and publishing her own) cookbooks for years. She is an advert for self publishing. When she decided that it was time to pursue TV, she also did that herself, putting together a TV crew with her husband, and in the process ensuring that everything she did was exactly as she intended. She has been hugely successful and is a household name there.

Inspiring.

I can see why. Annabel’s food is packed with flavour and beautifully simple. The hallmark of Annabel’s food is the bright and fresh flavours, food that is healthy and light, that is easy to recreate at home. She combines ingredients in ways that you might not have thought of, in the process inspiring her readers to eat better at home.

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Annabel is interested in real food, so much so that when we ate lunch we had her own homemade halloumi cheese with New Zealand lamb and beetroot. This was right up my alley, my own book has a few recipes for homemade cheese, and I am forever trying new ones at home. It was terrific.

We picked vegetables from her beautiful garden overlooking Lake Wanaka and sunflowers for the table. She grows a beautiful variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers, it is magical, which you can see from the photos.

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To my relief,  she said that when she first started in the food writing business, she put on a lot of weight. I was surprised, she is so trim and healthy now, and I thought, phew, it isn’t just me! I was a (UK) size 10 when I started, and I have climbed a bit since. I am working on it, it is amazing how far it can go before you even notice, and I am getting back to normal now with exercise. Dieting isn’t for me, although I am being more sensible.

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Annabel’s books are wonderful. She isn’t well known in the UK yet, but I think it is only a matter of time before that changes. You can get her book The Free Range Cook on Amazon. Check out her website too.

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If you love to cook at home, and if you are reading my blog you probably do, I would recommend that you get it. Also keep an eye out for her new book which is out soon.

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A Postcard from Tokyo

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Shinjuku, Tokyo

And now on to the final leg of my Japan trip, Tokyo. It makes me sad to type that.

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Tokyo

I still manage to get lost near constantly. That is part of the Japan experience though. One restaurant that I really liked and that I want to recommend is down one of many tiny winding side alleys off a street. I asked for the street name and got the reply “there isn’t any!”.

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Sushi sweets in a sweet shop in Asakusa, Tokyo

So, that is one of the challenges.

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Kitchenware in Kappabashi, Tokyo

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Tiny branding irons in Kappabashi, Tokyo

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HAI!

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Bright kettls, in Kappabashi, Tokyo

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Plastic food shop in Kappabashi, Tokyo

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Plastic beer is a lot more expensive than an actual beer, in Kappabashi, Tokyo

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Plastic yakatori, in Kappabashi, Tokyo

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Plastic meals and levitating forks, inKappabashi, Tokyo

Kappabashi is a must visit for passionate cooks, shops full of kitchenware line the streets and excellent knife shops. There are even a few shops that sell the plastic food you see in all restaurants here detailing the menu.

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Things you might need for your restaurant, in Kappabashi, Tokyo

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Cutters in Kappbashi, Tokyo

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Knife engraving, inKappabashi, Tokyo

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Gorgeous Japanese knives in Kappabashi, Tokyo

I have been moving around and staying in different parts to get a feel for the city. Starting with Shinjuku: buzzy, blurry, bright and intense, this was where Lost in Translation was set. It is enormous and there is so much there including Omoide Yokocho, a network of small narrow alleys groaning with yakitori bars, it is also known as “Piss Alley”.

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Yakitori in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Tucked in the middle of Omoide Yokocho is a noodle bar on a corner that serves soba and udon. Everytime I pass it, it is packed. One lunchtime, I joined the queue with the salary men and ordered tempura udon, which I immediately regretted when I noticed everyone around me had soba. Nonetheless, it was very good, with a big cake of shrimp and vegetable tempura on top and an onsen tamago (slow cooked egg), it came to about £2.50. Tokyo can also be really bargainous.

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Shinjuku noodle bar

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Tempura udon with onsen tamago, in Shinjuku, Tokyo

The rest of my time here has been filled with seeking the best ramen, exploring the high end a little, finding tempura, monjayaki, tonkatsu, yakitori, gyoza and digging out where I had my first tempura meal here 6 years ago. I tried some Japanese merlot (which was very good).

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Ingredients for mentaiko mochi monjayaki

The train stations are underground warrens of food shops. Calbee, the local crisp company, has started making fresh crisps under Tokyo station and serving them with hot chocolate sauce and ice cream. Actually really good. I have always loved matcha desserts but have really fallen head over heels this time. I am trying to stop myself buying this extraordinary chocolate matcha cake until I meet my friend and can share it with her.

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Fresh crisps with hot chocolate sauce, at Tokyo station

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Matcha chocolate cake

Lots of eating, and I will post more details on all of that soon.

For now, my postcard.

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Eating Osaka: Okonomiyaki, the pain of finding it and the joy of eating it

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I have mentioned my lack of a sense of direction, coupled with no knowledge of the language and being thrown into what feels like a maze, finding my first meal was difficult.

I thought I should start with okonomiyaki. I knew where I wanted to go, Mizuno. I was told it was one of the best and research supported this. I bounded out of the underground full of enthusiasm, spent a few minutes under my plastic clear umbrella in the rain turning my map around and then asked for help and followed it.

Lost again.

I saw two girls and asked them. They were Japanese tourists and effectively, I thought ran away, but they came back two minutes later with a girl from a sock shop nearby (who still had a lot of socks in her hand) who spoke a little English. More map twirling. Then she brought me to the shop and 3 of her colleagues helped us twirl the map. One wanted to send me one way, another the other. In the end they all agreed on a direction and I shot off.

Lost again. I asked some people at a candied potato counter. One ran way, I was getting anxious, but came back with a map. They approved of my choice of Mizuno! Go down two blocks (the opposite direction to which I had been travelling) and go left for 3 blocks and then – did a complicated gesture with her finger on her palm, I had no idea – but I followed as much as I could.

I got there. It must be here! Where is it? I couldn’t find it.

I wandered some more and asked a girl for help. Bear in mind it was pouring down and the streets were empty. She spoke no english but I had the restaurant details and by now FIVE maps. She called the restaurant and gave me directions, again with a complicated palm gesture. I followed, I couldn’t find it, I was so hungry.

I gave up. I know I shouldn’t have but I was ground down by now two hours in. I thought, I will just follow my nose, and if I find it I will.

I wandered aimlessly in the back streets for a further fifteen minutes trying to find somewhere I recognised. I turned a corner and realised that I had been walking in an enormous circle. Super.

I crossed the road into Dotonburi again and within ten minutes had found the kushikatsu that I wanted to try at Daruma, easily recognisable by the giant head outside. A big bowl of sauce sat at each seat with a sign in english “DON’T DOUBLE DIPPING”. It was good, very good. I had quail egg, oyster, Welsh leek, chicken meatball and the original beef with an iced oolong tea. Come to London, Daruma!

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As I left I spotted the takoyaki stand that had had such a long queue across the road, and only one person there so I had some of that. Little balls of batter / pancake with octopus inside. The best I have had yet.

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I went into the seating area behind and rejuvenated by such delicious food, I thought to myself, isn’t life so much easier with just the right amount of delicious food (too much is like cotton wool for the brain, I find myself there too often). So I asked a guy there, who had little english, where is the very best okonomiyaki near here?

Oh! Yes, Mizuno!

I was startled. Am I near Mizuno? Yes, it around the corner. And sure enough it was. With a huge queue that I joyfully joined.

Mizuno. Finally, some really good Osaka okonomiyaki. What I have been looking for. I celebrated with some warm sake and had a bowl of warm tofu with sauce to start. Gorgeous. Mizuno is tiny, only eight or ten sit at the counter where they cook.

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I got the special with lots of seafood and pork, bonito, an egg on top, it broke my heart a touch to see him break the yolk, but that is how they do it. I waited 20 minutes, sipping my sake, watching, smelling and then I had a taste.

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Worth it, so worth it. I am almost glad it worked out this way.

Time to go to Tokyo.

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A Postcard from Osaka

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Greetings from Osaka, folks! 15 minutes from Kyoto on the Shinkansen (bullet train), it is a world away. Kyoto is all low (ish) buildings, gorgeous old houses and narrow streets. Geishas wander, lots of people wear kimonos, and there is a feeling of an old world ever present here. There is, of course, a very modern portion, but there is a cap on how high buildings can be.

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A quick journey on the Shinkansen brings Osaka, bigger, bustling, higher, brighter and a lot more ostentatious. Japan’s third largest city by population, it is busy but it is gentle by western standards, everyone is very polite and super helpful. Tucked in between enormous buildings are small alleys bursting with okonomiyaki joints and noodle bars. It is charming and delicious.

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I spent two days and nights there, a lot of it getting lost, but I do love getting lost sometimes, unless I am hungry, then that is a nightmare and I feel violent (mainly towards myself). I mistook the loop line for an actual loop and a journey that should have taken 10 minutes took an hour and a half as I kept getting the wrong train. With two enormous suitcases en route to Tokyo. I do this anyway, I have a shocking sense of direction which combines beautifully with impatience at times like these, so I can’t really blame Japan.

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Never mind, I found everything I wanted to and tried almost everything I wanted to (except oshizushi – pressed sushi). Osakans love their food, it was once known as the nation’s kitchen as it used to be the centre for trading for rice. Indeed, there is an old phrase “Kyotoites are financially ruined by overspending on clothing, Osakans are ruined by spending on food”. Although, in my experience, those folks in Kyoto love their food too.

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I left Osaka hungry for more and I definitely want to go back there. It is really close to Kobe too, so it could be an epic food trip of its own.

Ps. lots more to come on Kyoto, I just like to write my postcards close to the time that I spent there.


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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 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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Lovely light in my hotel room

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Buenos Aires Streets

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

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A Postcard from Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is suffering an unusual bout of grey weather and rain for this time of year so not many pictures of the landscape for you, but a small selection of some things that I liked as I made my way around. I think they capture the spirit.

It’s still a superb place to visit. Like Ireland, they are used to the bad weather and so have a vibrant indoors culture. A bubbling local brewing culture and lots of vineyards pair beautifully with great local seafood. Live traditional music and jazz sits comfortably beside.

Looking forward to getting back here in the summer sometime too. I would love to head up to Cape Breton and also over to Newfoundland. It has to be done, right?

Great coffee and a cookie as big as my head at Two If By Sea, Dartmouth

The Chamber of Commerce in Shelburne (a very small place!)

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A Wine-ding Tour of Portugal

European Wine Bloggers Conference

I’ve much bemoaned the lack of travelling I’ve been doing of late. Get out your tiny violin and let me tell you that I’ve not been to anywhere but Ireland for more than 5 days in over 2 years. Now, what is that about?! I’ve been working hard but playing less, in the last few months particularly, so I figured it was time to do something about this somewhat depressing state of affairs, and headed to Lisbon for the weekend.

Why Lisbon? The European Wine Bloggers Wine Conference was there this year, and having met, and tasted much wine with Gabriella & Ryan Opaz and their co-organiser Rob MacIntosh this year, I had to go. They’re great people and extremely innovative, whatever they were organising, it was sure to be good. There’s also been much talk of organising a food one over a few days next year, since last March in fact so it made sense to see how it was done before getting that moving after the Blaggers’ Banquet. The bonus was that I had never been to Portugal and was keen to explore.

European Wine Bloggers Conference

How was it? Well, great. The Portugese people, in the wine world and without are open, friendly and beyond hospitable. I had a somewhat twisted expectation that I may be seen as a fraud deeply entrenched in the world of wine, but really, that says more about me than them, as my experience was quite the opposite.

European Wine Bloggers Conference

Highlights were Friday nights tasting and dinner with the Douro Boys, a meander through the Portugese wine stands on Saturday trying gorgeous ports, tawnys and many wines featuring the national grape touriga nacional, a wonderful canape and wine session at michelin starred restaurant Eleven, followed by a mildly misjudged dancing session in Lisbon, a superb trip to the Tejo region and winery Quinta Lagoalva, featuring a tour of their cork farm and a sample of theirs and the regions wines, followed by lunch with the winemakers. Such a treat.

European Wine Bloggers Conference

European Wine Bloggers Conference

More still, a wonderful dinner, lots of delicious wines, and more dancing at Alfandega in Lisbon. Where things got really special, however was, bus journey aside, for I am a terrible bus passenger, especially after much dancing, wine swilling and little sleep, a trip to the Douro and to (for me) two wineries. This was a wonderful exposure to the wine and food culture in Portugal and the really lovely people. There was no pretension, just warm, friendly people and lovely food and wine. Thanks so much to Francisco Olazabal of Quinta do Vale Meão, Cristiano Van Zeller of Quinta do Vale D. Maria, Jorge, Tomas and Miguel Roquette of Quinta do Crasto for a wonderful experience.

European Wine Bloggers Conference

Throughout all of this I had exposure to a whole new community of bloggers, the wine bloggers, who are enormous fun and very knowledgable. I look forward to seeing them next year, and before then in some cases.

That’s the overview! I’ll write more about it soon. Thanks to Gabriella, Ryan, Rob and Andre and the boys from Adegga for a superb weekend. They did a wonderful job.

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