JOIA

While I was selecting these pics I started being more and more torn about what this post should look like. At first i wasn’t sure if any text was actually needed in order to understand this amazing culinary experience we’ve had in Milan or not. The more I think about it, the more I realise that this was definitely the best gourmet experience we’ve ever had.

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After much pondering, I decided to write a bit of text about the place… JOIA… First of all I’d like to mention the fact that neither of us is a vegetarian. I consider myself more of a rebel vegetarian, meaning that in any given situation I prefer veggies and cheese, but from time to time I do enjoy a high quality piece of duck breast or a Black Angus low-fat piece of beef fillet. To be honest, I never really enjoyed meat, but (and this is the point where all the declared vegetarians/vegans will stop reading this blog) I do understand and respect the human body’s need for a varied and balanced diet, be that with animal protein in it. D however is right at the other end of the spectrum and can’t really imagine a good meal without meat in it. I mean he simply can’t understand any type of dish that doesn’t contain meat. Basically, the way he puts it sound a bit like this: if it doesn’t have any meat in it, it’s either a side or a salad, none of which is enough for an actual decent meal.

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So, despite the fact that neither of us is a declared vegetarian, we decided to splurge on our first dinner at a Michelin recognised vegetarian restaurant. Obviously, D was convinced going in that he will stop on the way back to the hotel and eat a burger or something. I, on the other hand was very excited and curious to actually see what gourmet (I mean real gourmet) vegetarian cuisine meant and was sure that we both will leave the place with our bellies full. I have to admit though that I was a bit nervous about spending half a pair of Loubs on a dinner that might actually not be as good as expected. Make no mistake, we are by no means experts in gourmet cuisine and I personally have quite a long list of ingredients that I can’t stand. The 15 course tasting menu (Zenith) gives you basically no details about the ingredients and if you actually want to know some details (not all) about each dish, you have to look them up in the menu. Obviously none of us were in the mood to look for 15 partly explained dishes, so we just took the plunge.

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The Amouse-Bouche

The Appetisers 

From the first step we took inside the restaurant we realised that our first evening in Milan will be one to remember. The decor is not overwhelming nor too elegant and this restaurant actually make you feel very comfortable despite any casual attire you might be wearing. This, to me is very important because I never carry any formalwear while on vacation, mainly out of principle, I mean, I am on vacation! The nice thing that actually surprised us first thing is the fact that the chef actually comes out to take your order and answer any questions you might have about the menu or any allergy concerns. This is very important, as most of the time, chefs do tend to keep their ingredients a secret and the waiters tend to be useless when it comes to this.

The Soup

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The two First Courses

As stated, We both chose the Zenith menu, that contains 15 different courses, mainly to make sure that D will leave the place full and satisfied. Aside from those 15 courses, we both receives one amouse-bouche course that we both found amazing, and an extra-dessert, that brought the total meal count to 17. Now I’m not going to start detailing each and every course because, to be honest, I can’t remember the explanation we got to any of them, but I can tell you that as they came, each and every one of them became our new favourite and by the end, we had no idea which one was the best. Obviously, after 17 courses, not even D could complain about being hungry, quite the contrary, we both could barely move because of how full we were. To my surprise, D loved the entire experience and is actually considering trying some other vegetarian restaurants as now he knows that vegetarians can have their bellies full and satisfied. The Zenith menu consists of 4 appetisers, 1 soup, 2 first courses, all the 4 main courses, a dessert that is not on the menu (Italian Summer) and 3 different desserts that you can actually find on the menu.

The four Main Courses

 

The four Desserts

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The extra Dessert

At the end of our dinner, the entire check came at about 250 Euros, which, yes, is very expensive, but you do have to take into consideration that this is a Michelin recognised restaurant that offers amazing quality dishes and one of the best services we’ve ever experienced in a restaurant. All in all, at least once in a lifetime, it really makes sense to spurge on a dinner like this one. And definitely, if you ever find yourself in Milan this is the place to dine, vegetarian or not!

L.

 

While in Milan…

As usual, whenever we come back from one of our trips around the world (well, Europe mainly, this year), we like to do a remembering post, where we put together all the photos both of us posted on Instagram (both mine and D‘s) and on our Facebook page, just to give you a feeling of what our trip was about.

Naturally, today will be all about unpacking, sorting photos and sketching some ideas for our following posts. This is a time-consuming matter as we do not want to leave anything out for you as well as for us because we treat this blog as some sort of public online journal of our lives.

I hope you enjoy today’s photos and I hope that we’ll have something ready for you tomorrow from our lovely long weekend spent in Milan.

L.

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Full House/Table!!!

A few weeks back we had the whole family for a late lunch/early dinner party. The thing is, when we all get together, there’s 15 of us around the table, and we’re all foodies, so we needed to make something that was satisfying for all of us – yup, we’re all picky when it comes to our food! What better way to please everyone than pasta? And not just any pasta, but a melange of taco and pasta to surprise everyone with our creativity!

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Obviously, buying food for more than a dozen people is no problem for us, and, for the first time since we started throwing these parties, the food was almost completely devoured and everyone was happy and full. At the end, when you are going to read the nutritional info (it’s scary) keep in mind that all the data is for the whole quantity, and you should divide it by 16 to get a real portion’s worth of information.

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Here’s what we bought for our very own Taco-Pasta (I’m sticking to this name!):

  • 1 kg minced veal meat
  • 500 gr brown mushrooms
  • 30 gr fresh basil
  • 250 gr cherry tomatoes
  • 750 gr whole wheat pasta (we used two different shapes and they were both equally appreciated)
  • 2 jars of Jamie Oliver’s Tomato and Chilly pasta sauce
  • 500 gr of law-fat cheddar
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • about 10 olives (we just had them lying around in our fridge so we decided to use them, but they gave the dish a fabulous aroma)
  • 1 can of sweet boiled corn (just to get you into that taco mood)

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That’s about all you need for this dinner dish, but you can always add beans to fill your Mexican appetite. To be honest, like any pasta, the preparation is the easy part, buying everything was the hard part. It took us about 2 hours to have everything ready, but keep in mind that we had to track our recipe with photos every step of the way and that is time-consuming.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. As usual, take as many photos of the lovely ingredients you just bought, as one of the pics is going to be used for the Instagram account.
  2. Cut, dice and mince everything as there’s not one single ingredient that will be needed whole. Again, take some pics of the lovely diced ingredients and then it’s actually time to start cooking.
  3. In a pot (you’ll need two in the end, but just use one for the sauce and then divide it so that the aroma is evenly distributed) melt a pat of butter just to be sure that none of the ingredients stick to it.
  4. Pour all the onion into it and let it cook until it’s turned golden. After that, add all the meat and stir well until it has reached an earthy brown colour.
  5. Add the mushrooms and the tomatoes and stir well. Let them all cook until the mushrooms start leaving a bit of water.
  6. Add the tomato sauce, the olives, the corn, the minced garlic and the basil and stir well. By this point you’ve used most of your ingredients. Let the sauce boil for a few minutes just to get all the aromas out.
  7. Add two glasses of water just to get the whole sauce in a more liquid state and to get it out of boiling mode so you can safely divide it into two parts (this is when the second pot comes into play).
  8. Add the pasta and let it boil for 15 minutes stirring regularly.
  9. The last step is the cheese-step. Add all the cheese, stir well and let it boil for another 2 minutes than switch off the stove. You’re done!

That’s about all it takes to feed 15 people and have some leftovers for the next day. All you have to do now is decorate a few plates and take some photos before everyone arrives! Remember what I told you about the nutritional info. Using the same quantities as we did you’ll end up with 16 servings, so keep that in mind when you read all about those health data provided by my Jawbone UP app. This dish is rated at 9.1/10 so it’s on the very healthy side, but you do need to consume it in moderation as each serving gives you about 320 kcals and quite a lot of saturated fats!

L.

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Get him to the Greek!

Today is all about my favourite Greek dish! We have to confess, we didn’t make this one, but it did emerge in our kitchen, so it is blog worthy! Last Wednesday some friends came over to watch the football match with us and they decided to make Bouyiourdi, which is the simplest, most delicious recipe ever! Naturally being cheese-based I’d say that, but trust me, this is heaven! True and simple foodporn, that can be made in less than half an hour with only a handful of ingredients.

So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty as looking at yesterday’s post, I realised that lately I do tend to write a bit too much off-topic. What you need to get this amazing, easy dish:

  • 500 gr of tomatoes
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 300 gr of white cheese (we used 150 gr of simple white cheese and 150 gr of herb white cheese)
  • 350 gr of Mozzarella
  • 250 gr of Gouda cheese
  • 1 tsp gried oregano
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

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That’s about all we used but you can add chilly peppers, onions and whatever other type of cheese you like, making this a versatile and perfect-for-anyone dish. Besides the fact that you need only a few ingredients, making it is actually easy as 1-2-3!

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  1. Preheat the oven at 175 degrees and take all sorts of angled photos of the lovely cheesy ingredients.
  2. Slice the tomatoes and the cheese, and dice the bell pepper.
  3. Arrange all the sliced/diced ingredients into identical bowls and take 100 photos.
  4. Toss all the ingredients finishing with the oregano and olive oil into a clay vessel and put it into the oven for about 20 minutes.
  5. After those what seemed like forever, 20 minutes, take it out of the oven and, if you had any Mozzarella that didn’t fit into the vessel the first time (like we did), now’s the time to add it and stir the whole content with a wooden spoon.
  6. Put it back into the oven for another five minutes and that’s it! You’ve got yourself the most delicious dish on the planet!

Considering just how amazing this was, I would’ve expected it to be the most unhealthy dish ever, but my UP app surprised me, giving it a score of 7.9 and only drew attention to the elevated amount of saturated fat. One serving from this heavenly dish gets you about 350 kcal which is actually way better than expected on my part and I decided that if I ever want to get fat, this is the one thing I’d like to get fat on!

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L. 

 

Chocolate Dreams…

Since we haven’t cooked in a while, yesterday we decided to make something very heathy and low-calorie that is still sweet enough to call dessert. I have to mention that we haven’t attempted to bake a healthy dessert ever, so the result was a surprise for us as well. I’ve always loved a sweet treat but I hate the idea of stuffing my body with sugar, when I clearly know it does not need it, or at least not in the industrial amounts found in normal desserts.

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For these chocolate cupcakes we haven’t used any sugar, nor did we use and white flour, choosing to use wholemeal flour instead. We also chose the darkest chocolate we could find (85%), and if you want to go overboard with the healthiness, you can easily use only a quarter of the butter we used (since this was our first attempt, we didn’t really know what we were doing) and discard the egg yolks (D really likes them, so I thought I’d just use them).

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These cupcakes were really easy to make and it took us a total of 40 mins to make them, considering that they spent 20 mins in the oven. Here’s what you’ll need I order to duplicate the 12 cupcakes we made yesterday:

  • 175 wholemeal flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 50 gr of butter (choose the one with the most fat in it, as it’s the best for cooking)
  • 125 gr dark chocolate (at least 75% dark – we used 85%)
  • vanilla essence
  • mascarpone (this is optional and it will only be used as a topping)

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Making these cupcakes is really easy and you only need to be following a few simple steps.

  1. As usual, arrange all the ingredients in order to make this perfect photo.
  2. Cut the oranges and the lemons in perfect halves, carefully squeeze all the juice and clean all the remaining contents until you are left with clean cupcake citrus-peel holders.
  3. Put all the chocolate and the butter into a bowl and microwave it for 2 mins, then stir well until all of the content is creamy.
  4. Put the eggs over the flower (you see 6 eggs in the photo because we had to make 24 cupcakes) and stir well until you get a batter -like composition.
  5. Add the melted chocolate and carefully stir until fully incorporated.
  6. Pour a glass of orange juice over the batter and stir well with and electrical mixer.
  7. Fill the orange and lemon peels with the batter and put them in the oven for 20 minutes at 175 degrees.
  1. For the topping, which is optional, you’ll need the mascarpone cream cheese, half of glass of lemon juice and a vial of vanilla essence. Mix everything together and that is it!
  2. Once you get the cupcakes out of the oven, let them chill for 10 mins and decorate them with the mascarpone topping.

That’s it! It’s that simple to get a healthy, low-calorie dessert ready in just 40 minutes. Using the current recipe, each cupcake carries around 120 kcal, which is very good considering the fact that by using the wholemeal flour, they ended up being very satisfying and you are really full after only one eaten.

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I have a hunch that if you only use a quarter of the butter and only the egg whites, the fat as well as the cholesterol will go down a lot, making these very very healthy. We probably will try to adjust the recipe a bit next time.

I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe and find it as delicious as we did!

L. 

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Norma…

This Monday, for D‘s birthday, we both received the gift of finding another one of those few amazing places to eat in Bucharest. Don’t get me wrong, this city hosts a lot of ‘above-the-average’ restaurants, but only a few really good ones. Well, we found a good one and as much as I dislike writing restaurant reviews (because I’m only a food lover with no special schooling in the matter), this place deserves all the praising it can get.
First thing’s first, though, it was actually D who found the place as he finds all the great restaurants no matter where in the world we are. The same goes for wines! I’m just the consumer.

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Back on topic… The place I’m talking about is called Norma and I’m not going to give you all the boring details about location as you can find that online just by clicking the bolded name. All I’m going to tell you about location is that it’s situated in a quiet, central area, in an old house, remarkably brought back to life thanks to the skills of architect Ioana Viziteu who also sketched the interior design keeping as much of the old house as possible. The result is a warm and calming place where the old is perfectly balanced by the new.

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That is exactly what’s going on with the food as well. The kitchen is run by chef Sidia Sissoko (who also owns the place) and for foodies out there, this name should be familiar as he was one of the contenders at the MasterChef title a few years back. I mentioned a fusion between the old and the new where food is concerned because it’s obvious at the first glance on the menu that every dish is based on classic french cuisine but with a very actual twist. Neither of us is really a big fan of the french cuisine, but this fusion with new and exciting cooking techniques definately brought it back into our top 3 favorites. We both liked the fact that, unlike other fine dining restaurants we’ve been to, so far, this one has a wide variety of dishes in the menu. From appetizers to all sorts of meat-based foods, you really have a lot of thinking to do before ordering. Like true foodies that we are, we couldn’t resist and had three courses each. Seeing the menu, I was very thankful that I hadn’t had much to eat that day, because I really wanted to try as many things as possible (seroius drooling going on!).

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As a first course, D chose the eggplant appetizer while I went for the tomato soup. What impressed me most about D‘s eggplant salad was not the way it looked (though the plating was amazing), but the fact that it tasted just like my mother’s eggplant salad that she makes out of her own garden grown eggplants following an old recipe that implies them being cooked over wood fire. That way of cooking is like an unicorn where restaurants are concerned, and to be quite honest, I’ve never had eggplant salad cooked this way at any other restaurant we’ve ever been to. All my close friends know that tomato soup is my favourite soup in the world, therefore choosing my first course was easy. Usually, this type of soup is served with mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. What is really unfortunate about most places is the fact that you can actually feel that the tomatoes (or most of them) came out of a can. Well, this one was different! I think that most of the tomatoes used for this recipe are plum tomatoes that were slowly cooked to perfection. Another interesting thing thing about this place is that it serves the tomato soup with goat cream cheese and basil caviar. Yes, I was a bit scared of the whole caviar thing as I wasn’t sure what that meant, but when the soup came I realised that it actually containd small balls filled with basil oil and fresh basil, which gave the soup amazing texture.

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As a main, I chose the duck breast salad, while D went for the boneless beef ribs. My salad was perfection on a plate as it contained a lovely mix of greens, grapefruit and orange slices, dried figs and a lot of pieces of duck breast (A LOT!). What I didn’t expect, but was a lovely surprise, were the two mini-toasts on the side with goat camembert which deeply satisfied the cheese lover in me. D‘s ribs were a masterpiece. Everything from the meat quality to the way they were cooked, simply cannot be put into words. As D put it, they topped his number 1 ribs from Bistro Viena in Cluj.

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Moving on to dessert. I was really thankful Norma serves only three types of desserts as at that point I really wanted to make an easy choice and start planning our next visit here. We chose the apple tart and the lemon tart. Every time we order dessert, the silent agreement between us is that we share them, that way we both get the best of the menu. The lemon tart was delicious and I honestly have no idea what the green cream on top of it is. Now, about the apple tart… It was heaven in my mouth! And I’m not really a fan of apple tarts, but this one was out of this world! Anyone going to Norma should really give this dessert a try.

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Since it was basically late lunch time and D was driving and we had a fine bottle of wine prepared in the wine-freezer (details tomorrow), none of us had any alcohol to go with our meal. However, what anyone crossing Norma‘s doorstep should try is their Refresh lemonade! I’m not even going to put in the effort of describing this drink, I’m just going to say that it’s one of those MUST-TRY non-alcoholic drinks!


To conclude, this place has definately become one of our favorite places to eat in Bucharest right now, if not our number one already… As a price point, I’d say it is on the expensive side, but not very expensive. Our entire meal plus drinks and tips cost about 80€. In my personal opinion this place deserves every cent! We know we’ll come back at Norma as often as possible!
L.

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Relax…

This is yet another blog post with barely any text in it, first of all because my arm still hurts a bit, and second of all, this Sunday is getting crazier by the minute…

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All these photos were taken yesterday, when we realised that we didn’t have any food in our fridge and we were literally fed up with take away pizza as that’s the only thing we ate all of last week. D decided he’s had enough and announced first thing in the morning that we were having a decent lunch in the park.Luckily the weather was ok-ish and I didn’t need to wear something with long sleeves. We both chose the most comfortable clothes we had (clean!) and off we went.

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On me:

Jeans – Replay; Top – Lefties; Shoes – Puma; Bling – Constantin Nautics, Pandora and Tomorrowland; Bag – Michael Kors; Watch – Longines

After about half an hour of snapping photos, our tummies decided that we desperately needed food. We ate at Isoletta and I have to say that it’s an amazing place to eat. True, it’s on the very expensive side, but the food, the service and the location are all excellent.

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On D:

Jeans – ZARA; T-shirt – Scotch&Soda; Bling – Constantin Nautics and Fossil; Shoes – Nike; Watch – Aviator

You can literally feel the high quality of all the ingredients used, and the waiters are very well schooled. To be honest, we’ve both been to equally expensive restaurants before and the service wasn’t in any way comparable to this place. Nor was the food! This in my opinion is a place to try out at least once. As this weekend we seem to have been on the run for 48 hours (like we were running a long marathon), we didn’t have time to try out the deserts, but we did both have appetisers and mains.

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I had the cheese plate, that in my opinion is for two persons, and being a cheese lover I have to say that the variety and the quality of the cheese was extraordinary, and D had the beef tartar. Normally I hate raw meat, but I couldn’t resist and I tried it. It was definitely the best tartar I’ve ever had and D confirmed that it was the best he’d ever had. As a main, I had the mushroom soup that was spectacular and D had the four cheese pasta that he loved even though he is not really a cheese lover. All in all, this is definitely a place to try at least once.

 

 

L.

 

Never say never…

I’m going to start with a quick reminder that I’m extremely picky when it comes to food. Aside from never eating anything that comes out of the water, I never eat lamb because I hate the smell and I never eat rabbit because I used to have two pet bunnies that I loved very much.

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However, on Sunday when we went grocery shopping, I spotted lamb racks. Let’s be clear on something, I never eat lamb racks either, but I love the way they look in photos. Basically, you could say that we bought lamb racks for blog purposes and because D loves them. After putting a lot of thought into the issue, I came up with the idea that maybe, just maybe, there is a way to neutralise that awful smell. After much research done online, I came up with a solution to my problem. Just to be safe, we also cooked a vegetable side.

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Monday came and here I was, ready to put my non-smelly theory to the test. Here’s what we used for the entire dinner:
– 375 gr lamb racks (8 lamb racks)
– 100 gr raw honey
– 60 gr hot mustard
– 800 gr new potatoes (we just love them!)
– 2 medium onions
– 1 garlic clove
– 35 gr fresh dill (always use fresh greens)
– 20 gr fresh rosemary
– 10 gr fresh thyme
– 10 gr fresh chives
– 250 gr cherry tomatoes
– A little butter for coating the tray and the pan

At this point, the recipe is going to go two ways: the meat part and the vegetable side. As per usual, and I’m not going to mention this step as an official step, you should arrange the ingredients and take some lovely food photos.
The meat:
1. Mice half of the garlic clove and cut the rosemary into medium pieces, just to help the flavour get out more easily.
2. Mix together the honey, the mustard, the minced garlic and the rosemary until you get a creamy texture.
3. Cover the lamb racks with this creamy sauce, then cover the bowl and let it chill into the freezer for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the cast iron pan (yes, D‘s favourite), put a small amount of butter in it and let it melt.
5. Fry the lamb racks for 3-4 minutes on each side (medium-rare) and then pour the remaining sauce over them, cover the pan, set the fire to a minimum and let it cook for another 5 minutes.

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Now, you are done with the meat. I suggest you do like us, and start with the vegetable side as it will take longer. The reason I started the text with the meat is because you can have any side dish and the meat was the central piece of the recipe. The vegetable side:
1. Preheat the oven at 175 degrees C and butter the tray you want to use.
2. Slice the onions and the remaining garlic, and cut the potatoes into halves.
3. Finely mince all the greens (dill, rosemary, thyme and chives).
4. Put half of the onion slices on the bottom of the tray, cover with a lot of the minced greens and then put half of the potatoes on top.
5. Another layer of greens comes on top of the potatoes, followed by the sliced garlic. After that, redo step 4, finishing everything with the remaining greens.
6. Cook into the oven for about 40 minutes and that’s about it.

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After carefully arranging everything on the plates, take lots of pictures to have proof in case someone doesn’t believe you cooked on a Monday. Plate photoshoot done and I actually worked the courage to taste the lamb. It was amazing! Not a hint of that annoying lamb smell! In all honesty, this was probably in my top 5 meats I’ve ever eaten, and no, I’m not biased by the fact that we cooked it.

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The whole meal (side included) ranked an 8.8 grade on my Up app, so this is actually a very healthy dinner option. Also, the nutritional information is for four servings, which means that one serving packs about 300 kcals and it provides you a large amount of fibre and unsaturated fats, while also keeping the cholesterol and saturated fat in healthy limits.
I hope you enjoy this wonderful recipe!

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L.

Getting fat in Madrid…2KGs!

This is the second part of our fattening experience in Madrid. Without further rambling, here’s the rest of the post.

LA COCINA DE SAN ANTON

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Monday was the day D made us change our originally set course at some point in the day, and lucky for us he did as we stumbled upon San Anton Market. On the rooftop we discovered the amazing La Cocina de San Anton that won our hearts over at first glance with it’s shabby-chic decor. This place is tricky to find as you have to go up some back stairs that we luckily found because we were very hungry and we saw people on the roof from outside. Because we had that primal hunger feeling, we decided to go all the way with our dinner and went for three courses: on shared and the other two individual. The great thing about this place was that they served Sangria de Cava as well which made us very happy. We promise, again, that we are not alcoholics, and even though denial is the usual way these things go, we never go past one bottle per dinner.

As an appetiser we got the Fresh Market Cheese Plate which got me really excited (see photos!) as it was the first time I was trying six different types of Spanish cheese. I have to say that I loved every single one of them! As a main, I decided (this was a hard decision, just check their online menu) on the Tomato Panini with Fresh Basil and Burrata (yeah, I know I am a cheese addict) which came in a very unexpected form. I was actually expecting some sort of combo between diced tomatoes and burrata cheese with some panini bread on the side, but instead, it came on a hot plate and the waiter cut it in front of me as the burrata needed to get just the right amount of warm before it was cut and dispensed all over the baked panini. Needless to say at this point that besides the fact that I love cheese, I just love, love, love any type of warm-cheese dish. D got the veal with some sort of cooked cabbage and judging by the fact that he was quiet the entire time he ate despite the fact that we had already had an appetiser, made me jump to the conclusion that it was absolutely delicious and it wasn’t just the hunger silencing him.

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The dessert was really something special. We decided on two different desserts: cheesecake and the “Happy Ending” dessert. On the Cheesecake – this was definitely the best Cheesecake either of us ever had, and we are both very picky when it comes to Cheesecake, as even though the popular belief is that it’s very hard to ruin a cheesecake, it’s equally hard to do a magnificent one. This one was magnificent! The “Happy Ending” was really something else. Midpoint after D started eating it (we’re taking turns and each of us eats half of the dessert), he started laughing uncontrollably, which immediately made me think about the ‘funny-cupcakes’ from Amsterdam. As he didn’t want to tell me under no circumstances why he was laughing, I had to try it myself. Two bites in and I was laughing like a mad woman (I have a loud lough) and it wasn’t because of any ‘funny-business’, the dessert had crispy popping chocolate balls in it that just kept popping long after you’ve swallowed them and basically it felt like someone was was tickling you inside your ear. This is in now way annoying and if you factor in the fact that the popping chocolate balls come submerged in home-made vanilla sauce with a warm brownie on the side, you realise why I say that this is the most awesome dessert ever!

Our whole meal, that came very fast (seems this is a regular thing in Madrid – other countries should learn from that) and included and appetiser, two mains and two desserts, plus a large Sangria de Cava, cost about 80E, which is very good by any European standard.

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TOMMY MEL’S DINER  

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On our last day in Madrid we really wanted to do a re-dinner at Cocina de San Anton (yes, we loved it that much!), but since we spent most of the day at Mutua Madrid Open, when dinner-time came, we rather felt like eating somewhere close to our hotel as all we really waned was a quick dinner and then to start packing for our leave (early flight). On our way from the Metro station we found this classic 60’s American diner that looked absolutely too good to miss while there.

This was a reminder of why we never really eat twice at the same restaurant when we’re abroad. This place was just lovely! Starting with the impeccably in-theme interior design and ending with the very friendly waiter/bartender that barely spoke two words in English. Unfortunately for us they didn’t serve Sangria de Cava. But just like any unfortunate thing tends to become immediately fortunate, they did serve another typical Spanish drink that we didn’t taste up to that point: Tinto de Berano. This is basically red wine combined with some sort of soda drink and some fruits, or at least that was what we managed to understand from our non-English talking friend. But I bet you there are some secret ingredients to it as I am sure that if I mix those exact ingredients, my final product won’t be half as good as this one was.

As per usual, I opted for a salad, a Caprese Salad to be more specific, that turned out to be more surprising than it sounds as it had tomato jam in it. In my ignorance, I had no idea that one could make Tomato jam, even tough I’m way past the point when a person is stupid enough to not know that a tomato is a fruit. It just never occurred to me that you can make jam out of them, and it definitely never occurred to me that it could taste this amazing in a salad. We also shared a plate of bacon and cheese potatoes and D settled for ordering three types of burritos which I can’t really remember what they were called in the menu but that course did have a very funny name. Needless to say that he was extremely satisfied with his pick. Since we were in an American diner eating Spanish food and drinking Spanish specialities, we decided to end our dinner with an all-American dessert: Pancakes. I admit that we decided on dessert fully for blog-purposes as we were already full by the time we finished our mains.

Taking into consideration that we ate a lot and drank a lot and the food came really quick (but that seems to be something normal in Madrid), this dinner was very cheap. We even felt like checking the bill twice as we couldn’t believe that all we ate and drank cost about 40E (tip included).

This was basically our food incursion in Madrid, and if we had to make a top five of the restaurants, I think it would look a bit like this:

  1. CAPUCCINO
  2.  La Cocina de San Anton
  3. Tommy Mel’s Diner
  4. VIPS
  5. Hard Rock Cafe (just based on the fact that we’ve eaten at HRC hundreds of times)

Also, if you’re looking for a nice place to drink a good Sangria in Madrid, we’d recommend any of the small terraces in the Chueca area (the featured images are from our Sangria breaks there).

This concludes the food series from Madrid and also ends all our posts from our vacation in this beautiful city. I hope we didn’t bore you too much with all the details and also, I hope that at some point you will find them useful.

L.

 

Getting fat in Madrid… 1 KG!

These two posts are about us trying to explain ourselves…mainly for the extra amount of fat we came back with from our Spanish adventure. Initially I wanted to only do a single post on the food, but to be honest, it would’ve ended up missing lots of details as I am really trying to keep my word count in check. I hope that by the end of these fattening series posts you will understand why we probably won’t expose perfectly toned bodies at our first pool party… But maybe we’ll be lucky enough to not have pool-appropriate weather until we’ll be back on track with our body-fat percentage!

First of all, aside for the tapas, I found Madrid food to be more to my taste than the food I ate in Barcelona. But that might only be me, because Barcelona’s food is mostly based on sea creatures, which I can’t stand, while in Madrid I found a wide variety of all the things I love: cheese, salads, cakes.

We ate at six different places during our stay there, though we didn’t take any pics of the first place we had dinner mainly because D left the camera at the hotel (yes, I’m talking about the first day we got there). It wasn’t a notable place anyway, as the food was plain at best. This terrace was located in Plaza Mayor, and we each had a paella that wasn’t taste-bud amazing for any of us. This just goes to prove that one should not dine in tourist-popular locations when visiting a big city.

Let’s just cut the small talk and get down to analysing all the other five places we ate. Most days we only ate dinner at about 6:30 in the evening, mostly because we don’t really eat late when we’re at home either so why change that. The complicated thing about that is that in Madrid most restaurants tend to serve dinner at about 8:30-9:00 p.m. We didn’t get discouraged by that and found some beautifully delicious locations for those of you that like an early dinner just like us.

After purposely ignoring our first dinner in Madrid, let’s start with the first photo-documented day:

VIPS

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Here we had our one and only proper (if you only take into consideration the time) lunch. After wondering the alleys of Buen Retiro Park for about six hours at 17 degrees, all we really wanted was to find a nice terrace to have a green tea break. So we stopped at Vips and after a thorough analysis of the menu, we decided to have a quick bite as well. While D was at the bathroom (another problem that Madrid has: no public bathrooms anywhere!), I decided on us being healthy and opted for two things for both of us from the Fitness menu. I had a salad (can’t remember what it was called) and for D I chose the lean veal with sautéed green beans. He seemed satisfied with my choices when he found out that we were having lunch as well as a hot cup of green tea and patiently waited for our food.

To my surprise, the food came really quick despite the fact that the terrace was full, and that, in my book that is mandatory for any restaurant that gets praising from me as I hate waiting for food for too long. I become all cranky! At first glance the food looked really appealing and after we both tasted it we decided that this place needs to be recommended to other people as well. For the first time in my adult life I wasn’t able to finish a salad. Yes, it was that big! I have no idea how it got to be on the Fitness menu, but D had to eat a third as I was way beyond full.

This specific Vips (as you can find numerous Vips in Madrid) is located near the Westin Hotel at Fuente de Neptuno. I wouldn’t say this is an expensive food option, although it’s not on the cheap side either, as our entire lunch came at about 50E. Overall, if you’re in the area, you should really give this place a try. I can’t really say that this one is a must-go-to place as we only had one course which in all honesty was very good.

HARD ROCK CAFE

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That evening, after yet another few hours spent exploring the streets, we found Hard Rock Cafe. We do admit that we are biased when it comes to HRC, therefore, to compensate, we are going to put it last on our must-eat places from Madrid. I say we are biased because we always eat at HRC when we’re away and D always has the Local Burger. On top of all that, we spent last Christmas at Hard Rock Hotel&Casino in Punta Cana. Maybe one day we’ll do a top on HRC’s Local burgers.

D obviously had the above mentioned burger, while I had the vegetable (shocker!) fajita. Now I kid you not when I say that I am the type of person that eats their pizza with a fork and knife, so imagine my surprise when my food came and I realised that I had to assembly it myself. I do admit the playing the shawarma-guy role was a lot of fun and the food was incredibly good. To accompany our dinner, we also had a glass of white Spanish wine, which, to be honest, didn’t really impress us at all.

In the end, since we were quite full, we decided on sharing a dessert. When our waitress came, we were almost sure that a mistake had been made as the thing was enormous! As you can see in the photo, D used me for scale. We had to sacrifice ourselves and we managed to finish it and it was really really good.

I’d say that the check wasn’t in anyway a surprise, HRC keeping it’s prices globally, so however much you pay at your local HRC, that’s exactly how much you are going to pay no matter where you are.

CAPPUCCIONO

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The following two days we had dinner at Cappuccino because, yes, the food was that good! We hardly ever do that when we are abroad as we are always on the lookout for new and exciting restaurants, but every once in a while, a place like this one comes along and we are basically hooked. We only did this one more time, in January in Ischgl, but that is a story for another post.

First and most important of all, this was the first place in Madrid where we found Sangria de Cava, our favourite Spanish drink ever since we visited Barcelona, and to top it all, this was the best we’ve ever tried. You can say that they got us hooked on the booze and you wouldn’t be wrong. Until the food came, that is…

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On Saturday I ordered the kale salad and it was absolutely amazing. I’m not the biggest kale fan, so when I find something that’s that delicious and contains mostly this superfood, I tend to be very excited and willing to try everything on the menu. Surprisingly D ordered the Pepperoni Pizza. Surprising because he always orders either steak or burger, almost never pizza. Since I’m a big pizza fan myself, I couldn’t resist and took a bite and you could actually feel the great quality of all the ingredients used. It was a pleasure for my taste buds and D agreed completely! Since we were having such a lovely evening we decided to try some desserts as well: the Banofee and the Apple pie. Those two desserts got me obsessed with the idea of coming back there the following day, and got D to being obsessed with trying their in-house made burger.

Since I’m not the type of cruel person to deny my man his burger, we came back the next day and even before we took our seats we ordered the usual Sangria de Cava. D ordered his burger which actually came in the form of two mini-burgers, that honestly were the best burgers he’s ever had in his life, and he’s had quite a few. I second that opinion as I couldn’t stop drooling over his burgers once I got a bite and tasted their heavenly aroma. I think it must be the spices the cook puts in the meat and the sauces he makes for these burgers. Either way, this is definitely a must-try in Madrid.I ordered the Mozzarella di Buffala salad, which was extremely good, just like the Kale salad from the day before. At the end, we both shared a Carrot cake, that quite probably is the best Carrot cake we’ve ever had.

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I loved this place because, besides the extraordinary food, had a magnificent decor designed by Jaques Grange. You can find this place quite easily, as it’s located at Puerta de Alcala. Both times we ate there, the price was barely the same, around 90E, but it’s worth every single cent. The staff is very friendly and well-trained, and the food comes very fast.

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Since I don’t really want to make this post too long, I’m going to stop rambling now and tell you about the other two amazing restaurants from Madrid in another upcoming post.

L.