I plant my flag. I sit by the warm fire. I see the road traveled so far,fruitful, full of joy and with lovely characters along the way.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Potatoes with fresh herbs - Two Fat Ladies

I would be surprised if the name Two Fat Ladies do not bring back memories. I used to watch their television show when I was younger (1996 - 1999). For those who are not familiar with them: Two Fat Ladies was a British television cooking programme starring Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson. These ladies traveled around the UK with a motorbike and a sidecar. Both not the thinnest among us, it was a wonderful sight. They did not care about fat and calories. They smoked heavily at the time and drank alcohol at the end of each episode. Some of their recipes were criticized by British journalists who considered them a bad influence on the diet because of their use of butter and fat in their recipes. I loved watching their show because of that!

Unfortunately Jennifer Paterson died shortly after she was diagnosed with lung cancer. On Wikipedia I found this fact: "The day before she died, she asked Clarissa to take her a tin of caviar but when Dickson Wright arrived at the hospital, Paterson had died. Clarissa said that after Jennifer's funeral, she ate the caviar as a tribute."

I tried their Potatoes with fresh herbs recipe which I found on the internet last week. You would need 4-6 potatoes for 4 people. Also 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (my favorite), 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or rosemary, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, 4 cloves garlic, 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (the good stuff) and 1/3 cup chicken stock. No butter, fat, salt added, well done Ladies!

Thinly slice the potatoes and put slices in a large bowl of cool water. Set aside. Mix the chopped garlic and chopped herbs. Pat dry potatoes and drizzle a bit of the olive oil in a baking dish, just large enough to hold ingredients. Make a layer of potatoes, sprinkle with a bit of the herb/garlic mixture and drizzle with a little oil. Repeat 4 more times before you pour the stock all over it. In total 60 minutes in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius until the top potatoes start to brown and get crisp.

I loved the taste! We ate the potatoes with beetroot salad and chicken cordon bleu (chicken breast filled with smoked chicken and cheese, coated in a crispy ciabatta crumb). So nice!! Recommended!

Warm Regards,

Abigail Summer

Ps. Thanks Alan for your comment, keeps me going :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Review Giovanni Pasta Fagioli - Woodmead - Johannesburg

In Dunwoody Shopping Center at Western Service Road in Woodmead you'll find Giovanni Pasta Fagioli.
We decided to have diner there on Friday the 19th of March together with some friends.

First impression at the entrance:
  • Unwelcoming security fence front door
  • Friendly waiters
  • Nice bar area
  • Visible pizza oven area
  • Too dark inside
  • Ugly ceiling with wooden frames and blue lights
They had tongue on the menu, ox tongue which could be ordered as a starter. We did! I never had tasted it before and I was scared. I have always hesitated to order it because if you see it lying in the freezer at a butcher's shop, it looks weird and somewhat disgusting I think. I figured that only seeing the 'end-product' it might be good for me to cross the border. The-not-eating-ox-tongue-border. And I did.. It was very good according to my table partners who could compare it with tongue they had earlier in their life. I was surprised that it was so juicy and tender. I took a few bites that I really enjoyed. Then I pushed the plate to my neighboring table partners that finished it. Hm, made me think if I could eat everything from now on, as I just touched a juicy and tender tongue?

During the evening the lady (did not catch her name) was helpful and friendly. A loss for the restaurant if she would decide to leave. The waiters we had at our table (three in total) were constantly smiling, which I loved, but were interrupting irritably. In the middle of a conversation they would ask us if we knew what we would want to order (menu's still open on the table), our choice for desserts, and if we were interested in another round of drinks. They even offered me the dessert menu twice! I already had coffee in front of me, really guys work together!

If your tables are divided in certain groups with one responsible waiter and it is not busy at one group, don't let the waiter with no customers come to the other groups to help out (only if it is well communicated). It does not work out for your guests. Especially when they do not communicate towards each other about the guests' order or needs. If your staff can manage it, do it. Otherwise tell them to go and help in the kitchen or whatever work is required at the time. Enough recommendations for service. That's not my fucking job but the managers'.

The food we ordered for main course was served in big frying pans. Lovely idea! I had ordered the Chef's Special. A simple pasta with fresh ingredients, exactly how Italians serve their guests in Italy: home made pasta with seafood, olive oil and Parmesan cheese made the dish indeed very special. With an Italian wink, as good as a nod.

The dessert menu offered frozen desserts, and home made Tiramisù, which Peter ordered. Good taste, but way too much liquid in the crust. The liqueur overwhelmed the other ingredients as well and made the crust too soft. I ordered cappuccino (and 'stole' some Tiramisù from Peter's plate). The cappuccino would taste better if it was served with less water and more coffee! The frothing of the milk was done properly.

Overall experience?

Value for money?
No, it was too expensive for the total package, looking at the ambiance of the restaurant, the service and the quality of the food. Most of the dishes were between R 100,- and R 150,-. That's on average R 20,- to R 50,- more than what we paid at Tortellino D'oro in Glenhove (see earlier review).

Food            3/5
Service        2/5
Ambiance    2/5

Overall review

Warm Regards,

Abigail Summer

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Dirty Hotels in Europe, United States and Asia - Trip Advisor

    Last weekend Peter and I went away for a relaxing weekend, near Pretoria. It had not rained at the place for five weeks, which is why the lodge suffered from ants (we were told). Besides the fact that there were lots of flies and mosquitoes. However, this is common in the bush and I tried to ignore these little insects for the first day.

    Until I woke up on Saturday morning. I found ants walking on our bed and even, (so horrible) over my face! I freaked out, jumped out of bed and was not pleased at all. I complained and of course, the owners were so sorry and again explained what they had tried so far to get rid of the ants. Well, we decided to stay. The food was very good, and I forgot the incident during the day. However, I remembered the next morning! I am home safe now, without ants or other insects. I am enjoying city life in Johannesburg and by the way, with itching mosquito bites all over my legs and arms.

    The mosquito bites made me curious. I googled bad hotel reviews on Trip Advisor to find worse places than this one. Reviews as 'disgusting', 'worst place ever', 'really really bad', 'awful', 'stay away', 'toxic', 'horrible', 'you will regret it', 'would be safer and cleaner on the streets', 'never again', 'chukit it in the bin! This place should be closed down!' are listed on the website. One story is more horrible than the next. I love lists like these, helpful but so disgusting!

    Below you will find top ten dirty hotels in Europe, United States and Asia. The ones you, for many different reasons, should stay away from:

    Dirtiest Hotels – Europe
    1. Grosvenor Hotel, Blackpool, United Kingdom
    2. Villaggio Club Porto Ainu, Budoni, Italy
    3. Park Hotel, London, United Kingdom
    4. Boston Court Hotel, London, United Kingdom
    5. Cromwell Crown, London, United Kingdom
    6. Dam Hotel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    7. Corbigoe Hotel, London, United Kingdom
    8. Earls Court Gardens Hotel, London, United Kingdom
    9. Blair Victoria & Tudor Inn Hotel, London, United Kingdom
    10. Minster Hotel, York, United Kingdom

    Dirtiest Hotels - United States

    1. Heritage Marina Hotel, San Francisco, California
    2. Days Inn Eureka, Eureka, Missouri
    3. Tropicana Resort Hotel, Virginia Beach, Virginia
    4. Super 8 Virginia Beach/At the Ocean, Virginia Beach, Virginia
    5. Quality Inn, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
    6. New York Inn, New York City, New York
    7. Parisian Hotel & Suites, Miami Beach, Florida
    8. Capistrano Seaside Inn, Capistrano Beach, California
    9. Desert Lodge, Palm Springs, California
    10. Continental Oceanfront Hotel South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida

    Dirtiest Hotels - Asia
    1. Phi Phi Don Chukit Resort, Ko Phi Phi Don, Thailand
    2. Raj Residency, Chennai (Madras), India
    3. Goldkist Beach Resort, Singapore, Singapore
    4. Mahkota Hotel Melaka, Melaka, Malaysia
    5. Centaur Hotel, IGI Airport, New Delhi, India
    6. Tatami Hampton Hotel, Hong Kong, China
    7. Pearl of the Pacific Boracay Resort & Spa, Boracay, Philippines
    8. First Hotel Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand
    9. Seri Costa Hotel-Resort, Melaka, Malaysia
    10. Royal Peacock Hotel, Singapore, Singapore

    Above hotels are reviewed and listed on http://www.tripadvisor.com/DirtyHotels

    Sleep well tonight, without bugs or ants I hope.

    Warm regards,

    Abigail Summer

    PS Something else but nevertheless very important.. I received my first comment last week, hooray! Barak Hirschowitz made the effort to let me know he was glad to hear that someone (me) still enjoyed that recipe after several years and he wished me all the best. Thanks Barak, I really appreciate it.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Normandy Apple Cake - Jane Webster

    I did it! It is in my oven and I am proud. I screw up cakes all the time, but this time I think I have it right. The European or American recipes I tried so far are fantastic in European and American ovens but in South African ovens, it is something else. The self-raising flour you buy in South Africa is different from others. Bullshit, I hear you think, but I am right. Does your cake nearly come out of her comfortable tray? Yes, listen. I am giving away the trick. Add more flour than stated in the recipe. Also, add a teaspoon of baking powder, even though it is not in the recipe. Trust me. Your cakes from now on will be stunning and delicious. You will impress relatives, friends and colleagues more than you can imagine. And if you do, let me know.

    I used Jane Webster’s Normandy Apple Cake recipe today. Jane and her husband Pete put their business in Melbourne on hold. They pull their children out of school to live the life they always dreamed of, in Normandy France. The Château is in reasonable shape, crying for restoration work though and waiting for life between its high classic walls and oak parquetry floors. In her cookbook At my French Table, Jane describes getting used to Château life. She shows to keep a house that size clean (for the ladies, this is without a maid!) and shows her cooking class ideas. She takes you out for Sunday lunches, to buy fresh ingredients from the local shops and shares her favorite recipes from spring to winter. The gorgeous pictures in the book in combination with Jane’s story lets us peak into ‘la vie française.’ Formidable! I love it.

    You need granny smith apples, brown sugar, 250 gram (oops!) unsalted butter, caster sugar, eggs, 2 cups flour (use 100 gram more), milk, nutmeg and pouring cream to serve. I hope Jane forgives me for not buying the pouring cream. 250-gram butter, not diet proof and that is an understatement. I peeled and chopped the apples. Together with the brown sugar and water, I cooked them over medium heat. After that, I beat sugar, butter, eggs, flour (and baking powder) and milk and I poured the lovely batter into a 28 cm cake pan. Topped it with the cooled apples and sprinkled it with nutmeg. I baked the cake in the oven for 50 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.

    In her recipe, Jane says: ‘A slice of this teacake is a perfect mid-afternoon treat.’What a brilliant woman she is. I had the same idea. Ha. Enjoy your weekend guys, stay in for a change, and bake cakes!

    At my French Table by Jane Webster, Normandy Apple Cake, page 238 La vie française
    ISBN: 978-0670070329

    Warm regards,

    Abigail Summer

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    Roasted Halibut with Green Olive Sauce - Barak Hirschowitz

    Last Saturday I made Roasted Halibut with Green Olive Sauce from Barak Hirschowitz. I came across his recipe on http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/roasted-halibut-with-green-olive-sauce. What a lovely combination I thought and doable for me as an inexperienced but (I certainly am) an enthusiastic home-cook.

    Barak started to work in a restaurant kitchen in New York when he was sixteen. Originally his parents were from South Africa and in 1993 he decided that this would be an exciting time to take a working vacation in South Africa. Since then he had a fast moving career, working as Executive Chef at The Bay Hotel and working as Executive Chef at Bushman's Kloof. Currently living in Cape Town, Barak is the Director at Hospitalio Recruitment, specializing in hospitality recruitment, hotel recruitment, hotel jobs, cruise line jobs, food and beverage jobs, chef jobs, chef recruitment, and hospitality human resources.

    Earlier in my 'career' I learned what a cup stands for, or 1/2 cup or 1/4 cup. Now I had to look on the internet to find out what 'six 7-ounce skinless halibut fillets' meant. 1 ounce = 28.3495231 grams it said on the web. How was I supposed to know this complicated United States customary system? I am European! Anyway, I struggled through the recipe converting the ingredients with Google's built-in calculator function. I managed to preheat the oven to 450 (first I thought this was a huge mistake until I realized it meant Fahrenheit, not Celsius) or what I understand and know now: 230 degrees Celsius (so complicated!).

    I mixed the olive oil with the lime juice and refrigerated the Halibut in the mixture for 15 minutes. Then I combined the fish stock, wine, shallot, white peppercorns (searched the whole of Johannesburg to finally find them in stock), bay leaf and lime juice. Boiling these ingredients for 6 minutes over high heat, spread delicious but also fishy flavors in my little kitchen. I added the heavy cream and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. It's a piece of cake so far.
    For 10 minutes I cooked the Halibut fillets in the oven, on a baking sheet. I added chopped green olives to the sauce and whisked in butter and parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Creative as I am as a chef (not), I copied the layout of the dish as posted on the internet page: white rice with Halibut on top, rocket and half a lemon on the side. I topped the Halibut with the Green Olive sauce. As Julia Child would say: 'bon appétit'. Peter loved the combination of the rice, olive sauce and roasted Halibut. And so did I! Guys, I had a lovely Saturday night after that..
    A big thanks to Barak for learning me to cook Halibut with Green Olive Sauce and for Peter who so far eats everything I cook.

    Warm regards,

    Abigail Summer

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    31 places to go in 2010

    Hi guys,

    First I want to thank Chet from Le Canard for taking the opportunity to write me an email according to the review I posted of my experience in their lovely restaurant. He said that my enjoyment is their inspiration. Great! Thank you so much.

    As well I would like to thank Karen Dickinson. She send me an email about Prue Leith's Spicy Fish Curry. She checked in the book "Leith's Cookery Bible" and told me that in the book the recipe is complete. There was a mistake on the website, so I would like to rectify that here. Thanks Karen!

    I read the list below on the website of the New York Times and because I love lists like these, I couldn't help myself but post this list on my blog. According to the New York Times (January 10, 2010) these are the places to visit in 2010. South Africa is listed on place 22, what do you think guys? I feel that South Africa is more booming and interesting for travelers than ever before! I would love to visit Shenzhen, China. That is my travel goal in 2010. But what do you think? And where have you been? What is your holiday planning for 2010? Something from the list??

    The 31 Places to Go in 2010
    1. Sri Lanka
    The civil war between the Sinhalese-dominated government and a separatist Tamil group ended last May, ushering in a more peaceful era for this teardrop-shaped island off India’s coast, rich in natural beauty and cultural splendors.
    2. Patagonia Wine Country
    Ten years ago, a group of adventurous winemakers set their sights on an Argentine valley called San Patricio del Chañar, an unusually fertile and eerily beautiful corner of Patagonia.
    3. Seoul
    They have been drawn by the Korean capital’s glammed-up cafes and restaurants, immaculate art galleries and monumental fashion palaces
    4. Mysore
    Yogis seeking transcontinental bliss head these days to Mysore, the City of Palaces, in southern India.
    5. Copenhagen
    The Danish capital has already emerged as one of the world’s greenest — and maybe coolest — cities.
    6. Koh Kood
    Is this the next Koh Samui? The Trat islands are emerging as Thailand’s new luxury outpost.
    7. Damascus
    Damascus hoteliers are trying to mine tourism gold in the rundown buildings of the Syrian capital’s Old City.
    8. Cesme
    Another corner of Turkey’s Aegean coastline has begun to emerge as a stylish alternative: the once-sleepy villages of the Cesme Peninsula.
    9. Antarctica
    This may be the last year that Antarctica is open to mass tourism — not because the ice is melting too fast (though it is), but because of restrictions that would severely curtail travel around the fragile continent.
    10. Leipzig
    In 2010, Leipzig, a small industrial city in the former East Germany with an illustrious past, will be marking the 325th anniversary of the birth of its former resident Johann Sebastian Bach.
    11. Los Angeles
    Visitors love to bemoan the lack of an old-fashioned cultural neighborhood in Los Angeles. Local museums, many of which struggled financially in recent years, are back afloat.
    12. Shanghai
    To many, the idea of a World Expo might seem like a dated, superfluous throwback from some preglobalized age.
    13. Mumbai
    On the one-year anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, citizens painted a one-kilometer stretch of wall in South Mumbai with murals to show their love and hope for the city.
    14. Minorca
    While the beat of disco pounds in Ibiza and Majorca, their quiet sister Minorca offers a tranquil contrast to the glitz next door.
    15. Costa Rica
    Costa Rica has been on any eco-minded traveler’s radar for years, but with a new birding route in the northeast region of the country, there’s a new reason to pay the country a visit.
    16. Marrakesh
    Ancient walls of Marrakesh must have protected the city from the global recession. Luxury boutique hotels, which began opening a few years ago, are now popping like Champagne corks over this North African city.
    17. Las Vegas
    Despite a 4 percent drop in visitors in 2009, and the fact that several Las Vegas hotels have drastically slashed their rates to attract bargain-seeking travelers, a number of ambitious developers seem to think there is still money to be made in Sin City.
    18. Bahia
    All eyes will turn to sultry Rio de Janeiro when it hosts the 2016 Olympic Games, but right now Brazil’s white-hot destination may be the northeastern state of Bahia.
    19. Istanbul
    The reputation of Istanbul’s contemporary art scene has been steadily growing in recent years, with the Web site ArtKnowledgeNews.com recently calling it “one of the most innovative in the world.”
    20. Shenzhen
    This industrial powerhouse of a city on the Pearl River Delta in the southern region of China, is more than just a factory town of sweatshops and bad smog — and it has the high-class hotels and high rollers to prove it.
    21. Macedonia
    One of the deepest lakes on the planet, with a dazzling Unesco World Heritage site of ancient dwellings rising high above its shores, Lake Ohrid in Macedonia is a local vacation star poised for greater international acclaim.
    22. South Africa
    As host of the 2010 World Cup this summer, South Africa has gotten its game on with a flurry of new stadiums, new hotels and safari lodges.
    23. Breckenridge
    The ski resort of Breckenridge is not content to be merely the party capital of the Colorado Rockies — now it wants to be the Amsterdam, too.
    24. Montenegro
    On the southern edges of Montenegro, almost at the border of Albania, is an unusual land formation: a powdery, eight-mile-long beach called Velika Plaza (Long Beach) and a triangular island where the Bojana River meets the sea.
    25. Vancouver Island
    The most rewarding outdoor exploration is found outside the city, away from the crowds and off the beaten path.
    26. Colombia
    Unfairly or not, Colombia is still known for its cocaine cartels and street violence, but cool-hunting travelers are calling it Latin America’s next affordable hot spot.
    27. Kitzbühel
    Most Austrians know the Austrian town of Kitzbühel as nothing less than a ski paradise, with 53 lifts and 104 miles of powdery slopes.
    28. Norway
    With an acclaimed new opera house and plenty of high-end dining options, Oslo is already a must-visit urban destination.
    29. Gargano
    Far from the madding crowds of Amalfi and Cinque Terre, the Italian peninsula of Gargano sits on the Adriatic and boasts a checklist of summer-perfect Italian holiday options.
    30. Kuala Lumpur
    While Phuket and Angkor Wat are tourism anchors in Southeast Asia, jetsetters in the region are heading these days to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital that’s quietly evolved into one of the area’s coolest and friendliest cities.
    31. Nepal
    Looking for the next gay destination? How about the Himalayan country of Nepal? Yes, Nepal.

    Warm regards,

    Abigail Summer

    Ps. For more detailed information about these 31 destinations have a look at their website: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/travel/10places.html

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Review The Fat Olive Country Restaurant - Johannesburg

    28th of February
    I was so excited to review The Fat Olive in Muldersdrift. I made a booking a week ago because Sunday lunch is very busy in this lovely Country Restaurant. We drove past it half a year ago and tried to get a table, which was impossible at the time because it was fully booked. I learned from that mistake, and made a booking for the 28th of February. Off we went.

    After a horrible drive home from a party in town on Saturday night, we did not sleep much. Our car broke down at 2.30am, not so great! The fucking car gives us problems for months now; empty battery, replacements of very important things I do not know anything about, and now the fan stopped. The motor was overheating constantly so what we did is, we opened the hood of our car and drove one minute (with an open hood!). Stopped five minutes. Drove one minute. And so on and so on. In the middle of the night you avoid phoning a friend for help (only if you really have to) and a towing company is so fucking expensive. At 4.00am we parked in front of our house (it felt like we had a million stops), relieved and tired. And we woke up early because some idiot rang Peter about business, after three hours of sleep. Sigh.

    First impression at the entrance:
    • Country style
    • Peaceful and quiet area
    • Nicely laid tables
    • Lovely water feature
    • Minimal décor
    • The farmhouse could use maintenance
    We arrived at the restaurant on time and we asked for our table. The waiter pointed us a table which was the worst table I could imagine, right in front of the entrance. Not really romantic if waiters and guests pass by your table every fucking minute. Or half a minute as it was crowded. We asked for another table and we were pointed a table in the corner, looking at 12 feet from our neighbors sitting at a higher level in the garden. They must have asked for a table in the garden, I didn't. So first tip, ask for a table in the garden area!

    Anyway, the feet were somewhat clean and I managed to look at the garden around the feet and enjoyed the people having lunch next to us and at the other tables. Our waitress was really friendly, she explained the specials of the day (four) and brought still water, bread and butter and our porcupine wine. Lovely taste, nicely cooled and clean glasses. Cheers and back where we left it late last night! There was a whole in our tablecloth by the way, that said and done, we had a look at the menu on a blackboard.
    Not really hip or fashionable menu's but I figured maybe that is not what they want to represent. A good variety of the menu but when we drove there we figured this would be a restaurant without boring peri peri chicken livers on the menu, unfortunately it had. Still, the other dishes were promising.

    We ordered Escargots baked in Wine, Garlic and Gorgonzola
    & Aged Brie wrapped in Phillo Pastry, with Strawberry and Hazelnut as starters. 

    The Gorgonzola taste was very strong, you could not taste the fucking escargots anymore. Last week we had canned Escargots from Pick & Pay, cooked in the oven with garlic and butter. To be honest, our own easy Escargots tasted better. Too much Gorgonzola guys!
    The Aged Brie was okay, I missed the strong Brie taste so I wondered how 'Aged' it was. I loved the combination with the sauce though and the fresh salad on the side.

    For main course we picked Pork Fillet Medaillons with a peanut, wasabi and coconut sauce & Beef Fillet Special topped with bacon, pepersauce and brie.

                                                     The Pork Medallions
    were tender and had a lovely taste but full sauce. I could not finish the dish, not even half because of this. We took this dish home as a doggy bag and were surprised how much the bag weighted! That mush have been a real challenge for my stomach!

    The Beef Special with Brie AND Bacon was too filling as well. It is just too much that your resend the taste after a few bites. Even though de Beef is cooked properly, and the fries were crunchy, too rich! Full cream, rich cheeses and bacon in all dishes we had, our stomachs are not up for that amount of fat!

    After main course the waitress forgot us a bit so we enjoyed the rest of the wine, and peeked on the dessert menu. The only thing we could think of ordering was two scoops of vanilla ice cream to share. In my opinion it would have looked better in a bowl but anyway.

    Once home we experience that feeling you could have after Christmas dinner, the rich food makes you sleepy and that's what we did. Not eating anything for the rest of the day, as we still felt overeaten at dinner time.

    Overall experience?

    Value for money?
    It was promising at first but the food did not value the money.

    Food         2/5
    Service     3/5
    Ambiance 2/5

    Overall review

    Warm regards,

    Abigail Summer