Machi-ya, St James

Another local restaurant that opened up a few months ago, this one touting itself as a Japanese comfort food restaurant. I’d take it!

The place is small and cosy, so you instantly feel at home. I went on my own, as I just wanted to get out of the office and no one was around to join…

I started off with the chicken balls or tsukune, the minced chicken skewers served with a soy/egg yolk mix to dip them in, and a shimichi pepper spice on the side, should I want them to be spicy. They were squidy feeling in my mouth and tasted okay, but to be honest, I think that the best thing about them was the extras, ie, the egg yolk, soy, and spice.

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But with this, I ordered one of the specials, the sea bass which was served with a  miso jalapeno sauce, and this was MUCH better. First of all, it was a very generous serving of fish for £9, and the fish was cooked perfectly. The miso jalapeno sauce gave it a nice extra kick, as did some of the grilled lime juice that I squeezed on it, but even on its own, the fish would have been quite nice.

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Shared with a market salad (and a sesame dressing), this was a perfect lunch, cosy and good. The specials board had a number of different other specials, including other types of grilled fish and roast pumpkin – you can bet that I’ll be back for those!

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Mesnerstüble Cafe-Restaurant, Schwartenberg, Austria

As a birthday weekend surprise, Andre took me to the Austrian Alps for a weekend of hiking and culinary stops along the way… unfortunately, it chucked down rain the entire time, so it was too dangerous to do the culinary hikes.

So, we took the advice of the hotel owner and headed to Schwartenberg, where she promised a good time as the Austrain cowboys brought the cows down from the mountains for the winter. And it was a fun time, watching the cowboys in their short leiderhosen and hats, herding the cows.

Here is Andre making friends… One of the cooler things about the architecture in this area is the tiles on the houses… they are small, scalloped tiles instead of square ones… what a cool pattern!

And our dessert at the local cafe, a berry tarte that was delicious. For lunch itself, we shared a large mixed salad, then had a Weiner schnitzel (when in Rome!) and a creamy stew of local wild mushrooms with dumplings as main dishes. Both were very good!

A very cosy cafe for a rainy Saturday afternoon… it seemed like the whole town was there, either eating, having some of their fancy, cream-topped coffees, desserts, or large glasses of beer!

Rifugio Blitz, Craveggia, Piemonte, Italy

A weekend in the Italian mountains, visiting some old friends in the most BEAUTIFUL setting. 45 minutes from Lake Maggiore, we are in for a treat! After a day on the lake on Saturday, we took it easy on Sunday, and had lunch at a local mountain restaurant.

We started off with the local charcuterie, which included salamis, coppa, prosciutto, and lardo… my favourite! Alongside this, some grilled aubergine (that didn’t have tons of taste) and a very nice bowl of white beans with celery which was pretty good.

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Then, as a main, we ordered one of each of the meats on the menu and a side of polenta for everyone. Check out that polenta, it looks like huge scoops of ice cream!

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And the meats…  There was a sliced pork in a brown sauce, a minced veal ragu, a veal in a citrusy, orange sauce (this was my favourite, and the one at the bottom of the picture, served with the slice of orange), and a beef dish, with a heavier red sauce. All good with the polenta, but the only standout was the veal with orange!

For dessert, fresh blueberries with whipped cream and an espresso. Apart from being the only vegetables or fruit I’d had all weekend (!!) this was the perfect end to the meal!

After this, a hike up to the top of the mountain to see the other side, along with grasshopper catching along the way… what a gorgeous afternoon!

Taco Tuesdays!

Sometimes, eating healthfully at home gets boring, so we need to mix it up a bit! That’s where Taco Tuesdays come in… they’re really a general term for fajita, taco, anything mildly similar…

This Tuesday, we bought some big spelt wraps at Whole Foods, as the regular corn tortilla wraps weren’t available. And they were pretty crappy, they fell apart as soon as you bent them slightly (important to have a wrap that can bend without ripping, when you’re wrapping your food!)

But anyway. Dinner turned out very good, regardless!

We went for two proteins, prawns cooked in taco seasoning and bavette in a chili and garlic sauce. After smoking out the kitchen and our lungs, Andre left the beef to sit for five minutes, before delicately slicing it.

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As the weather was still good, we were obviously going to sit outside… but had too many bits and pieces to put them all on the table… so we put the most important, the prawns, beef, guacamole and salsa, on the table, and the rest on a side table.
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What else did we have? Sauteed onions and peppers (what you would typically put in your fajita), some Greek yogurt (sometimes we use this to cool the spicy dishes down… or add Siracha to it for a little creamy spice!), some shredded lettuce, some coriander, and a roast corn/mushroom mix.

Of all the bits and pieces, I’d say that the winners this week were definitely the steak and the corn/mushroom mix.

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Check out my “taco,” it’s not like I even put too much food into the wrap and that’s why it broke apart… psh. But what a delicious dinner!

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Pharma, Mykonos

On our way to Alemagou, one of my favourite places on Mykonos, we saw that they were having a private party and going to kick us out after an hour at the lunch table… so instead decided to try the new restaurant, Pharma, that had opened up on the same road. It claims to be the first farm to table restaurant in Mykonos.

We started with some freshly-baked bread…

Then went for the Greek salad. As all of their vegetables are grown in their garden, they are quite local… the waiter went on and on about the tomatoes, which would be the best I’d ever tasted… and you know what They hardly had ANY taste at all! Pretty surprising…

But, sprinkled with feta and seasoned with peppers, onions, and large, juicy capers, the salad was still very good.

Here’s Andre at the restaurant, he isn’t super impressed by the tomatoes either…

And then, the local “pizza,” which was thick with roasted tomatoes, onions, and herbs… it was pretty good, but I found that the thickness of the dough outweighed the taste of the veggies… they probably needed to put more on!

But both main dishes were slam dunks… at the waiter’s suggestion, we ordered the pork belly souvlaki. I usually am not a huge fan of pork belly, but this one was amazing, with the fatty bits not too overpowering, and the meaty bits perfectly juicy and moist. With the spice rub that they used… this was absolutely delicious.

Their aubergine dip was also quite good, and we used the extra bread from the “pizza” to sop it up.

And finally, the rabbit. Cooked in a tomato sauce, it was also delicious, perfectly tender with an earthy taste to the sauce… yum.

You can see their garden behind the row of tables…

Definitely a place to come back to, as the food was good and the menu (and specials, as we ate mostly from the specials list!) was large.

Some days are made for salads at home…

Last Sunday was such a day… this was a version of our typical salad, filled with tomato and lettuce, avocado, and big chunks of tuna. The special ingredient this time? Lardons, lots of them. Overly pan-fried so that they gave off the nicest meaty taste… 

And of course, some poached eggs. Andre has become a pro at egg poaching (I don’t even bother trying), and they always give an extra dimension to our otherwise cold salads…

Mixed together with a chive, mustard vinaigrette… yum. 

Scandi smorgasboards for dinner

A light summer dinner on the terrace at home, we went for some smoked salmon and cured tuna, trimmings of cucumber, radish, and dill, with a nice squeeze of lemon juice.

On the side, a chopped salad of tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, mushrooms and feta. A perfect, light dinner for a warm summer night!