I know I haven't written a post in a while. A long while. The main reason is that winter has brought with it the infamous English 3 o'clock nights (where by 3 o'clock in the afternoon everything is pitch black) meaning that taking decent photos of things I cook after work (which is mainly when I cook!) has become virtually impossible. As an antidote, we generally try to stay away from this country at this dreary time, and this has resulted in quite a lot of travelling, which – while full of food as usual – does not frequent blogging allow (in Yoda mode). However, since most have been asking for it and have been waiting for it, I wanted to at least post some photos of the most beautiful and delicious things I've had in my travels over the past few months.
2010 being the year of weddings, my three trips in November and December were all in order to attend weddings of friends scattered around the globe. Having being invited to 10 weddings since May, I was at least glad to be able to attend 4. And a funeral. But that's another story...
So, on we headed to Mexico for my boyfriend's good friend's wedding in the beginning of November, and since we were there anyway we decided to stay for 2 weeks (you don't go to the other side of the world and not take advantage, you might as well make the jetlag worth its while!) and visit a couple of places I had never been to before, namely San Miguel De Allende and Guanajuato. They were both beautiful, and I definitely recommend them. San Miguel is this artists' paradise, with picturesque houses in all kinds of colours, lovely relaxing courtyards and lots of good food! And Guanajuato is a bustling student city that competes with San Miguel for the Most-multicoloured-Mexican-city Award.
To start things off though, we first stopped in Mexico City, where my boyfriend's from, and where I've been 3 times before. And when in Mexico City the musts for me are: Brunch at Las Lupitas (lovely little place in Coyoacan, top left photo), some amazing steak and chips in a basket made out of potatoes (!) in the Argentinean Cambalache, and some freshly made tortillas from the corner shop, where they just taste divine warm out of the comal, sprinkled with some salt and rolled up. Mexican heaven...
And then, to finish it off, some cajeta crêpes, and cafe de olla! This coffee is possibly my favourite in the world, no matter how much I like espresso and Greek coffee (Turkish coffee actually, the Greeks just like to call it Greek, chauvinistic remnants of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus...) this just beats them all to a whimpering submission. Flavoured with cinnamon and pilloncillo (raw cane sugar) and "cooked" in a clay pot, even thinking of the earthy smell of this coffee gives me a warm fuzzy feeling! And since we were around during the Mexican Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), we also got to get some sugar skulls as presents, along with a variety of sweets which you can find in the ubiquitous sweet shops scattered in Mexican markets.
On next was the wedding. Of course Mexican weddings revolve around food, food and more food. You start with a tamarind margarita (with salt and chilli powder on the glass rim) at around 1, then go on to lunch, best bit of which was the shark gordita (had tried shark before but I wasn't impressed, this time it was mind-blowing!), desserts (some meringue/cream/fruit concoction that was positively cloud-esque) and then some dancing, more food, dancing, oh, let's have some Mexican sweets, dance a bit more, damn! it's already 7 at night, let's have someone bring around tortas ahogadas (oh god, that was spicy like hell, but oh so delicious I just couldn't stop having more and more despite burning to death... even thinking about it I'm drooling now!) and then on and on the feeding frenzy went!
We tried to pace ourselves, as we knew the next morning we had to have breakfast (the hotel had really cutely enveloped their butter in corn husks, making it look like mini tamales!), and then go to the newlyweds' house for post-wedding brunch. Yes, as if we hadn't been fed constantly until 1 o'clock the previous night (normally it would have been until 5 o'clock in the morning, only it was so bizarrely cold that the wedding guests ran home earlier than expected! Cold in Mexico...who would imagine!), we had to now choose between pozole and chicken flautas. Guess what. I had BOTH. I love chicken flautas, but it was the first time I tried pozole and I have to say it's not my thing. Thank God, at least there's one Mexican thing that I won't need to add to my already full belly next time I go there. Unlike tortilla soup. Oooooh, the tortilla soup. With little pieces of avocado. And chillies. And cheese. Miam miam is all I can say. Drooling just thinking about it now...
Next stop on the world trip was Athens, this time for my friend's wedding. My friend being a sweet-toothed girl we indulged not only in the prettiest wedding cake ever (served as individual mini-cake portions!) but in a selection of other little pots of pleasure, all of which of course I had to try. Initially I thought "Just a spoonful of each, so I can tell her which one was the best" and then after I saw that no one was eating the rest, I had to have them all. We don't waste food in my house, and especially cute desserts! (even after an endless wedding buffet!) After a brief stop in Rome to visit a very good friend of mine, who literally showered us in freshly-cut salami and fed us for 10 hours a day during Christmas and Boxing Day, we were off to Palermo in Sicily for the last wedding of the year. Having eaten quite a lot (as you can see by the above) during the preceding months, this was the top of the iceberg. Italians eat a lot, they eat even more in weddings, but what we didn't expect was a 10-course meal of the most amazing variety, of which we could eat a forkful each time, as we were waiting for the next and the next. The one thing that I positively devoured all of, was this sublime salad topped with the most amazing tuna carpaccio (marinated in a toasted hazelnut emulsion) I've ever tasted. I still have drooly dreams about it!
And just as you thought this madness might come to an end, here comes January, with its "most depressing week of the year", which we spent safely tucked in the sun of Singapore and Bali. Quick walk through Little India where colourful bananas were scattered everywhere, and then it was time for some famous Singaporean chilli crab in Jumbo. Burning hot, but oh so good! Even the getting messy bit was enjoyable. A few days later we were having rijsttafel in Bumbu Bali in Tanjung Benoa, and trying some of the best curried fish cooked in banana leaf in Sails in Amed.
A big handful of freshly grilled prawns on the beach (these are what I call gigantosaurus prawns!) were followed by pancakes with palm sugar (that even beats cajeta!) and some of the best food we had in Bali which was in a little café in the middle of the rice fields near Ubud, called Sari Organic. If you see "chicken with mushrooms" in a menu in Britain you definitely don't expect what you see above, and some more palm sugar adoration ensued when our banana fritters arrived with some extra yummy syrup of the palmy kind.
Ubud being kind of the touristic centre of Bali you can find some amazing food there, but we were also lucky to be staying in the area while a religious festival was taking place and the Pura Desa temple was covered in offerings consisting of the most amazingly arranged towers of... food! Apart from cakes and fruit there was also a pretty intricate "chandelier" of meat skewers and I can say my mouth stayed open for quite a while when I realised what it was, as from far away it just looked like a flower arrangement! Having gotten hungry with the cornucopia at the temple we had some sticky cashew nut chicken for dinner, followed by a modern twist to the traditional black rice pudding.
Last but not least, some of my favourite things that I tried in South East Asia were the Indonesian crackers (kind of like the Chinese prawn crackers but waaaaay better!) and SHOCK SHOCK SHOCK, pizza! There were two amazing varieties. One in Gili Air, a tiny island near Lombok, which – sans electricity but for some hotel/restaurant generators – has devised an ingenious idea. Wood-fire pizza ovens. Yes, pizza in Indonesia. And if you manage to get lucky, you get some Italians who have permanently moved there to make the most amazing prawn and mushroom pizza ever for you. Best dough I've had in life, and despite my severe scepticism about combining seafood with cheese, this was one of the most amazing pizzas I've had in the world. Including Italy. Sorry Italians, please don't kill me, did you notice I said that IT WAS AN ITALIAN who made this? Albeit in far more exotic lands. The other amazing pizza was in a Japanese place in a super-mall in Singapore. Again, despite the aforementioned scepticism, and bearing the good experience in Gili Air in mind, I was stunned by how good this prawn, bacon and wasabi mayo pizza was. Yes, wasabi. The Japanese are crazy with their culinary combinations, but that only makes me love them more. Japanese has to be one of my favourite cuisines right now. Definitely.
Ah... so that was eat [sic]. And if you didn't have enough already, I leave you with a smile on a plate...
(Somehow I'm getting peckish again...)