Wednesday 28 December 2011

Afternoon Tea at L'Orangerie, Buenos Aires

Vase of roses at the table

Dear readers,

Feliz Navidad
[Merry Christmas] from Buenos Aires, Argentina!

Sorry for disappearing for another month, but I have been exploring Buenos Aires trying to find some great food places to share with you all!

Alvear Blend Tea being poured

It may seem a little strange that I went somewhere so English when I am on the other side of the world. I have enjoyed a fair share of Argentine culture here, but I really wanted my boyfriend to experience a little bit of English culture. It's going be a long time before he is able to visit England so I thought that Afternoon Tea at L'Orangerie, Alvear Palace Hotel, would be the perfect way to introduce him to English culture, here in Argentina. I was also curious to see Argentina's version of "Afternoon Tea"!

Kir Royales served at the table

We were fortunate enough to be seated in the beautiful Garden Courtyard. We certainly felt that we were in London. We ate minimal food before our booking, in order to prepare ourselves for the great feast of cakes. Afternoon Tea in Argentina is served between 5-7pm as opposed to 2-5pm in England, so we were desperately hungry by the time we arrived.

Teapot handle mitts

The waiters first served us the Kir Royales which they poured at the table. We ordered the Alvear Blend tea which had flavours of almond, citrus and rose. The waiters poured the tea at the table and the teapots had tiny handle mitts - adorable! I had never seen these before.

Warm pear scones with lemon curd, raspberry jam and orange marmalade

We were given freshly baked pear scones that were still warm, with lemon curd, raspberry jam and orange marmalade (but no butter). Before we came, I read a few reviews about Afternoon Tea at L'Orangerie. They said that the scones here were horrible. We thought, however, that the scones were delicious. They were dense but broke apart easily and had a subtle chewiness and fruitness from the pieces of pear. We didn't leave a crumb!

Plant decoration in the Garden Courtyard

We then started on the collection of sandwiches and cakes. The top plate included a mini salmon bagel, Spanish ham and pear roll, mushroom bun and a ham and cheese roll.

Tea cakes and sandwiches

The second plate included sandwiches of cream cheese and cucumber, turkey and pesto, tuna salad and Spanish ham. I enjoyed most of these, however, two of them were soggy with something that was not part of the filling. I left these uneaten!

The bottom plate included a selection of cakes including a chocolate and pistachio cake, a small round chocolate cake, a mini strawberry pavlova, triple chocolate mousse cake and a nutty-cinnamon pastry similar to baklava.

Struggling to finish the cakes!

We ate everything except for the couple of soggy sandwiches and the last course of cakes which one choose from a cart. We chose a black forest cake and a chocolate mousse cake which we took home in a box.

I felt like a little girl at a tea party. Except for the soggy sandwiches and the lack of butter or cream with the scones, it was the perfect afternoon tea! (The plain round chocolate cake could have been made a little more exciting, too.) I have been to Fortnum & Mason's in London for afternoon tea, and the Alvear definitely beat them in both the service and the quality of the food. I was very impressed that they served the Kir Royales at the table and also thoroughly explained every part of the menu as they served the food.

It may not be an Argentine thing to do here, but, actually, it is mainly Argentines who indulge in Afternoon Tea at L'Orangerie as the tourists are, usually, busy spending their time doing all of the "Argentine" things.

And, finally, despite the excellence of this experience, it was not that expensive. For two people including a glass of sparkling wine (or a Kir Royale), it came to AR$300 (around £50). A few days before this, we ate at a Mexican restaurant for the same money and were fairly disappointed with the food. I would definitely prefer to have the Alvear experience instead!

If you ever have the opportunity to Buenos Aires, I highly recommend that you partake of Argentina's brilliant interpretation of "English Afternoon Tea"!

Christmas Tree in The Alvear Hotel

Sunday 27 November 2011

Carrot and Ginger Soup

As a student, I am always looking for recipes that are delicious, cheap and healthy, all at the same time. I recently came across this recipe for Carrot and Ginger Soup from Sainsbury's and it has become my latest addiction.

When I first made this I was overwhelmed by the fact that such a simple dish could be so delicious. The warmth of the ginger is perfect for this bitter November chill, here in Northern England.

I simply sautéed some onions, then added half a kilo of chopped carrots and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped ginger with some stock. After boiling for about 30 minutes, I added some butter, honey and seasoning and then, blended.

Despite the ultimate deliciousness of this dish, I love to make food look a little bit more interesting. I have decided to dress the soup with a drizzle of cream, a sprinkle of paprika and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. I always try to avoid using dried herbs to dress a dish, they really cannot compete with the fresh!

P.S. Again, thank you for your patience. This final year of university is eating up much of my time. Please stay tuned to this blog as I shall be jetting of (again!) to somewhere far away and I am hoping to share many of my photos and food experiences with you all!

Friday 28 October 2011

Argentine Thumbprint Cookies

Argentine Thumbprint Cookie broken in half

Recently, I have become a keen drinker of Mate. Despite the fact that Mate suppresses the appetite, I always enjoy a sweet accompaniment, just as I do with my tea and coffee. Argentines are famous for their love of intense flavours and their love of dulce de leche, as I mentioned in a previous post. They drink their Mate very bitter. I drink Mate differently from the Latin Americans, with more water and much less yerba, in order to accommodate my sensitive palate.

Yerba Mate

I have always thought that 'thumbprint cookies' were cute. I had a browse on the internet and found that there are not many thumbprint cookies with dulce de leche. Argentine alfajores (which I sampled in Barcelona) generally consist of two shortbread cookies joined together with a filling of dulce de leche and dusted with desiccated coconut. I decided to transfer this idea into thumbprint cookies (as they are just adorable).

Argentine Thumbprint Cookies before cooking

I followed a shortbread recipe that I found on the internet which called for equal parts of butter and flour. The dough felt extremely oily so I added in some more flour before I shaped the cookies. Unfortunately, the cookies turned out a lot bigger and less 'adorable' than I had anticipated/hoped for.

Argentine Thumbprint Cookies

I tried again and this time managed to burn them. They were still worthy of being eaten, but definitely not worthy for the blog.

Dulce de leche centre

So, I tried for a third time and finally I had success! I creamed 125g of butter with 55g of sugar. I then mixed in 180g of flour and shaped the dough into small balls. I coated the balls with desiccated coconut, placed them onto a baking tray and pushed my thumb into the centre to create 'bowls' for the dulce de leche. After baking them until they were golden brown (around 10 minutes at 180°C), I filled the thumbprints with dulce de leche and added an extra dusting of coconut. They were small, cute and very tasty.

Argentine Thumbprint Cookie

Is anyone else, out there, a Mate drinker?

Friday 14 October 2011

The Last of Spain

Cactus decoration on the tables of Cafe Flamingo in Barcelona

Eeek! Yet another month has slipped by without my posting here. I can only apologise once again. Readers, I am so sorry! I have now returned to Leeds for my final year of university and time is flying.

The infamous Sagrada Familia

After four weeks of Spanish school in Barcelona, I left the city for a nearby town, Granollers, to visit my other Spanish friend whom I met in California. I then went back to Barcelona for a final few days of summer sunshine before returning to England.

Coconut and pistachio ice cream

As I promised (although a little late), I have some photos of edible treats that I sampled outside of the host family home during my time in Barcelona.

One of my favourite foodie places in Barcelona is La Boqueria, the famous food market just off of Las Ramblas. Not only is it a total indulgence for the eyes, but the market sells meat sticks for only 1 euro each! My friends were a little worried about my over-excitement with the 1 euro meat sticks, but I honestly think that they are one of the greatest finds in Barcelona. Bite-sized portions of 6 different types of meat. Perfect for a decision-struggler, such as myself. I think my excitement for these lasted for hours, they truly made my day!

The incredible 1 Euro meat sticks from La Boqueria

Marzipan friends at La Boqueria

Hanging display of chillis at La Boqueria

One bar called Cafe Flamingo's, near Las Ramblas, was discovered by one of my 'roomies' which we visited on several occasions. They served a beautiful range of free tapas with cocktails from 7-10pm. The tapas included a variety of bruschetta, sandwiches, olives, nuts and pretzel snacks. Everything was so simple yet so delicious! I found their impressive selection of bruschetta toppings to be a great inspiration for any dinner party that I may host in the future.

Caprioska cocktail at Cafe Flamingo's

Delicious free tapas with cocktails at Cafe Flamingo's

A couple next to La Fuente Mágica [The Magic Fountains]

Despite the hot and humid weather, my taste buds were crying out for a sample of chocolate caliente con churros [hot chocolate with churros], as I had walked past so many places that advertised this irresistible treat. It was a hot September afternoon when I finally got around to sampling it and, as much as I enjoyed it, I was perspiring during the entirety of it. Nonetheless, the rich, almost-custard-like hot chocolate was really something to experience. The churros were not soft or sweet, contrary to what I had anticipated. I was expecting a doughnut-like texture but they were quite hard and crunchy. I did enjoy these, but next time I would definitely eat them in winter rather than summer!

Chocolate caliente con churros

I have been experimenting in the kitchen over the past few days and hope to post about it soon. Sorry, again, for my lack of commitment to this blog. I really hope to get back into the habit of frequent posting! Thank you, again, for your kind patience.

A palm tree between the side streets of Barcelona

Flaming shots from the bar El Gato Negro

Montserrat mountain top monastery

Sunday 28 August 2011

Hola from Spain and a taste of Argentine Cuisine

Beautiful Almunñécar at sunset

Granada from San Nicolas view point

Dear readers...

I am afraid that this post contains yet another apology. After spending three weeks at home, I am now in Spain for the rest of the summer. I stayed with a friend in the south for a few days and I am now in Barcelona attending Spanish school. The month seems to have flown by without my posting anything here, and for that I am deeply sorry! Please bear with me and my large "appetite" for life!

As I am currently living, and eating my meals with a host family, I haven't sampled much of the local Spanish cuisine in restaurants. However, my very thoughtful Argentine boyfriend surprised me by paying for a meal for myself and two friends to visit an Argentine restaurant close to where I am staying here in Barcelona. It was delicioso! I had never experienced Argentine cuisine before and I was very impressed. So, of course, here are some photos of the delicious Argentine cuisine that my friends and I enjoyed the other night...

Beef empanadas

The inside of the beef empanadas

Grilled vegetables

The empanadas were completely packed with flavour. The filling had a hint of spice, the meat was so soft and succulent and the pastry was moist but not too heavy. One of my friends decided not to eat all of the pastry as she didn't want to fill up so... I ate it, of course! The grilled vegetables were surprisingly delicious after appearing to be quite a plain dish. The fine slices had a slightly crisp texture and charred flavour.

A few glasses of Argentine red wine to accompany our meal

Entraña: Grilled Argentine Skirt Steak

Asado: Grilled Argentine Rib Steak

My boyfriend recommended that we ordered the Asado and Entraña for mains. We thought that the Asado would have had more flavour because the meat was still on the bone, however, we found the Entraña to be the more flavoursome. It was all that one could have asked for in a steak: juicy, salty, flavoursome, succulent and ever-so-slightly chewy. I felt overwhelmed with every bite. The outside of the Asado meat was oily and crispy. I enjoyed just listening to one crunch into it!

We shared the three desserts on the menu. These were chocolate cake filled with dulce de leche, Argentine alfajor and pancake with dulce de leche. I found all of these desserts to be too sweet for me. It is a fact that Argentines love sabores intensos [intense flavours] so these are very typical Argentine desserts. Also, I believe that dulce de leche was invented in Argentina, that's probably why they love to eat it with most desserts!

Chocolate cake filled with dulce de leche

I have also taken many photos which I wish to share. I hope you enjoy them. During the next few weeks, I hope to experience some Spanish cuisine outside of the house. If and when I do, I promise to share with you all!

La Fuente Mágica [The Magic Fountains]

The street in Barceloneta

Curved chimney at Gaudí's Casa Mila

The church at the top of Mount Tibidabo

Fiesta de la luna llena (full moon party) on El Prat beach

"W Cosmopolitan" at The W Hotel

Inside Freixenet Bodega

Another curved chimney at Gaudí's Casa Mila

Park Güell at night

Thank you again for your patience. I send all of my love from Barcelona and hope that everyone is enjoying their summer. Besos!