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Exploring Buenos Aires

Every year Carl heads to Argentina for a week of guy bonding and fishing. This year on a quick change of plans from visiting Brazil,  my friend, Yu Sian and I had to switch to a visit to Buenos Aires which crossed over two days with Carl.

We all arrive in BA in the early morning and proceeded to The Alvear Palace Hotel  on Alvear Street. The hotel is the old grand Dame of famous hotels. They had rooms ready for us so we got unpacked and ready to head out. When the other fishing guys arrived we walked 2 blocks to Fervor Restaurant. Fervor is a white table cloth restaurant like when working people use to lunch. They serve a couple of fish choices and meat of a every kind, shishka bobs with 3 different types of meat. We had a fried cheese to start with a side of roasted red peppers drizzled with just the right amount of olive oil.and of course a nice bottle of wine.

The men went back to the hotel and we headed out to tour the famous cemetery where Evita is buried. On the way back to the hotel we stopped for amazing ice cream at Volta across the park from the cemetery.  We needed a rest to get ready for the big steak dinner. The men wanted to have the big steaks that Argentina is famous for, so off we went to Don Julio, donjulio.com.ar, the steaks are big enough to share along with a wonderful plate of heirloom tomatoes. When you do not have a reservation for dinner until after 8:30pm it is hard to go to bed at 1 am.

We went to the Soho area the next morning to walk, explore, and shop, this area is a young energized group of streets still in transition. There were fun restaurants and stores of every kind. One thing you realize is the trend that fringe and platform shoes are in, covered with a poncho of some kind. After wandering the streets and a stop for coffee it was already time for lunch. We grabbed a cab and headed across town to The San Telmo area and “La Brigada” the meat centric restaurant famous for all the soccer memoribilia. The walls and even the ceiling are covered with photos and signed jerseys. The servers all love to cut your meat with a spoon to show how tender their meat is. We shared a beet salad, octopus starter, filet with a blood sausage side. We had no room for dessert but watch others around us share wonderful looking dishes.

We had to do a little shopping before going back to the hotel for a well deserved rest. First stop was for a pair of lizard shoes from Rossi and Caruso, they have several stores in the city and this one is behind our hotel so an easy stop. The next stop was “Arandu”, Ayacucho 1920 street. This store is 3 floors of beautiful leather goods, polo clothes and paraphernalia for the sport, old rugs and saddles.  Worth the visit.

If you want a light lunch there is a very good local empanadas restaurant behind the hotel called, El Sanjuanino. This is a funky place with $2.00 empanadas while you sit in old booths and drink a beer.

Dinner was a change of pace with reservations at a small French restaurant called “Roux”, Pena 2300,  Mrebaudino@rouxrest.com. The place seats about 36 guests upstairs with a small private room downstairs. The menu is simple, but every dish is cooked to perfection.  I had the roast goat, one of the other guests had the pork belly and someone had the duck breast. We had a excellent waitress,she spoke perfect English that helped us order the sides and of course a couple of desserts to share. Love the dulce de leche! This restaurant has 2 seating so you can come at  8:30 or 10:30pm but be sure to make reservations this is a great choice for lunch or dinner.

Each day we would just start walking and explore each unique area of Buenos Aires. You can take the yellow tour bus that allows you to get off anytime wander the area and then catch the next bus 15 minutes later, you can use the pass for 24 hours.  We toured the Latin American art, MALBA, then walked on to the Japanese Gardens, not worth the visit.

Dinner this evening is at “Tegui”, Costa Rica 5852, behind the plain graffiti painted door. I love the feeling of this space from the moment you enter the  door you are handed a glass of champagne and taken to your table. The kitchen is in the back of the space and the open concept allows you to watch the magic take place. The 10 courses offer all the food groups, starting with tomatoe, scallop, sweetbreads, veal cheeks, and several other courses before the fresh cherries and ending with chocolate 4 ways. We did not do the pairing of wine with each course, but ordered a couple of glasses of wine for the diverse meal.

We really became tourists when we took the yellow bus and got off at the El Boco area with the bright painted houses and buildings. There are several antique stores, dancers doing the Tango  with music blasting in the street.

 We jumped back on the next bus and rode to the  area where the Sunday Antique fair was in full swing, in San Pedro Telmo area, a must do on any Sunday.  We headed back to the hotel for a well deserved rest, since we had reservations at Faena hotel for the fun Tango show and dinner, expensive, but well  done.

After a busy week-end we took it easy the next day with a simple tour of the Opera house, wish we could he seen music on the stage or a ballet. If you are there during the season be sure to get tickets anything you see will be memorible.

Dinner was at a Peruvian  fusion restaurant back in the Palermo area. Osaka, Soler 5608, was a nice space with a good bar and open sushi counter. The menu was huge and trying to make a choice was difficult so our waiter helped us order. It was not one of our better meals, but the ceviche tasting was interesting.

It was our last day so we wanted to visit a couple of places on our list. The first was a kitchen store called Enseres, El Salvador 5986, a small space with  interesting tools and aprons. You have to ring the bell by the front door to enter. Then we walked 2 blocks to  a great new spot called La Mar, El Salvador  5986. This restaurant is part of a chain with several franchise owners around the world. The menu is also a Peruvian fusion concept, but much less expensive than the other concept. We met the owner Milias Rosenberg, he is young and has great energy for this beautiful restaurant. Eating lunch outside could not have been better. We shared several dishes, but the best was dessert, a suggestion of Milias, CACHANGA!!  Fresh fruit on top of a crisp is so good but, be sure to plan on sharing.

There is a new hotel in the neighborhood worth checking out. Casasur, Costa Rica 6032, this boutique hotel has a nice restaurant in the lobby and looked to have fun restaurant in the adjoining lobby, called “6”. This area is up and coming and will be a fun place to stay.

Go to Buenos Aires, it is a city with great energy!

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Cooking adventure in Morocco with Joanne Weir

When someone asks me to join them in Morocco to cook and explore I find that I can never say no. Last spring the amazing chef, cookbook author and tv personality, JOANNE WEIR,  www.joanneweir.com, suggested I join her group in Morocco for a week. That is how it all began. 

On Monday 10/21/15 I arrived at the beautiful compound in Marrakech called Jnane Tamsna, owned by Meryanne Louin-Martin and her husband Gary. Jnane Tamsna, http://www.jnanetamsna.com, is located about 15 minutes outside of the main city of Marrakech, our home of the next week. This amazing walled garden is the perfect place to return to each day after the hectic noises and sights of the medina. Monday night we gathered in the main building to meet the rest of the guests. This building is like a small hotel plus there are 2 houses on the grounds a total of 25 unique bedrooms, plus 5 large swimming pools.  

 Joanne energizes her group of 18 guests that would spend their mornings cooking in the beautiful outdoor classroom and then sit down to lunch in the garden to enjoy the dishes we created . Joanne  gave each of us a packet of recipes and beautiful new aprons and began to tell us all the exciting adventures we would experience in the next week.

Tuesday morning we cooked our first tagines, these were small personal tagines that we would enjoy for lunch.  

 Half of us did a lamb tagine with preserved lemons and the others made chicken with dried fruit. Each tagine was set on a brazier for an hour while we wandered into the garden where tables had been set up for our lunch. We each got our personal tagine placed in front of us along with lovely salad and of course a glass of local rose. After our lunch a few of us went to Maison de Zoe to order beautiful linens and  cotton bathrobes, 366 zone industrelle de Sidi Ghanem. Zoe also has a small boutique in  La Mamounia Hotel. 

Each morning chef Bahija and Chef Joanne Weir were ready with our list of recipes and all the ingredients we needed to prepare our dishes for our lunch. Everyone gathered with knives in hand cooking together with only a break for our morning tea to be served.  

 After another beautiful lunch we would venture out into the markets to explore and of course shop for our individual treasures.  We were met by our amazing guide ( ABOUL, mohmoudtours@yahoo.fr ) his card says expert on shopping, shipping and history of the country. If you want the best guide in Merrakech ABOUL is the one to contact, cell 00212 (0) 661 173 971, in advance. He helped us bargain for great prices, he took the group that wanted carpets to a warehouse with an amazing selection showing the patience few men have. 

For lunch in the medina look at “La Table du Palais” with a bountiful garden behind it walls. Love the Caftan store next door, “Maison Du Caftan, 65 Rue Sisi El Yamani.” Something for everyone and great prices and quick alterations if something did not quite fit. After crazy shopping, buying spices, saffron and argane oil we headed back to change for dinner. 

Joanne arranged for dinner atan all woman run restaurant called “Al Fassia” famous for its roasted lamb shoulder. You start with 12 small plates of different salads and dips  

 then when the roasted meat arrives you are sure you will never finish the whole plate, but it seems to disappear. Make reservations, 002120 524383839, M. Fatiha will take great care of you. 

The next day ABOUL took everyone to an amazing upscale shop “AYA’s  11 Bis, Derb Jdid Bab, next door to restaurant Tanjia.  

 This is the place to buy top quality Moroccan style clothing, jackets, dresses and accessories. After all the shopping we headed to “El Fenn” at sunset for drinks on the roof, http://www.el-Fenn.com, worth the stop.  We then walked to dinner at “La Patisserier”, I would like it better for lunch since the view over the Medina from the roof would be wonderful. 

Friday we did not cook instead we went to the wonderful spice gardens called “Nectarome”. Nectarome is about and hour out side of Merrakech toward the Atlas Mountains. Interesting place that has developed over the past 6 years and now is selling their products at retail is several locations, Jnane Tamsna had the shampoo in the showers. After our lunch in their garden several of us enjoyed a 20 minute foot soak in their unique sunken footbaths with special salts. I fell asleep on the way home I was so relaxed.  

 The other gardens that we visited when back in town was “Jardin Majorelle, the gardens of Yves Saint Laurent where his personal home is.

The next day we made a quick trip to “Galerie des Tanneuns” I bought a beautiful blue suede shirt and several wallets for gifts. Their prices are great and if they don’t have your size they are happy to make it for you. 

Before dinner we went to La Mamounia for a drink in the garden, be prepared the martini was 19 Euro, but it is beautiful and worth the experience. Dinner that night was at a small restaurant called Nomad, back in the Medina. I would suggest it for lunch, trying to wander through the maze of alley ways at night is difficult. I had a simple piece of fresh fish, a nice change from all the tagines we had been eating. 

We spent our last day saying good bye to Marrakech, some people doing one last trip to the Souke for those little gifts to take back home. Some of the group just sat by the pool for the last bit of sun. 

The last evening we were invited for a magical dinner in the gardens surrounded by the many olive and citrus trees. 

   Everyone dressed in white and Meryanne and Gary opened their lovely home for cocktails before Joanne lead us through the garden to a long table surrounded by hundreds of candles. Music was  being played from under the trees by local musicians,  

 it is hard to say good bye to Marrakech especially as we sat under the stars and listened to the sounds of the night. 

Thank you Joanne of creating memories in one week we will all have with us for a lifetime.

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Mykonos, quick stop always worth the trip

We had been on a boat in Turkey for a week and felt like we needed to share a few days on land, Mykonos was the next stop. We had to take a detour through Athens to take the short flight to Mykonos. Remember that they will charge you for your luggage unless you have a  premier gold card on one of the Star Alliance airlines. We boarded the plane for the short flight to Mykonos, 35 minutes, and we greeted by the hotel bus and whisked off to our home for the next 3 nights.

We stayed at the “Mykonos Grand Hotel”, about 10 minutes from the downtown area. This hotel has just been added onto and each room has a little different configuration. We booked a small suite facing the sea. The best room was 320, it had two bathrooms and a large bar set up in the living room. We had room 325 down the hall, it was very spacious with a bath tub and shower on one of the decks. the service is first  

 class.

The first evening we had dinner in the hotels lovely dining room with open windows that overlook the pool and sea beyond. The food was excellent and the service was great. they were willing to split many of the dishes since we wanted to try many more things than we could ever finish. The next morning we decided to take the local bus into the village, trying to experience the local life. The downtown area does not allow cars so the bus drops you off at the top of the maze of winding alley ways all taking you towards the harbor. Walking along the narrow streets loaded with hundreds of tourists from the cruise ships is a challenge in its self. The narrow streets are lined with tourist brick brack, t- shirts and colorful linen shirts for men and women. We did find one very high end group of stores and realized that things at this time of year are discounted up to 50% and then you can bargain on top of that. The town closes down on 10/1 so their remaining selling time was drawing near.

Everyone found a few great buys, mine came from a shop called “Envy Monaco” next to Louis Vuitton’s store. Then we all met for lunch at Nikos Tavern  

 down by the harbor. We shared a huge greek salad, grape leaves rolled and stuffed with rice and herbs, octopus grilled and served with lemon. The rose wine in Greece is not expensive and their local beer was a big hit on such a warm day.

Back to the hotel via cab, 10 euro, and pool time. the pool at the hotel is beautiful and they have great late afternoon service of snacks and drinks. The spa offers many services worth treating yourself to.

That evening one couple had a room with a roof top terrace so they hosted all of us with drinks and platters of cheeses and meats to watch the sun go down. Then we returned to the village for dinner at the restaurant “Ling Ling”, owned by the restaurant Hakkasan. hakkasan.com/lingling. This space is two floors, one is like a garden setting, full of grown trees and evening light. Since we went at 8:30, very early for most people in Greece, we had the place to ourselves, including the staff.  Since there were 10 of us they suggested a set menu and we added the peking duck, since we did not want to miss out on one of their best dishes. Be sure to reserve in advance and this is worth the  trip.

The last day we wanted to go to a different beach. After our lovely hotel breakfast, an hour reading by the pool and a couple people making use of the spa we headed out. We had a driver pick us up and take us to Nikolas Tavern on the beach called Kalaua. We wondered over to visit the new restaurant called Scorpio, lovely new upscale place overlooking the water. A quick tour of the beach with chairs at the ready. We went back to Nikolas, had a lunch of local fish, displayed by the owner on ice. Enjoyed the fried local shrimp and beer before our driver arrived for the return trip.

The staff at the hotel, lead by Georgia,  does a great job of helping get transportation, make reservations and offer suggestions of things to experience during your stay. The last evening they suggested “Avra” , http://www.avra-mykonos.com. A hidden restaurant set in a courtyard full of large trees and flowers to create a cool setting in the middle of the town.

We had a wonderful waiter that helped us navigate the menu and order a perfect meal shared by all of us for our last night in Mykonos.

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A week in the South of France

We arrived in Cannes and were greeted by our friends and hosts for 5 days of eating and exploring. Our friends have a wonderful condo a few blocks off the beach offering great views from a large deck. After we settled in and got organized we headed to the water front for an evening walk before sharing dinner on the deck and enjoying the sunset. 

Up early and off to the large local farmers market, off Rue Saint-George’s, and across the street from Saint-Lazard. This time of year the small melons are in season and a real treat since they are not common in the north west. We picked out local small peaches, figs, melons and apricots. Then loaded the baskets with veggies, olives, and cheeses and headed to the local bakery for bread. On our way back to the condo we stopped at Jean Luc Pele for amazing Chocolates, they have several shops in Cannes and a must visit.

After dropping all our food stuff back at the condo we relaxed on the deck with a coffee and then headed to the beach front for a late lunch. Our friends favorite place is “La Plage 45”, across the street from Le Grand Hotel on the Croisette. The beach club sits in front of the lovely little restaurant and offers great people watching. The menu is fresh and offers a good selection of summer dishes along with a sushi selection.  

   
In the evening we had dinner reservations at “La Oasis”, 06210 La Napoule. The Oasis is a very high end restaurant located in a walled garden setting. The service was perfect with information on each item on the menu and also the extended wine list. There were several small chefs offering before we even ordered to wet our appetites. The portions are very generous so it works fine to share. Be sure to leave room for the dessert trolley, it was over 6 feet high. 

Sunday morning we shared all our fruits on the deck and then late morning headed to the area over the hills called Grasse. We drove to the village of Cabris on the outskirts of Grasse for lunch on the patio of L’Auberge du Vieux Chateau.  After lunch we went into the town of Grasse to visit the famous perfume shops, best known shop is Fragonard. Grasse has always been famous for the production of essence of flowers used in soaps, sachets and of course perfume. 

We spent the evening cooking a light supper at home and enjoying some of the chocolates we found at Jean Luc Pele.  The next morning we got up early and drove 25 miles to Nice to attend the Anitque market. This is one of the largest of its kind in the south of France, located on Saleya street. You can find everything from silver spoons, full sets of silver in the original boxes to old books, Anitque linens and tools. We met a lovely man with a wonderful display of high end silver and glass pieces. We bought a full set of silverware from early 1900, all in perfect condition. Anitiquites 1900-1930 is owned and run by Mathieu, Mathieu.demyttenaere@gmail.com, he also can be found in St. Tropez on Saturdays. Mathieu packed and shipped all our silverware FedEx for us so we did not have to deal with customs etc.

Following all our shopping we shared good pizza and a local bottle of wine at a restaurant on the same street called Le Safari at 1Cours Saleya, once again the portions were huge so plan on sharing.  We walked to the new park that was finished last year when they built a cover over the river and brought in old growth trees for all over the area and built large scale play areas for families to share and others to read in the shade. Quiet dinner at home and a good card game ended another busy day in the Cannes.

The next morning on our way to the old part of the city we wandered down Rue Hoche, a small walking street full of restaurants, bakeries, cheese shops. One of our favorites is Volupte, a tea store with a simple restaurant next door. Volupte serves a perfect cold mint tea that hits the spot on a hot day. We continued to walk toward the high point at the south end of Cannes, this was where the village began. As you climb the steep winding street to the top outlook you will pass several restaurants that will welcome you on your decent back to the port below. When we came back down we stopped at a beautiful French restaurant that had a few tables on the street for lunch. We chose “Relais des Semailles”, along Rue Saint Antoine. One of the great things about June is the abundance of preparations for stuffed zucchini blossoms, today mine were stuffed with crawfish mousse. 

 The next morning we caught an early train to Antibes, an easy 20 minutes, upon our arrival we grabbed a taxi to the Picasso museum. This simple museum holding a group of Picasso drawings, photos of his time in Antibes and some of the pottery he produced during the few years spent in this walled beach front town. The total time needed including sitting in the sculpture garden is less than an hour. Since we had time before or lunch reservation we walked the little local food market, ate huge ripe cherries and wondered the small shops. Lunch time—- could not have come soon enough. We had reservations at ” Les Vieux Murs”, 25 Promenade Amiral de Grasse, next door to the Picasso Museum. This lovely restaurant is located at the top of the wall overlooking the sea. The menu is divided by price fix and ala carte. We chose to share fresh French bean salad with the most perfect green beans dressed with a light vinegarett and covered with fresh black truffles.  The main course was suckling pig with a crisp skin and a light preparation of white fish, just the  journey to the dessert.  The windows were wide open to the fresh sea air and the finish of a lovely trip to Antibes. 

Back in Cannes for our last night we waited until 9 pm before we even began to think about another meal. We could not resist the warm evening on the water front and headed to the Croisette. We chose the happening pizza/Italian restaurant, Le Vesuvio at 68 Croisette. The pizza did not disappoint with a crisp crust and great toppings. The portions are very large for the salads and pasta so think of sharing everything. We had a great waiter and the crowd of people was entertaining for a fun crazy dinner to remember. 

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Eating and exploring in Spain

Every time I have a chance to visit Spain it reminds me of a  cuisine  that is not often experienced in the US, especially in the northwest. I had the opportunity to travel with a few girl friends arriving in Barcelona on a clear cool afternoon. We checked into “Grand Hotel Central” , Via Laientana 30. This is a very nice boutique hotel with a beautiful roof top deck and pool for those hot summer days. The location is great since the cathedral and old city is just across the street. We headed across the old city working our way through the maze of streets to the Boqueria. It is always the first place to start your visit by sitting at the counter at El Quim tapas bar for a snack of shrimp, razor clams and a big plate of peppers fried and dress with course salt.

After a nap we headed out for dinner, since our reservations were for 9pm we had time to stop at V.O. on Ferran 38 for a plate of beautiful fresh oysters and a glass of local white wine. With new energy we were ready for dinner at “Bohemic, located at Manso, 42 . Bohemic was written up in the NY Times last year as a hidden jewel. This is a true old family run small restaurant with the mother checking to make sure each dish was perfect. We shared several dishes my favorite was a risotto made with a pasta instead of rice with a couple of shrimp on top. It was perfect! Bohemic is a bit out of the way but worth the walk.

Up early for our visit to Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s cathedral that has been under construction since 1884. Be sure to order tickets in advance because the lines can be very long, especially in the summer months. Allow an hour plus and it is good to get one of the recorders so you understand the points of interest. When we left the cathedral we decided to walk back along de Garcia. This is one of the best shopping streets in Barcelona. We walked a couple of hours shopping along the way. We stopped at a fun place called Txapela were we took a seat in the outdoor area so we could watch all the people while we shared plate after plate of tapas. Start with the tomato toast, plate of white anchovies,  local Iberico ham and crisp croquets. This is not innovative food, just traditional tapas made modern. If you have time stop at the Oriental Hotel for their tea in their Bistreau restaurant, it is just down de Garcia as you head back to your hotel.

Dinner at Roca Moo in the Hotel Omm was a great event. We went around 8:30, early for Spain, but since we wanted to sit in the bar and listen to the late night music it was perfect. Order with care since the servings were very rich and the flavors complex. Their Iberico ham was sliced with perfection and their version of onion soup was like rich velvet stock infused with the onion and diced crisp iberico ham. We shared the mediterranean flounder and saved room for desert. After dinner we sat in the bar and listened to great music from a singer until 1:30 am.

We woke up early and ventured out to explore the unique shops in the old city. Two good finds, one was Kokua a local shoe company that has leather shoes with rubber soles. The shoes come in 100 different colors and are offered at several of their own stores. They also had beautiful leather bags that are offered at a good price if you are buying shoes. Then a stop at La Basilica Gallery found at C/Sant Sever 7, http://www.labasilicagaleria.com, this is a store offering fun jewelry made by local artists.

Back to the Boqueria to claim a seat at the counter of Barcentral la Boqueria. This tapas bar is located towards the back of the market and worth the wait. We shared grilled shrimp, more thin razor clams, grilled vegetables and nice local white wine. Back to the hotel for a massage and a rest before we walked down the narrow street close to the hotel for late dinner at Taller de Tapas. Taller is on L’Argenteria, 51. and easy place to hang out,  summer in the court yard or on cool evenings inside. This tapas bar offers all the basic dishes to share plus good meat and fish dishes for a bigger fare.

Barcelona offers so many amazing works by Gaudi but we did not have time to visit them all so we chose to tour Casa Batilo, a house with a slanted roof of green tiles and hand carved wood rails along the stairs as you climb up the narrow house from floor to floor. Then off to Park Guell while the sun was shining.  As you wind your way up the paths through the park you will see so many of the sculptures that Gaudi created like lizards with colorful mosaic that cover the bench that is like a wave that surrounds the open square. From this square you can look down on the entire city.

If it is a nice day you can walk back to the hotel since it is all down hill. We walked back over to Garcia street and along the street are so many sidewalk cafes with outdoor seating. We chose QuQu at –passeig de Gracia 24– great choice of little plates. One of the group went to the water front and ate seafood at Cal Pinxo, the area is Palau de Mar. The afternoon was spent at the Picasso museum, be sure to get tickets on line since the line went around the corner. I have been to several of the Picasso museums but tis exhibition shows the young Picasso and his real talent even at age 15, worth the stop.

It was our last night and dinner was a real surprise at a small restaurant called Montiel, Flassaders 19,  behind the Picasso museum. Just a few blocks from the hotel and only  about 30 seats. They offer 2 pre set menus, we chose the gastronomic which was 7 courses each one better than the last. My favorite was a simple soup called green caviar,  clear broth and fresh petite peas dropped in the hot broth and 2 very tiny octopus dropped in at the last minute, AMAZING. We also shared a very interesting Spanish wine called Dido, a Montsant.

Monday we took the new speed train to Spain. We bought the tickets on line and it was a quick 2 hours 45 minutes in pure luxury.

Arriving in Madrid we checked into NH Collection in the old district on San Sebastian 2, off Santa Anna Square. After checking in we walked down to Mercado de San Miguel just off Calle Mayor. This great market offers plenty of high stools to sit and enjoy small plates of ham, cheese and fresh oysters. There are several wine and beer bars to pick your favorite beverage. Since the sun was shining we headed out to the large park outside the Palace and had a cava at Cafe de Oriente next to the opera. This is a fun restaurant for lunch or dinner and the square is always beautiful. Around the corner from the square is a fun kitchen store owned by a friend of ours called Alambique. The store offers cooking classes and fun tools used in Spanish cooking.

Dinner was at “La Paella de la Reina,” Calle Riena 39. This is a very good place to experience rice dishes, paella with different ingredients, and Fideua, a paella type dish made with a short noodle instead of the traditional Bomba rice. The noodle is like a short spaghetti noodle,  but should be hollow in the middle.  Since the group wanted to go to Flameco we headed back to the hotel and about one block away to Casa Patas, Canizares 10, They do a good Flameco starting at 10 pm. in a small area so you are close to the dancers.

One of my favorite places for lunch is at “Palacio de Cibeles”. This roof top restaurant is taken care of in the hands of Javier Munoz, the son of Adolfo, and his amazing staff. The famous Iberico ham is served here with the greatest of care. The wild dear, venison in the US, was perfect in flavor and texture. Give yourself time to dine and have a drink on the deck for the amazing view.
After a 4 hour lunch we really didi not need much for dinner so just a glass of wine at 9pm and a few olives took care of us.
We woke up to rain so a perfect day for the museum Thyssen. We did hire a guide so we would have the chance to see the best of this huge museum, one of the largest private collection in the country. Quick lunch at Estrado Puro, an upscale tapas restaurant across from the Prado in the NH Hotel. Expect some new twists on the old favorites, croquets served in a paper cone, octopus served with potato foam in a small plate was good to share.
We had dinner at a friends house, since they did not start until 9:30 and we did not get back to the hotel until after 1am we had a slow start the next morning. We met our guide at 10:30 the next morning for our tour of the Prado. Our guide was Manuela Carrasco–info@sertur.es or her phone number +34630858094, Manuela was a great guide and walked us through the collections and did not miss anything and had all the answers to our many questions.
Since we never wanted to miss a chance to eat we headed to a late lunch in the Plaza de Oriente. We started at a new fish restaurant on the corner called LA Lonja. This beautiful new restaurant has a raw bar on the ground floor and one of the most beautiful dining room on the second floor with an open kitchen. The chef at the helm is Jose Luis Mora—- http://www.lalonjadelmar.com. Try the scallop and artichoke at the raw bar then have the manager Sara escort you upstairs.
As I said we did not miss a chance to eat and since our trip was drawing to an end we went to A&G, Ayala 27 or phone for reservations 917026262. This is a change from most of the Spanish meals we had been sharing. Tonight we were dining on Peruvian cuisine with a Spanish twist. We loved the duck with rice and radish, also shared the prawns with the best ever red and black Quinoa. There was a menu with small plates and the other side with full plates. Our server gave us good suggestions to share and even the small plates are large enough portions.

The last day we took the train to Toledo to tour the town and the cathedral before our 1:30 lunch at the famous restaurant Adolfo.    The train is $18 and takes 30 minutes, then you can either walk up to the village or take a taxi.
Adolfo’s daughter Veronica is now at the front desk and welcomes each guest and checks in with them as the enjoy the amazing food that the team creates. Allow at least 2 hours to enjoy all the perfect dishes. We started with tartar from sea bass and petite peas, artichokes and shrimp with a banana chutney, duck liver with spices and a little toast, we ended with wild duck that was perfect. If possible make time to go to Toledo for the wonderful experience, Adolfo has a small bed and breakfast if you want to go for dinner and spend the night. We took the 5:20 train back to the city and just drank tea and stayed in the hotel that evening. Time to leave the next morning, so it was the perfect end to a great food and wine adventure.

 

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Girlfriends in New York

Last week I had the great pleasure of spending 5 days in New York with 2 amazing girlfriends. We booked into a simple hotel called Park Central on 7th Ave. between 55th and 56th. This hotel has been redone in the past year and worked fine for us. Perfect location and great price. We had 2 Queen beds and a good bathroom. the price for the 3 of us was $359 a night plus all the crazy taxes NY has.

The weather was perfect so we covered the city top to bottom. The first night we went to “Mercer Kitchen,” located at 99 Prince Street. We ate downstairs where the energy was wild, we had a corner table so other than Very low light it, was a little quieter. This was the beginning of the sort shell crab season and they did a top job.

The next morning we hit the stores and then after our shopping fix we headed to Eately for lunch. You can take the subway and it opens right at 23rd and 5th Ave, across the street from Eately.  Eately is over whelming when you first walk in, it is often described as a grand Italian food hall. You will have several choices for eating, an area for pasta and Pizza, a vegetarian restaurant or one that serves cheese and meats with you favorite glass of wine. You may have to wait for a seat in your choice of areas. As you leave you can buy anything from fresh fish, beautiful selection of cheeses or dried pasta. You wish you had a kitchen to cook dinner in later.

After wandering for blocks we headed back to the hotel for a rest before dinner.   Friends had reserved a table in a simple restaurant called Bacaro–136 Division Street, 212-941-5060. The lower level of Bacaro is described as walking into the catacombs. We had 14 of us so we ordered family style. The first dish was razor clams, the little ones like you see in Italy, served in the shell with bread crumbs and garlic butter topping, could have eaten the whole plate myself. The Frito Misto was so crisp and each vegetable and piece of fish was cooked perfectly. Be sure to try the different pastas they do a great job with all of them. The prices were very reasonable and the fillet of sole for $19 was enough for several of us to share. Everyone wanted to try several deserts and raved about the ice creams and chocolate cake.

Since we did not get home until late we just took it easy in the morning with breakfast up the street at a nice bakery and good coffee. We had gotten tickets to the new Ground Zero museum so took the subway down for our 10am time slot. Be sure to get tickets on line so you can just walk in when your time is called. Allow time to wander the park out side first, the Museum was an interesting collection of photos, pieces of the building and artifacts from the tragic event that took so many lives. Plan at least an hour or more. Then leave the area and walk to the small church, St. Paul Chapel,  a couple blocks away that was the safe place for so many working on the relief during the days that followed the tragedy . 

We headed to SoHo for lunch and time to explore a few unique shops. I love Barbara Bui on Wooster Street. Very up scale clothes, but so special it is always worth the stop along with so many others on both sides of the street.  We walked on the Balthazar for a late lunch, located on 80 Spring Street, good idea to make reservations 212-965-1414. You can always order a seafood platter with great fresh oysters while you wait for the rest of the meal, if you are still hungry. Across the street is the Sur La Table store that was one of our favorite stores when we owned the company.

Back to the hotel for a rest since we had a 9:30 dinner at The Red Rooster, Marcus Samuelson’s restaurant. The Red Rooster is located at 310 Lenox Ave in Harlem, cross street is 125th, The bar is hopping and the lower level Jazz club was packed. The restaurant is know for American Soul food. We started by sharing the cornbread, love the corn kernels and moist texture, and the fried wings, Very hot so be prepared. We shared several dishes and the meal was fine not great. We loved the energy and enjoyed the people watching and our waiter was very good.

Of course, since we had the morning free we had to hit the museums and MOMA was first on our list.  The exhibitions are ever changing and It is always great to go back and visit the regular collections, I always love to stand and look at the Vincent Van Gogh pieces over and over or Lichtenstein’s many pieces and wonder how they were created.

We had matinee  tickets for the play “Beautiful”, Carol King’s story about her music and life. The music was from our era, so of course it brought back so many memories. The entire audience was on their feet at the end and the cast gave us one last number to have on our minds as we left.  

After the play was over we wondered through Time Square just to see all the crazy things, like the naked cowboy playing his guitar, of course getting a few dollars for a picture with a naked body painted woman was a big attraction.

Dinner that night was at the new “Chalk Point Kitchen”  only open about a month, but will get nice review soon.  (527 Broome Street, 212-390-0327)  We shared a bottle of rose to start and then after eating 2 plates of their amazing dill pickles we could not wait to order. We shared many small plates and nothing knocked our socks off  but we enjoyed the space and the food was fine. It will be interesting to try after they have gotten their feet firmly planted in a few months.

With only one day left we went to a friends jewelry studio to see her amazing collection. Patricia Von Musulin has been creating beautiful pieces that are sold around the world. We purchased necklaces that we loved and look forward to showing them off when we get home, Patricia’s e-mail is VonMusulin@Aol.com

Lunch was outside at The Surrey’s wonderful restaurant, “Bouleu”. We drank rose, had perfect fresh pea soup and salads worth a picture. the deserts could not be passed up. This restaurant is great in the winter in the white table cloth room or outside all summer. If it is warm the rooftop bar in the summer is a must for that late afternoon drink.

We worked our way back to the hotel to rest after wine and a 2 hour lunch. We had a dinner at 8:30 at Il Mulino uptown on 60th street. Make your reservations in advance, 212-750-3270, since the place is small and very popular with the high end traveler and local business executives. The waiter brought us several small tastes from the kitchen while we decided  on a wine and dinner. The wine we chose was an Italian Gavi since we chose the whole fish baked in salt and perfect veal with lemon. We had the waiter choose 2 pastas that we shared before our main course. One with fresh peas and a cream sauce and the other with a tomato base and as light as a feather. This is a great Italian restaurant and a must for uptown Italian cuisine, fine dining.

New York is always a great spirit lifter especially with friends and perfect weather. We called Uber for a quick trip back to the airport in style. Until we venture back to NY great memories will keep us thinking how to get together with friends again before to much time passes. 

 

 

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Mexico, In the Mountains

San Miguel de Allende has earned the reputation as an artist colony and friendly place for visitors from around the world. We had the great pleasure of staying at Carl’s cousins beautiful hacienda,image but went exploring the city and surrounding. We made our first stop at Piedras, www.piedrassanmiguel.com, wonderful jewlry designed by Bill Harris and his team. You need to call before you go since the studio is in their beautiful home. 415-154-9193. Then we headed down the hill to have lunch at La Posadita, Cuna Allenda #13, up two flights of stairs to the roof top and great Mexican food and ofcourse a good beer.

The next day we made a trip to Casa Katalina, on Jesus #16, this small craft store had so many wonderful pieces made by Dan that we did some great Christmas shopping. Each piece had a story of how it came together. From there we headed to Virgins Saints and Angles on Recreo 68. This place is hard to find but worth the trip. the doors are not marked so you think you are lost until you step inside. the owners have created wonderful, necklaces, ear righs and belt buckles. go to alejandra@vsadesigns.com or www.vsadesigns.com.  We headed back to the house and had a simple lunch in the garden, pool time, since the days are always around 85 and the evenings are cool. Remember you are at 6,000 feet so it drops down to around 50 at night.

The next day we went to the old textile factory, now a huge building housing artists studios and restaurants. Factory La Aurora is worth the visit we had a simple lunch at Food Factory La Auroar, nothing great but fine since we had a big dinner planned. There are so many shops to visit in the city center and the clean streets, welcome shop owners and beautiful building make you want to spend hours just exploring.

That evening we had a very good dinner at a place aalled Calenda, Nemesio Diez #10, IMG_0560karen@calendarestaurante.com 415 15 47 129,  across from the new Rosewood hotel. The owner, Keren Wix, was there making sure everyone was being taken care of. They had a small group playing jazz and the huge pepper corn tree was lit up as you enter the courtyard. The feature on the menu was pork and it was melt in your mouth perfect, slow roasted for 36 hours.  After several shared courses we finished with a unique desert, it read brownie crumbs with sweet chilies.  We had a great time and you will also.

The last day we went back to pick up a few special treasures and finished the evening sharing dinner with new friends at a place called Los Milagros, hard to park so take a cab to Relox #17.

the next morning we had to catch an early flight so we had Julian Cartas pick us up and  take us to Leon for our return trip. Julian has a very nice car and speaks english well e-mail him at     j_cartas @yahoo.com,  cell phone number 044 415 101 6024.

This is a beautiful city, the sun always shines and everyone was happy to see us in their stores and restaurants.

We finished

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