Abergavenny Food Festival – the way a food festival should be

As you may remember, I recently had a less than enjoyable experience at a food festival, but I’m now happy to report that my faith in food events has been restored by the Abergavenny Food Festival in Wales.

The Abergavenny Food Festival

The Festival has been going and growing for 19 years (longer than any other!) and offers a brilliant way for people of all ages, cultures and professions to come together and learn about food.

Last weekend Alex (Gingey Bites) and I took at early(ish) morning (hey, it was before 9am!) drive through the lovely Welsh countryside to get in early for a day of food celebration.

At the press launch, we heard from Aine Morris the CEO of the Abergavenny Food Festival, and Tom Kerridge, who you’ll know from various cooking shows. They shared why the Festival was so important to them and it got me excited about what the event was aiming to achieve around educating people about food.

Abergavenny Food Festival

We may also have tested some delicious baked goods from Alex Gooch and this surprisingly good chocolate almond milk from Boringly Good.

Abergavenny Food Festival

After the press launch, I raced off to the Priory for the workshops I’d prebooked. While my day was set in stone, Alex was very lucky to wander the event site checking out traders, the Castle, and the Linda Vista Gardens while I learned a few tricks (she’ll probably tell you about her day on her blog!). I was a bit jealous, but I’ve learned my lesson and I won’t pack out my days next year!

Never fear, there was food nearby! I was excited to find that there were plenty of food options and some great traders in the Priory courtyard, so I wasn’t missing out on the festival entirely.

Ticketed events

To access the non-ticketed events, you needed a wristband. This gave you access to the market, the Castle and the Linda Vista Gardens, where a range of fun things were organised, including cooking demonstrations (over the fire and in a proper kitchen).

The ticketed event options were brilliant though, ranging from chef talks to hands-on workshops like photography, and gin masterclasses. I went for the hands-on workshops and spent the day learning tips and tricks about smartphone photography, and food styling. As someone who never takes notes, I learn by doing and both sessions were great for giving us an opportunity to get involved.

It’s defintely worth getting a couple of ticketed events in, but don’t make the mistake I made and book out your whole day with ticketed events unless you’re going to the Festival for both days. You’ll soon (like me) regret missing out on the amazing traders and other activities.

Abergavenny Food Festival

Traders

I had an hour to walk round the market area in the late afternoon and it was brilliant to see a mix of traders selling a wide range of goods from smoked meats and fish to grains, tomatoes, bread and cured meats. While there were some traders who had come a fair way to be involved in the event, many were local to Wales (one was just eight miles down the road!) and quite a few were from just over the bridge in Somerset and Wiltshire.

That’s the way a food festival should be! We loved seeing local produce and talking to traders about why they came to the Abergavenny Food Festival.

Abergavenny Food Festival

Abergavenny Food Festival

Abergavenny Food Festival

Abergavenny Food Festival

Abergavenny Food Festival

Eat Your Words

After our long day, we needed sustenance and we were glad we’d booked tickets for the Abergavenny edition of Bristol’s Eat Your Words.

We were lucky to have our meal cooked by the author of the chosen cookbook! Olia Hercules cooked up a Georgian feast based on recipes from her new book Kaukasis and shared her passion for food from the Caucasus region.

Abergavenny Food Festival, Kaukasis and Eat Your Words

Abergavenny Food Festival, Kaukasis and Eat Your Words

Abergavenny Food Festival, Kaukasis and Eat Your Words

At the end…

It was a long day, but it also wasn’t. In fact, I think it went way too quickly. There were so many things to see and do in Abergavenny, and so much of it was about local and good quality producre that it’s the perfect example of a food festival.

I *cannot* wait for the 20th anniversary of the Abergavenny Food Festival next year! In fact, Alex and I are already making plans to be there for the full weekend!

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Far and away the best way to eat prunes: Far Breton

Over Easter this year, I popped over to France to see dad who was also there for his bi-annual visit. Even though the primary purpose of the visit was to visit my Grandmother, I requested that we make a trip to Carnac in Brittany and Mont St Michel in Normandy. So, over two very full days, we drove the five hours to Brittany, looked at some very large rocks and then drove another couple of hours to see a very famous rock – Mont St Michel.

Mont St Michel + Carnac

I really enjoyed the trip to Brittany, which included a stop in a little town called Elven where we had baguettes with ham and cheese; then in Carnac we had a delicious multi-course birthday meal for my husband at a tiny auberge; more than one kougin amann (because I needed to compare!); a trip around a farmers market with some of the most amazing produce I’ve seen in a while; and Far Breton.

Far Breton

Far Breton is similar in texture to a clafoutis – one of my favourite desserts. It’s essentially a baked custard-style dish full of prunes, which I think have always had a bad wrap. You’ll also note in my photos above that some people like it blonde and others much darker and it can be served on its own or served with creme patisserie.

I’ve been wanting to give the Far Breton a go since I got back, so I finally found some time and did a search for a trustworthy recipe. I went with this recipe from Richard Bertinet and got baking.

Far Breton

Far Breton

The recipe worked a treat! It wasn’t quite the same (because things always taste better when you don’t make them yourself), but it was a winner of pudding and the feedback from my colleagues and in-laws was great.

I can recommend, as Richard Bertinet does, having this with a nice up of tea and a book. Or a cider.

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Bristol’s Backwell House

One of the reasons I love living in Bristol is the number of stunning food options and importantly, so many restaurants and chefs using fresh, local produce. I love that people are so passionate about what is produced in the region – from cider to pork.

This is most definitely the case at Backwell House, a gorgeous, recently established boutique hotel in the North Somerset countryside near Bristol.  They have just launched a 40-cover restaurant where Chef Ross Hunter has developed a menu that focuses on local produce. So local, in fact, you’ll find that quite a few of his ingredients come from the Backwell Estate itself!

Backwell House

When I asked Chef Ross (who has worked closely with everyone’s favourite chef, Josh Eggleton) what he was aiming to achieve with his menu, he shared that it was about showcasing the produce. For him, choosing three to four stunning local ingredients and really making them shine is the most important thing to him. That’s my kind of philosophy. It’s all well and good spending hours creating foams and gels, but if you lose the fresh ingredients then you’re really just missing out.

The menu is very well priced at two courses for £29 and three courses for £35. It also changes regularly depending on what ingredients are available and in season.  Not only will you get to eat gorgeous food, you’re doing so in the beautiful countryside in a Georgian house (that’s the history lover in me talking!).

Pressed Backwell pork, new season peas, pancetta & tarragon emulsion was first off the ranks. Well-seasoned pork, gorgeous free peas and perfect crackling made for a brilliant starter. My esteemed dining neighbor, Alex (aka Gingey Bites) chose the Brixham crab, beetroot, apple, Nori seaweed, which not only looked stunning but was very tasty too.

Backwell House
Pressed Backwell pork, new season peas, pancetta & tarragon emulsion + potato gnocchi, wild garlic, calcot onion, hazelnuts

For mains, I didn’t want double portions of meat, so I chose the potato gnocchi, wild garlic, calcot onion, hazelnuts for something a bit lighter. Sadly it was underseasoned and the texture was not as light as I’d hoped. The onion was also too crunchy and undercooked for my taste. However, everyone else at the table sang the praises of the Cornish cod, Brixham crab bonbon, crab bisque, kohlrabi, pak choi and the 60 day Hereford sirloin, ox cheek, alliums, king oyster mushroom, beef jus. Alex said the sirloin was as soft as butter and very moreish.

Next, I had the strawberry cannelloni, meringue, Cheddar Valley strawberries – a little play on eton mess. I loved the mix of textures and the use of strawberries. Definitely something I’d eat again.

To finish off, we were offered some housemade petite fours, including raspberry and beetroot marshmallows, apple jellies and orange shortbread. I adored the marshmallows and was pleasantly surprised at how well the flavours worked.

Dessert
Strawberry cannelloni, meringue, Cheddar Valley strawberries + raspberry and beetroot marshmallows, apple jellies and orange shortbread

I enjoyed my meal and the setting in which I got to eat it. Chef Ross has put together an excellent menu and knows how to make the most of the ingredients he has sourced. I can highly recommend a lovely drive into the Somerset countryside to Backwell House for lunch or dinner.

About the hotel

I couldn’t not put something in about the hotel itself because I really enjoyed spending time there. On the outside, Backwell House is everything you’d expect of a Georgian House – well-manicured grounds and stunning views. But inside is a different story. The General Manager and his family have given the house a revamp with their own quirky (often handmade) touches. Like a suitcase sink and handmade bedhead – it’s kind of fun to look for the little things that make Backwell House so beautiful.

The common areas are comfortable and there’s plenty of space to relax with a drink from the handmade bar. The rooms are luxurious and I’m jealous of anyone lucky enough to stay there.

The details:
Menus start at £29 for 2 courses and rooms from £95 to £245 per night B&B
Email: enquiries@backwellhouse.co.uk
Phone: 0117 325 110
Web: backwellhouse.co.uk
Backwell House, Farleigh Road, Bristol BS48 3QA

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My favourite things to do in Paris

I’ve been really lucky to spend a lot of time in Paris over the years while visiting my grandparents. I absolutely love just wandering the streets, spotting interesting things that you may miss if you just stick to the tourist traps. Having recently visited again over Easter, I thought I should write down a few of my favourite things to do while I’m there (outside all the museums!).

Stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg

Located between Saint-Germain-des-Prés (a favourite area of mine to go walking) and the Latin Quarter, the Jardin do Luxembourg is a lovely mix of art and horticulture. I’d only ever been through during the winter, but this year I was lucky enough to walk through during Spring and it was nothing short of divine (in my opinion). Gorgeous flowers everywhere, sculptures aplenty, people chilling out in the sun or going for a jog. There’s really something about having a tranquil spot in the middle of chaos.

Bringing this back to food – there are a few cafes and plenty of space to sit down and eat if you decide to put together a little picnic.

Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Gyros in St Michel

I can’t remember who took me here the first time, but whenever I’m in Paris (and I have time), I always go for lunch. It doesn’t look like much, but the gyros are tasty, cheap and very filling.

Maison de Gyros: 26 Rue de la Huchette, 75005 Paris

While you’re in the area, you can see the Notre Dame and the Fontaine Saint-Michel.

Gyros is St Michel, Paris

Tea and lemon meringue in Le Marais

One day, my cousin promised me the biggest lemon meringue tart I’d ever seen and took me to a funky little cafe called Le Loir dans La Théière (which translates to ‘the dormouse in the teapot’, cute huh!) in the Jewish Quarter (Le Marais) and I was not disappointed. Every time I’ve been it has been very busy and there is often a queue to get a table. Don’t let that put you off though; if you’re in a small party they usually get you seated pretty quickly and it’s so worth it for the tart!

They serve other things too, but I can’t comment because every time I go I order the same thing. So naughty of me!

Le Loir dans La Théière: 3 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France

Le Loir dans La Théière, Paris

Window shopping in Les Halles

Les Halles has changed significantly since my first visit back in 2004, when it was a shopping quarter with what seemed like a few buildings and a lot of random shops attached in some way to the Metro/RER station below ground. It’s still a shopping quarter, but now it’s massive and a little less random, with big brand names having set up shop in the extension they have built. However, my favourite part of visiting Les Halles has always been wandering down the smaller streets to visit the random shops selling everything from vintage clothing to art.  I may have bought more than one pair of shoes from shops at Les Halles because some of them have excellent bargains.

There’s also plenty of food options, including brasseries, fast food and the all-important crêperies.

Nearby you’ll find Centre Pompidou – the home of a huge library and the Musée National d’Art Moderne. I haven’t actually visited, but I’ve been told it’s excellent.

Explore the flower market on Île de la Cité

This is a bit random, but every time I pass through here I can’t help but poke my head into the various shops selling flowers and other greenery. It’s in between Les Halles and St Michel, so it’s an easy stop on your way. Not all the little shops are open during winter, but in spring, it was magical. Flowers of all types and colours make you want to buy, buy, buy!

Marché aux fleurs: Place Louis Lépine, Quai de la Corse, 75004 Paris

Browse the books at Shakespeare and Company

I’m not the only person to include this on my list, but I do love walking into the shop and breathing in the delicious smell of musty paper. It’s a popular spot, but worth a visit. I don’t really need to say anymore.

Shakespeare and Company: 37 rue de la Bûcherie 75005 Paris

Explore the unknown in the Paris Catacombs

I went on my own the first time. Music in my ears, I wandered quietly around the labyrinth of bones that were moved to their current position in the late 1700s from various graveyards in Paris. Despite it seeming impossible that the remains of millions of people have been stacked and positioned in the catacombs, when you get there you’ll believe it.

If you’re into archaeology, the Crypte Archeologique du Parvis Notre Dame is also worth a visit.

Paris Catacombs

Bask in the decadence that is Versailles

I’ve been to the Château de Versailles many times because it’s hard to get sick of something so beautiful. The only reason I’m ever disappointed is if the garden is closed. Unfortunately, I’ve been unlucky the last two visits.

Versailles started off as a hunting lodge. King Louis XIII loved the area so much he built a basic lodge that would allow him to stay overnight when he went hunting in the forest. By the time his son, Louis XIV came along, it had already been upgraded. Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, would go on to turn the hunting lodge into one of the most beautiful palaces in the country. A lot of this may mean nothing to you because you don’t recognise the names or numbers, but you will probably know the name Marie-Antoinette and her husband King Louis XVI, and their roles in the French Revolution. But that’s a story for a different blog, I think!

Paris Versailles

Paris Versailles

I recommend planning in advance where you’d like to go because not everything on this list will be open every day of the week and opening hours tend to be different depending on the season.

I hope you love my picks as much as I do.

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A long weekend in Amsterdam

My holidays are usually pretty packed, but now that we can go away for 3-4 days at a time, we have a little more time to relax. Not.

Earlier this month, we finally made it to Amsterdam. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. As a history buff and foodie, I’m keen to go anywhere with old buildings and good food.

As it was my first time in Amsterdam and we only had four days, we did a lot of the very touristy things – ate cheese, visited some windmills, walked through the red light district and ate some dutch goodies.

We had a really good weekend, so I thought I’d share what we got up to:

Explore the canals

This one is pretty easy – walk around. Amsterdam is compact; there are a lot of different aspects to the city in a very small space (it seems). I can highly recommend just walking along the canals, taking in the sights, particularly the houses:

  • You’ll note that some a bit wonky – in some cases this is on purpose because apparently if your house leans forward, it looks bigger.
  • Keep an eye out for the hook holders jutting out from the top of many – they were used to haul up goods to the top level of the house so they remained dry.
  • Take a look at the make up of each house – many have coats of arms and imagery to show who owned the house and what that person did for a living. I think the more detailed the image, the more ‘well-to-do’ the person living there.

Amsterdam canals

I found it interesting that because space was so sought after, housing lots were narrow and tax was charged on frontage. Therefore, houses were narrow, but often extended backwards a fair way. These houses look very small on the outside, but some have 30+ rooms and would be considered mansions.

I could keep going because it was absolutely fascinating learning about how things worked in old world Amsterdam, but I’ll let you figure all of that out when you get there.

If you don’t want to walk around the entire time, I can highly recommend a canal cruise. You’ll get a bit of commentary and you can see a huge amount of the canals, without needing a foot massage! We did a cruise with the Blue Boat Company.

Amsterdam canals

The infamous red light district

One of those places you read and hear about often. You’ll find that it’s crowded once it starts to get dark and the throng of people don’t really stick around, they just take a look and move through. I can recommend doing the same. Take a look – see what the buzz is all about – and then move on to other (more interesting) things, like the Museumplein to get your obligatory photo with the Iamsterdam letters. Keep in mind that food and drink is expensive in the red light district because it’s so touristy.

Amsterdam redlight

Markets

I love markets and I always try to fit one or two in wherever I go, much to the annoyance of my husband. We were very lucky in that Dappermarkt was right outside our AirBnB, so even walking from the train station to the place we were staying was fun!

We also went to the Albert Cuyp Market. It was long and there were plenty of goodies to view (and eat!). You probably don’t need to go to both, but I recommend going to at least one.

Amsterdam markets

A countryside tour

All you need for this is half a day, really. We chose a half-day tour that would take us to see the windmills in Zaanse Schaans, try cheese in Volendam and see clogs being made in Marken. We had a quick lunch in Volendam, which consisted of kiplings, oorlog patates and we may have had some poffertjes to round out our deep-fried meal of champions.  The tour we took was excellent, because we got to see plenty in a short space of time.

Amsterdam windmills

A cheese tasting class

What’s a trip to Amsterdam without cheese? I found this by accident and I’m really glad I did! For 16 euro, you’ll get an hour full of cheese with a few wines. Held at Reypenaer Cheese – an unassuming shop front on Singel representing a company that doesn’t actually make the cheese, they just ripen it.

Amsterdam cheese tasting

You’re shown downstairs in their shop to a small room with desks all set up for our session. No joke, kind of felt like we were in a classroom – it has tables with all the implements you need to taste cheese successfully.

We were given the history of the company and what they do, as well as a taste of their five cheeses. The best part – the cheese was left on the table with you, so you could have as many testers as you wanted to get your mouth around the various flavours and textures.

Amsterdam cheese tasting

On the plus side, we scored cheaper tickets to the Bols experience as a package deal…

Heineken and Bols experiences

There’s always seems to be some kind of alcohol-based museum in the cities we go to. In Amsterdam, there were two: the Heineken Experience and the Bols and Genever Experience.

We went to both.

The Bols and Genever Experience was actually really interesting in terms sensory activities. My favourite part was smelling the flavours of the various liqueurs and trying to work out what they were. It takes about an hour to go through and at the end you get a cocktail of your choice.

Amsterdam House of Bols

The Heineken Experience was actually disappointing for me. I didn’t like the way they had set things out and I didn’t enjoy waiting 20 minutes for the ‘brew you ride’ which wasn’t anything spectacular. Part of the ticket price gives you two beers at the end of the experience and you get a quarter-pint or so right after the ‘brew you ride’. If you must go, I can recommend not going on a weekend – we stopped by on the Saturday and we could see from just the outside that it was packed because the queues were huge.

Amsterdam Heineken experience

This was clearly no relaxing tour of Amsterdam; we were most definitely tired by the time we’d finished everything on this list, but I really felt like I’d managed to see so much of Amsterdam. I should also note that we also went to a few other places not mentioned here, but the above were my highlights (or things I felt I should cover).

Happy to share my tips if you have any specific questions!

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A Grand old time: Bristol’s Mercure The Grand Hotel

Being in the UK means I’ve had the opportunity to travel so much more. This means scouring travel websites looking for the best deals on flights, accommodation and tours in brilliant locations (and I’ve really spent a lot of time looking!).

Because my wanderlust usually takes me further afield, unsurprisingly, I often forget about what’s happening right here in Bristol. But, I know some of you don’t come from here and perhaps you’ve been thinking of visiting.

When I’m looking at hotels, people often say “it doesn’t matter where you stay because you’ll be out and about and you’ll spend very little time in your room”. I think that’s half true – you spend longer than you realise in your hotel room and the more comfortable it is, the better. I also think it’s nice to walk into a lovely clean room with practical features and nice things to look at.

I was recently invited along to Mercure’s The Grand to see their very funky makeover. I know this isn’t the 70s, but they really have done some amazing work with the refurbishment.

Located on Broad Street in the Old City, close to Broadmead and St Nicks’ Market, it’s the perfect place to base yourself if you’re in Bristol.

The building itself is gorgeous. I couldn’t find any history on the building itself, though it’s Grade II listed. When you see the outside, you imagine you’ll walk into something old world. But after the refurbishment, it’s now a stunning combination of classic and modern. You walk into the lobby and it feels bright, clean and modern, but it the old and new world compliment each other well.

Mercure The Grand, Bristol

Local artists

The team who designed the new look and feel of the hotel worked closely with Upfest to give the hotel the ‘Bristol’ feel. More than 500 pieces of art have been created by local artists. So often when you walk into hotels, they are bland and clinical, you could easily imagine yourself in any city in the world because there’s no art or even personality in the hotel, let alone the rooms. I think it’s brilliant that Mercure has taken the opportunity to make use of Bristol’s creatives to make the hotel something to write home about.

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Art

Comfortable amenities

The rooms aren’t just pretty. They are practical too. The beds are amazingly comfortable and the bathrooms are classic and clean.

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Room

Keepers Kitchen and Bar

As part of the refurbishment, the restaurant has had an even bigger makeover and it’s not your usual boring hotel restaurant. As you’ll see from the photos below, you’ll note that Keepers has a theme – honey! Their plan is to eventually have bees on the roof of the hotel, so they can use (very) local honey in their cocktails and on the menu.

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

Speaking of cocktails, they have a brilliant range on offer in the bar, including three honey-based cocktails.

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

On the food side, the restaurant has a solid menu to please everyone. We were treated to anti pasti, pizza, and small versions of mains from the menu, including mushroom pappardelle, pan-fried sea bass, glazed pig cheeks (my favourite from the night), and the Keepers posset made with honey, of course.

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

Mercure The Grand, Bristol is the perfect place for a staycation or if you’re just visiting, it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Details
Address: Broad Street, BS1 2EL  Bristol
Telephone: 08713769042
Web: mercure.com

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Traditional meals in Prague

Much like Estonia, food in the Czech Republic was quite heavy. Basically, meat with carbs and sauce. Also, plenty of beer.

The list of food I wanted to try was extensive, but it wasn’t just sweets. Here are a few of the traditional savoury dishes we tried while travelling around Prague.

Dumplings

On our first day in the city, we walked around what felt like half the city before deciding on a random place we found. We both ended up taking a lunch special – smoked bacon dumplings (pictured above).

Svíčková na smetaně

Beef sirloin in a cream sauce, topped with cranberry and whipped cream. It’s a typical dish that we saw on most menus. I was surprised to find that the sauce was sweet and was made sweeter again with the addition of cranberry. The beef is marinated and slow-cooked, so it’s flavoursome and tender. It’s a heavy dish that will fill you up.

Prague
Svíčková na smetaně + roasted Prague ham with horseradish sauce and potato purée

 

Prague
Roast pork with dumplings and greens + one of the stunning old buildings in the Old Town Square
Pickled sausages

One dish I wasn’t too keen to try was pickled sausage. We got the sausage below at Restaurant U Karla – served with pickled onion and some chilli for a kick. Based on my research, they are considered a ‘pub snack’ of sorts and that would make sense because the acidity works really well with beer.

Prague pickled sausages
Pickled sausages + beer (of course)
Guláš

As you can imagine, goulash is common in this part of the world. It’s another heavy dish, designed to fill you up. I can’t give you any specific recommendations, but we tried it at both Cafe Savoy and Restaurant U Karla and enjoyed both.

Prague goulash
Guláš (goulash) + beer (of course)
Smažený sýr

When fried cheese is an option, you’d be mad not to try it. Plus, it’s everything you imagine it is – crunchy, stretchy, cheesey. A thick slice of cheese (often Edam) is breaded and then fried. In the two cases we tried it, it was served with amazing hand cut chips, and some tartare sauce. I can definitely recommend trying this dish – it’s probably best as a main or shared for a starter.

Prague Smažený sýr
Smažený sýr (fried cheese) + the main entrance at Prague Castle

Prague is a beautiful city and I look forward to going back one day. I can definitely recommend at least a 3-day trip so you can see and eat as much as you can.

Prague Charles Bridge
View of Charles Bridge from the river + view of Prague on the way back down the hill from Strahov Monastery

Thanks for sharing in our Prague adventure, here’s to the next one!

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The pastries and breadbased goodies of Prague – Part 2

As promised in part one of this post, I wanted to write more about the delicious things we ate while in Prague. By no means is this is a complete guide, but it might help you make some decisions when there are so many things to choose from.

Medovník

One of the sweets I enjoyed the most was medovník – Czech honey cake. It’s layers of biscuit and caramelised condensed milk that create a sweet treat with a unique texture and flavour. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too rich and we didn’t walk away feeling sorry for ourselves. We got it at Artisan Cafe & Bistrot next door to where we stayed. They make all their cakes, which is a definite plus!

Medovník at Artisan Cafe and Bistrot Prague
Medovník at Artisan Cafe and Bistrot
Vetrnik

This particular pastry sent us on bit of an adventure. I googled to find the best in Prague and the results showed that the vetrnik at Cafe Savoy was heads above the rest – thankfully Taste of Prague did the work for me, so it didn’t take me long to decide where to go. Vetrniks are made from a choux pastry, filled with cream and topped with a caramel sauce/glaze. It’s very much like a profiterole, but certainly richer. I can recommend sharing one if you buy the size in the photo below, otherwise just buy a small one and enjoy it slowly.

Cafe Savoy in Prague
Vetrnik (and a strawberry cake) at the Cafe Savoy
Czech fruit dumplings

Fruit dumplings are exactly what they sound like – fruit inside a flour-based dumpling, and served with ‘dry’ cottage cheese (or curd cheese) and sugar. If we were in Australia or the UK, I’m sure there would have been cream or ice cream involved too. It’s simple fare, but homely and you could just imagine someone’s grandmother making these lovingly for a big family feast. The dumplings in the image below had plums in the middle, but they can be made from any fruit (I’m keen to have a go making apricot ones myself). I really enjoyed these and I was a bit disappointed that I waited until our last night in Prague to try them. I’ve read that Cafe Savoy has excellent fruit dumplings, but we got these at Restaurant U Karla.

From my understanding, these dumplings can be served as the main meal or as dessert – my kind of food!

Honourable mention: Kofola is a cola soft drink produced in the Czech Republic. Apparently it was created when other cola brands weren’t available. I’d been on the look out for it at most places but never saw it until we walked into Restaurant U Karla, where they had it on tap. It’s got nice flavour and definitely worth a try.

 

Sweet tooth in Prague
Fruit dumplings + Kofola at Restaurant U Karla
Kremrole

A light (weight-wise, not calorie-wise) pastry filled with cream. While not in the shape of a horn, it’s very similar to cream horns you’ve probably seen. I usually don’t go for pastries full of cream, but these were small (and quite cheap!) and they had made it on to my list. It was light and the cream was quite tangy, which I wasn’t expecting. We found the bakery we bought them from while wandering back to the Old Town Square from the Jewish Quarter – it’s on Dlouhá.

Tredlnik

This was our end-of-trip treat (let’s be honest, we didn’t actually need any more treats, you’ve seen the rest of the list!). We had seen 90% of the tourists in prague walking around with them, so FOMO got the best of us. Plus, our next stop was London and we thought we should use our Euros. While they looked really nice, the tredlnik itself seemed stale, but perhaps the ice cream in the middle of it changed the texture. I don’t want to give you any recommendations on where to go for one of these, but if you want something super naughty, I think this would be the way to go and you can find them pretty much anywhere in the city.

Sweet tooth in Prague
Tredlnik + Kremrole

I hope my posts have given you bit of an idea of the treats you can find in Prague. I’m currently in the middle of writing about the savoury dishes so you don’t think we lived on sugar for five days.

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The pastries and bread based goodies of Prague – Part 1

Our next stop on our recent travels was Prague in the Czech Republic. We booked an apartment in Staré Město – or the Old Town – which was very central.

Much like Tallinn in Estonia, the Old Town is made up of old buildings and cobbled streets – if you’re a history buff like me, there is so much to see you won’t know where to start.

Of course, checking out a few historical aspects of every place we stop is important, but so is the food. When I did my pre-travel research on Prague (read: looked at the food I could try), I noticed a number of delicious-looking pastries and bread items. On the list they went! I got through a few of them, but I’m sure there are many more I could try if I went back.

Kolach

On our first morning in Prague, we set out from our apartment with a random walk in mind – we decided to see where the day would take us. It wasn’t long before we came across a bakery. We grabbed a couple of things, but the tastiest was the makovy kolacek (or kolach). I guess we would compare this to a danish of sorts in Australia, though not as sweet – it’s a brioche-style dough, shaped into a circle and filled with various ingredients (jam, fruit, poppy seeds). As with my dishes in this part of the world, many neighbouring countries have their own versions too.

Kolach in Prague
A makovy kolacek (or kolach) + the view over the Charles Bridge
Honey bread

Later, we found ourselves in a little shop (part of someone’s home) near Prague Castle called Sweet Prague – where they make and sell honey bread. The lady in the shop informed us (rather strongly) that we shouldn’t ever confuse honey bread with ginger bread as they are two very different beasts. The honey bread – in various shapes and sizes – is used as gifts and many people give them for a range of events from marriages to Christmas, and they last for twenty years (as decorations). It has a very different flavour to ginger bread, so if you’re in Prague make sure you try both.

Sweet Prague

Hořické trubičky

Something neither of us enjoyed were hořické trubičky – or horice rolls – thin sweet wafers rolled and filled with sickly sweet cream (to me, it tasted like eating a piece of cardboard filled with very very sweet buttercream). We found these in a gingerbread shop and asked the lady what they were, in response we received “they are traditional Czech food”. Not knowing what we were getting ourselves into, we each chose one and left. I ended up eating only half because it was too sweet for me. When I googled them later, I found that people really enjoyed them and I wondered if maybe we’d just had bad ones. Maybe we’ll try again next time we visit!

Horice rolls in Prague
A hořické trubičky + the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square

EDIT: Here’s part two of Prague for sugar lovers.

What’s your favourite pastry?

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What on Earth is ‘Australian Crunch’?

….I asked myself while grabbing a quick lunch in a bakery.

The description said: cornflakes, golden syrup, coconut and chocolate.

Nope. Still doesn’t ring a bell. So, of course, I had to buy one.

After I’d asked for the pork and apple pasty, I said, “and we’d like to try to the Australian Crunch please”.

The lady behind the counter gave me a funny look and asked, “is it like anything you have in Australia?”

I looked at the slice again and responded, “well no, that’s why we’d like to try it”.

She laughed and half muttered under her breath, “that’s what most Australians say”.

I just smiled awkwardly.

Once seated, I was adult enough to get through the savoury part of my lunch first. It was the nicest pasty I’d ever had actually. Although, I think there is supposed to be a traditional pasty and the rest are just fakes. Then again, I don’t know a lot about pasties. I’ve had pasties before, but I don’t like the potato in them – always seem to be undercooked.

Anywho, that’s not what this post is about. I’m here to talk about Australian Crunch.

The Australian Crunch was….well, it was bland and not all that crunchy to be honest. I struggled to taste coconut or golden syrup. It didn’t remind me of anything I’d ever eaten as a kid, but it reminded me of a really bad version of chocolate crackles.

Given this odd slice has ‘Australian’ in its name and neither Husband or I had ever heard of it, I wanted to find out a bit more.

I put the slice on Facebook, and then I googled.

Turns out, it might very well be a slice unique to the UK. Plenty of British bloggers and forum participants ate Australian Crunch growing up; often saying they had it a lot at school.

Australian forum participants and friends on Facebook said they had never heard of such a slice. Mel thought her aunt may have made something similar when she was a kid, but wasn’t too sure. I’m wondering if the ‘Australian’ part of the name comes from the cornflakes?

During my search I also found number of recipes – all different of course!

I’m currently staying in a studio apartment with a very small kitchen and not much in the way of baking utensils (yes, it was hard not to pack some and it’s even harder not to buy things whenever I go to the shop), but I’m really keen to give this slice a go. So from my search, here are a few recipes of this strange slice if you’d like to make it and tell me how it goes:

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PS. I regret not taking a photo before I bit into it…sorry about that.

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