Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Venice

Venice in summer (or any time of year, really) is touristy, crowded, and overpriced. But why let that stop you? It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, with gorgeous views, wonderful art galleries, local handicrafts and churches to hold your attention. I've been lucky enough to visit Venice twice now, and hope to return many more times.


View from a Vaporetto


Piazza San Marco

For a food lover, however, Venice might prove to be a challenge. For food lovers on a budget, (like Clarice and I – poor students, you see) Venice is a big challenge. Luckily, it’s not an unconquerable one. If you manage to wander even a little bit off the tourist track, you should be able to find friendly, reasonably priced, family run bars and trattorie. And if all else fails, just eat gelato for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Here are some culinary highlights of our time in Venice...

This is a bread thing filled with green olives and cheese, bought at a paninoteco near the main railway station. The counter was filled with enormous loaves of the stuff; it's sliced to order and sold by weight. It was cheap, tasty and filling, but a bit greasy. So be careful if you're carrying it in the same bag as anything you want to keep clean, such as a pair of red suede Zara high-heeled shoes.



Cappucino! 2 or 3 coffees a day in Italy makes Sarah a happy bunny.


Now, here's one of those "family run trattorie" I was telling you about. We were slightly lost walking back to the bus station one evening, which turned out to be a good thing, because we came across this place, and sat down for some delicious spaghetti.


Family Restaurant

It was great - the owner playing with her super-cute child, her husband preparing the food, waiters speaking to us in ITALIAN, and simple, delicious food. It was cheap by Venetian standards too! Less than €10 for a plate of food is a bargain.


Pretzels - so addictive!


Spag Bol - Just like my Mamma would have made if she was Italian.

This was some sort of festival going on one afternoon - we didn't get too involved, but it looked like fun! Food stalls and long tables and whatnot.

Some sort of festival

We stopped off at the Bar Royal, below, when we were absolutely starving during a hardcore day of sightseeing. It's run by a super-friendly Chinese mother-and-daughter team, and has a loyal clientele of old Venetian regulars, who pop in for an espresso, some vino rosso and some smiles.


Bar Royal


Turkey & Cheese melt thingo from Bar Royal

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Vienna: The Naschmarkt

The naschmarkt is a fabulous food market somewhere in Vienna, which sells an amazing variety of produce - they have Middle Eastern stalls, Italian stalls, bakeries, delicatessens, fresh fruit and vegetable stores, cafes, and sausage stalls - just to name a few.


Daniel's Meat Store


Mmm... cakes


Stalls

The most exciting stall we came across was this Wurst stall we saw, which sold one of Clarice's favourite type of sausage. I forget the exact name, but it's made with chunks of cheese inside, so once they're cooked, delicious strings of melting cheese ooze when you eat them. They're served in a crusty white "Hot-Dog" roll (which puts any hot dog I've ever eaten in Australia to shame), with ketchup, mustard and possibly onion. Amazing.


Wurst mit cheese stall


Wurst mit cheese


Close Up

Click here for a map and more details.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"The perfect, all-out weekend breakfast"

Let me divert your attention away from my European adventures for the moment. Back in Oz, I'm finding myself quite busy settling back in, what with work, uni (heh!), catching up with my friends and that sort of thing. And seeing as both my brother and I do shift work, it's getting hard for the whole family to find time to spend together. However, earlier this week I realised that, miraculously, we were all going to be home on Saturday morning for a whole TWO HOURS! I decided to cook breakfast. Pancakes, of course.

I love pancakes in all shapes and forms, but for yesterday I decided to make ones that were a bit different and special - Nigella's pumpkin pancakes with sticky maple pecans. The recipe is featured in Nigella's article about pumpkins, in this month's Delicious.

These pancakes are like ordinary breakfast pancakes, with the addition of cooked and mashed pumpkin, and buttermilk. So in this way I suppose they're similar to Nigella's banana buttermilk pancakes, from Feast. I'm pleased to report that the pumpkin version is far, far superior.

The pancake batter is lovely and golden, thanks to the mashed pumpkin.


Yellow Batter

To transform pecans into sticky-maple pecans, you toast them in a pan, before adding a couple of spoonfuls of maple syrup, and slowly stirring them until they're "stickly, frostily coated". They are quite delicious and totally compulsive. Try not to eat them all before the pancakes are ready.


Maple Pecans

I decided to serve the pancakes with strawberries, so that they wouldn't feel so heavy. Plus, they were cheap at the supermarket. And they look so pretty in a bowl!


Strawberries


The Breakfast Table

The pumpkin pancakes are really lovely. They're soft and light, with a fab velvety texture. You can really taste the pumpkin, and I love the gratifyingly bright yellow colour! This recipe is definitely a keeper.


Pancake stack with extra maple syrup. Drool.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Vienna: Teahouses

You don’t really need me to tell you about teahouses in Vienna. Vienna is justifiably famous for its many wonderful teahouses; and our 2-night stay was not nearly enough time to learn about and experience them all. Any guidebook will give you the names and locations of the more famous teahouses, and my only advice is to start off with a guidebook’s recommendations, and then to follow your eyes. There are heaps of teahouses all over town, most of them very, very good. This post is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, but rather a quick introduction to whet your appetite and encourage you to visit Vienna!


DEMEL

Demel is, I think, the most famous of all Viennese teahouses. Apparently they're the only ones (apart from the Hotel Sacher, of course), who have the original recipe for sachertorte. Their hot chocolate is amazing. It's easily the best hot chocolate I've had anywhere in the world.


Hot Chocolate @ Demel


Demel Raspberry Baked Cheesecake


Raspberry Yogurt cake


Pastry Chef @ Demel taking a photo of his food... I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE!!!


CAFE LANDTMAN

Cafe Landtmann was a recommendation from TimeOut, and was a really nice place to sit and enjoy the balmy summer night. The waiters are really friendly, and the bathrooms are very nice.


Cafe Landtmann


Landtmann's Kugelhopf - Freud used to eat kugelhopf every day.


Soda Zitrone!


AIDA

Aida is a chain of fab teahouses all across town, easily recognisable by their retro and super-cute pink decor.


Aida


Aida's Smart Car


Topfen strudel - topfen = cream cheese and strudel = strudel

On a quick aside, topfen is the most delicious thing ever! The literal translation is cream cheese, but it is different from cream cheese - more grainy and thick and cheesy. It is so good! It's very uncommon to see cheese-based sweet pastries in Australia, (and even if we could, they wouldn't be as good), so I decided to indulge at every available opportunity.



Topfenstrudel, coffee and a cake that Clarice was eating


K&K Hofzuckerbacker L Heiner

This one came highly recommended by Clarice's father, and is lovely and quiet and non-touristy. I think we visited it 3 times during our stay, mainly for ice-cream and soda zitrone.




Ice-cream cone

CAFE SPERL

This is another famous teahouse, with worn tapestry chairs and a very peaceful, quiet atmosphere.


Cafe Sperl


Cafe Sperl Interior


Cafe Sperl Interior 2


Topfen Cake (more of that delicious topfen!)


Drinks in Sperl


Sperl Schnitzel - different from Figelmüller but still good!


Sperl Potato salad

CAFE DIGLAS

Right across the street from K&K Hofzuckerbacker L Heiner.


Diglas


Bread


Sausages - be warned, that horseradish is lethal!


Soma Himbeer - 500mls of deliciousness


Interior of Diglas


Coffee Diglas - I love the way that they serve coffee on silver trays with water!


Apfel Strudel @ Diglas

Mmm... apfelstrudel!

In case you're wondering, yes, we did eat all that food (and more!) in 2 days. On our last day in Vienna, I think we did 5 teahouses. It's a tough life..

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Vienna: Hotel Sacher

In her wonderful book, Old Food, Jill Dupleix includes her own recipe for Sachertorte, which has the merits of being "easier" and "faster", than the original, and most importantly, needing "no return airfare". This is obviously a different story when you're actually in Vienna. I do believe that it would be a culinary crime to visit Vienna without trying the original Sachertorte.

The Hotel Sacher is located in the centre of town, right opposite the Opera House, and the cafe is directly accessible from the street. It's very quiet and calm, with understated decor and unobtrusive waitstaff.


Interior of Cafe Sacher


Interior

So moving on, here's the cake! The 2 of us shared a slice (it's rich and expensive, you see), and it was lovely!


Sachertorte


Sachertorte

It is rich and undeniably chocolatey, but not overpowering or super-dense, like so many chocolate cakes you can get these days. It's got a great cakey texture, it's not too bitter, not too sweet... in fact, I might say it's just right. And worth the return airfare!