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Chasing Pineapples

an English girl tasting her way around the world

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Travel Foodie Finds

A Fruitful Pancake Hunt Across Amsterdam (Studded with Coffee!)

So, a foodie weekend in Amsterdam begins.. The light patter of rain at the windows did not stop us from getting out to see the city’s food offerings on Friday morning (though it may have delayed it for a couple of hours as we were kidnapped by duvets). Our unanimous first stop was Café de Prins to have its poffertjes (mini Dutch pancakes) with vanilla ice cream. Unfortunately our number one thing to try no longer featured on the menu; but we could not resist the wooden panelled interiors with candles lit, local Dutch men quietly reading the paper and a resident cat who skulked in through the window. We quickly spoiled the peace of the locals with our custom loud expressions of appreciation of the places we discover. We ordered a coffee to start the day and were recommended to try pancakes at an authentic pancake house by the waitress who certainly did not lack that characteristic Dutch friendliness. So on we plodded on our hunt that criss-crossed the pictouresque canals of Amsterdam

A Different Kind of Amsterdam Cafe Culture
A Different Kind of Amsterdam Cafe Culture

Thanks to our local source of knowledge, Tom, we managed to get hold of this Dutch delicacy (poffertjes) street-food style in the market just outside of the city centre. Poffertjes: fluffy little mouthfuls of batter drizzled in nutella, maple syrup and butter were melted on our tongues leaving on the custom cardboard plate an amalgamation of buttery mapley chocolatiness to tackle.. and so between the three of us we licked the platter clean.. 

Mini Clouds of Sweetness
Mini Clouds of Sweetness

Our search for a pancake house was fruitless (to our dismay Gala’s number one place to go Upstairs Pancake House was closed) so we were a little flat when we arrived at Olive magazine recommendedScreaming Beans‘, which claimed to have the best coffee in Amsterdam. We obviously could not put this to the test and try them all, but this silky and heart-warming coffee would be pretty stiff competition and cheered us up right away. Gala, coffee enthusiast, was in barista heaven and thoroughly enjoyed the “well-rounded flavour” and “aesthetically pleasing latte art” whilst my humble palette was tickled by my deliciously frothy cappuccino.

A very kind barista, from Devon of all places, sat down with us and told us his favourite pancake house a few streets down which we finally found for our last stop before home time. There was absolutely no question as to what we would order, we had been waiting all weekend to try… Bacon and Apple Dutch Pancakes please! Crispy golden brown they appeared, an unreal combination of melting batter base and sweet caramelised apple, all cut through by ladders of crispy and salty streaky bacon. There could not have been a more fruitful ending to our trip.

Happy Girls with Bacon and Apple Dutch Pancake
Happy Girls with Bacon and Apple Dutch Pancake
FOUND IT!
FOUND IT!

Warning to visitors: the canals and bridges form a confusing, if beautiful, maze; so give yourself plenty of time to find places on your hit-list! Our pancake hunt was certainly worth the effort though, good things come to those who wait!

Two Happy Food Lovers
Two Happy Food Lovers

Thank you to Olive magazine for recommendations and Tom for hosting, we hope you enjoyed our adventure!

A Whistle-Stop Island Tour of Croatia’s Culinary Culture

Croatia’s Dalmatian islands have a rustic feel untouched by the 21st Century: just my cup of tea! Across the Adriatic from Italy and bordered by five other countries, Croatia forms a melting pot of culinary cultures dominated by seafood of the Mediterranean and the contrasting central European hearty schnitzel and strudel. The ice cream gives Italian gelati a serious run for its money: every street corner offering an array of flavours from Kinder Bueno to my favourite Lemon (not sorbet, but real creamy lemon ice cream: unbeatable!)

Enjoying ice cream on the marble streets of Dubrovnik

‘Everyone tuck in!’ and a visit to Narnia (Dubrovnik)

When in Dubrovnik, ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’, last year with my family; we stumbled across a pavement jam-packed with wooden tables; a canopy of white umbrellas above, the shiniest outdoor floor I have ever seen below and a picture perfect view of the harbour. Adding to the unpretentious atmosphere we were served up with large metal pots full of baby squids and giant prawns for everyone to dig in. Returning this year with my friends, having raved about it nonstop I worried that it may have changed for the worse and prices soared due to the recent wave of tourists. But no, to my delight the same vibrant bustling atmosphere and moderate prices remained and we enjoyed a relaxed taste of the sea. (Lokanda Peskarija)

Bustling Lokanda Peskarija

Having read about Buza bar in the guide-book, we set off in search of this Narnia-like hole-in-the-wall. Unfortunately it seemed that it was more like Narnia than anticipated, in that it was only accessible to a chosen few. (In other words, we couldn’t find it!) However, the inquisitive Ellen decided to lead us back to the main square down a random abandoned street. Her inkling was rewarded as we found our hole in the city walls, ventured down some stone steps, which opened out to a striking land of rocks leading down to the crashing waves and the vast open sea. Choosing our table on the edge of the rocks, we sipped our cocktails and admired the stars.

An Atmospheric Dinner and a much Needed Five a Day Dosage (Korcula)

An atmospheric dinner

The above photograph is the restaurant Gradski Podrum. The location of this restaurant could not be more atmospheric, with tables dotted around a beautiful square and surrounded by the city walls. There was even a full band practice taking place in an adjoining square, topping of the ambiance.

After dinner, inquisitive as ever, we peered through an archway in the city wall to find a fruit and veg shop, the perfect remedy for pretending to be healthy on holiday! We picked our five-a-day-fix from the mass of colour in crates and ambled along the seafront trying (and failing) to elegantly munch away.

Final stop of the evening’s adventure involved climbing up a ladder, again rather inelegantly, to a cocktail bar on the top of a watchtower with a panoramic view of the sea and mountains of the neighbouring island one way, and the patchwork quilt of Korcula town’s terracotta tiles the other. A round of cocktails ranging from creamy White Russians to a bright blue concoction was the perfect end to a perfect evening.

Royal Treatment, Cocktails and Dancing in the Sunset (Hvar)

Further up the islands in the party town of Hvar, we did not completely abandon our taste buds to make way for dancing the night away (although we managed to fit this in as well on the island Carpe Diem club). Our friends who were already nestled in to Hvar life took us up a narrow street of steps to Dalmatino Restaurant. Following a rather dramatic episode a few nights before, they had built up a healthy friendship with the owners, resulting in us being treated not only with a charming setting on a terrace of a busy backstreet, but plenty of drinks to add to the merriment. This very typically Croatian meal kicked off with a bang: a shot of local rogacica (Carob Brandy).

During background reading about the country’s cuisine, one particular dish caught my attention: Dalmation Pasticada. This dish of beef cooked in vinegar, wine and prunes is enjoyed by Croatians on Holy Days and special occasions. The chef of this local restaurant (who we later discovered was the owner’s mother) gave the dish her own intriguing twist by adding orange, carrot and apple. The beef fell apart with a touch and the extremely rich sauce was complimented with hints of fruitiness. Accompanied by homemade gnocchi, faithful to the island’s Italian influence, this dish was a perfect illustration of the eclectic culinary culture of Croatia.

Dalmatino: streets of Hvar

As previously stated, my entries not only observe outstanding food and drink, but also special locations. The final stop of my mini tour of Croatia was the much-loved Hula Hula Bar, host to the most stunning sunsets and best pre-dinner cocktail parties on the island. This chilled out bar, spread over the rocks of Hvar’s shoreline, provides sun beds and drinks during the day. Yet at 6pm the transformation begins and Hvar’s creatures of the night flock to soak up the evening sun and atmosphere with DJ’s, the constant spray of champagne and dancing in beachwear. With wooden platforms out in to the sea, the majority of visitors end up in the turquoise blue waters to cool down. It’s carefree, it’s fun, and it’s not to be missed!

Sunset at Hula Hula Hvar

For more information (locations etc) about any of the above recommendations, don’t hesitate to comment or contact me!

‘Four Spoons Please!’

When eating out together in an Italian restaurant, it has become a tradition in our family to order one Tiramisu with ‘four spoons please!’ When recently in Mexico I ordered a tiramisu and to our delight our waiter brought us four spoons without even being prompted, meaning our little ritual has travelled across the world with us. When I first left the nest for university I remember receiving a text from my dad reading ‘we’re having Tiramisu and we miss our fourth spoon,’ making me very nostalgic. I think that it is very important to have little quirky ways to make your eating experience in family that bit more special…I am in no way restricting family to the obvious… I am referring to any group of people with a special bond… for example the Sunday dinners between my housemates, or going for Hot Chocolate with my friend Pia, or dunking chocolate digestives in tea with my housemate Sophie… In this way, you create individual rituals that will always make you think of these special people. Wherever in the world I am, at whatever point in my life, and I have Tiramisu or choccie digestives dipped in tea, I will undoubtedly think of those who have added a little bit of pleasure to my everyday life… try and discover your own… after all, it’s the small things that count!

Always Coca Cola…

There’s always Coca Cola…

Mexico… Mayan ruins, culture, cuisine… and Coca Cola! This is not exactly the tag line you would expect for this Latin-American country… yet it is very fitting. When in Mexico we ventured inland to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. On route we passed villages (or rather roadside settlements) that our driver informed us were predominately Mayan, preserving indigenous traditions of ancient Mexico. However, alongside shops selling artisanal goods, there was the inevitable Coca Cola stand. ‘Old school’ the puestos (stalls) may have been, but their presence was significant. I did not pass one settlement lacking the iconic logo plastered across a building, truck or any available surface. It is fascinating that one product can be so unique and dominant throughout the whole world. It crosses language barriers and cultural boundaries, finding its way to the most remote of places. It was bizarre to see the fusion of this Western brand into communities otherwise struggling to survive daily life. I once watched a documentary (I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called, please enlighten me if anyone has seen it!) that focused on the transportation of Coca Cola to a North African country, told through the eyes of a young local boy. The image that sticks in my mind is that of a Coca Cola truck arriving and all of the children from the village running up behind it to catch a glimpse of the delivery from the West. The children had nothing- tatty clothes, no shoes, probably not even clean water… yet there’s always Coca Cola…

Hanging out with Coca Cola

Mexico auténtico (some traditional Mexico recipes)

On holiday in Mexico (see previous post) and venturing a bit further inland to Valledolid, we stopped at an authentic Mexican restaurant with traditional Yucatán (a south-eastern area of Mexico) dishes. We had been looking for these hearty recommendations all holiday so we were very pleased to find sopa de lima (lime soup) and poc chuc (charcoal grilled pork). What was even better was that it was whipped up before our eyes by our amigo (our waiter but in Mexico everyone calls themselves your ‘friend’!) This was a nice surprise as, in addition to knowing how fresh the food was, it provided perfect opportunity for me to jot down the recipes in my notebook. Y aquí están (here you are):

Sopa de Lima– boned chicken chopped in strips, slow cooked with coriander, onions, herbs, spices, sweet local limes and served with strips of dry tortillas for extra crunch! This soup is tangy and refreshing but also very hearty; I will definitely be brewing this up back at home!

Poc Chuc– pork marinated in juice of naranja agria (small, bitter oranges) cooked with onions, herbs and garlic. The contrasting sweet and savoury flavours made for an interesting take on a simple meat.

Pechuga del Marques– flattened chicken breast marinated with lemon and ‘Mayan and English sauce’ (he didn’t elaborate- must be the secret ingredient!) added to chopped onions and fried. Add brandy to flambé then place on a bed of chaya (local equivalent of spinach), onions and crispy bacon pieces adding an extra crunch!

All were wonderful and hearty leaving us happy and satisfied with having tried authentic Mexican food rather than just fajitas and tacos. Again, a new idea of what Mexican food really is… it seems my vision has been altered considerably over the past month, most definitely for the better!

Tequila Sunrise… the Mexican dream!

Only having tried Mexican food a few times in greasy commercial American places, I was reluctant when my friend recommended a Mexican restaurant in Soho. However when we walked in to ‘Wahaca’ I knew that the half hour queue would be worth it. After chilling in the Tequila bar, our wait was compensated by the rapid ‘Mexican street food’ idea of the upstairs service. I chose from the variety of smaller dishes listed before me on my table mat, and before I knew it I had tacos, tostadas and quesadillas before me, accompanied with sweet potatoes- fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside- divine! I enjoyed nibbling at the assortment in the laid back environment… just as Mexican should be. The experience was great- no greasy nachos, nobody shouting ‘Tequila!’, just good (and reasonably priced) food! http://www.wahaca.co.uk/

So, having a completely altered view on Mexican food, news that we were going to this Central American escape on a family holiday couldn’t have come at a better time and I couldn’t wait to see what delights this exotic country had in store for me…

Leaving the commercial and Americanised Cancun, we chose to venture a bit further afield to the more laid back ‘Caribbeanesque’ Tulum. On arriving, passing cabaña after cabaña (wooden beach huts) with occasional glances of the most beautiful beach I had ever seen, I knew we had struck gold!

Our car pulled up by the side of the road and we were pointed down a narrow passageway in the direction of the sea. Dragging our suitcase with difficulty through the sand we came to a lovely boutique hotel Coqui Coqui, reminiscent of a Mayan ruin itself completely made of stone with tiny stone stairs leading us to wooden doors welcoming us to our casa (home) for the week.

Considering we had been travelling for the best part of 48 hours and that it was midnight English time, all we wanted was good food rápido (fast)! We were directed three doors down to a beach hut for authentic Mexican fajitas with guacamole and frijoles (refried black beans). With risk of pointing out the obvious, it was so much better than any Mexican place in England- the fajitas are so much lighter and the limey guacamole is very tasty. The backdrop of a beautiful white beach and turquoise sea wasn’t bad either!

I am now half way through my holiday and have stuffed myself with fajitas, burritos, tacos galore… and guacamole… lots of guacamole… I could write pages on the food I have tasted here but instead I would like to point out a few highlights- those meal times which have stood out because of their ambiente un poquito especial (special ambiance)

‘What a View’

Zebra: our favourite beach bar serving the best fish tacos of the holiday- beautifully cooked light fish with a large helping of the ever present guacamole! Wooden painted tables amongst the palm trees, swing chairs and an abandoned wooden bar made for a perfect beach eating experience.

supper’s up

Casa Jaguar: On our way to find a recommended restaurant we stumbled upon this little haven. The decor was literally out of this world like an outdoor hippy den amongst the trees from which all sorts of knick knacks were hanging. They cooked our whole white fish in the stone oven make it extremely soft, light and full of aromas of the oven. Served on a concoction of mango, avocado and tomato this was one of the tastiest dishes of the holiday!

Nosying in to la cocina

 

 

Hemingway’s: On strolling along the beach one day, we found this beautiful, brightly coloured beach hut and we decided to book in for that evening. What made this restaurant so special was its feel of a rustic family home (they were actually Italian, so no Mexican food, however it was a nice break from all the guacamole!). There were only half a dozen tables, all brightly painted wood, with a tiny bar and sitting area and a kitchen that we could spy into- again, just like a kitchen in a family home! Chefs wandered backwards and forwards into la cocina (kitchen) with a lobster in tow one time, nests of freshly made tagliatelle the next. With no menu but a blackboard, adding to the low key vibe, we were given the choice of fish or pasta. My mum and I chose tagliatelle mariscos (seafood) which came in a huge bubbling paella dish. We fished around in the tagliatelle with a light and sweet tomato sauce to find lobster, calamari, crab and the biggest prawns I have ever eaten! All four of us were scraping out the last bits until there was nothing more! Washed down with the sound of the sea in the background and a real Mexican Tequila Sunrise, it couldn’t have been better- our favourite so far!

Only half way through the holiday so plenty more to try and plenty of recipes to jot down- I am on a mission to find some authentic local dishes! But that’s all for now… buenas noches (goodnight)!

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