Having a ‘staycation’ in antwerp and looking for things to do?  The next two sundays mark the last occasion to taste the Otark pop up breakfast at Atelier Solarshop.  Hadas and Charlotte from Otark Productions cook up all kinds of deliciousness.  Last sunday we had the rubarb lemonade and shrimp on toast with fresh jalapeno and ginger sauce, as well as the chakchouka eggs fried in rosemary and cinnamon butter.  They also do a delicious yoghurt and muesli bowl with fresh fruit.  Can’t get there? Keep an eye on their website for other food related events such as the Otarkino cinema nights.

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This condiment should come with a warning as it is seriously addictive.  Don’t believe me? I made a whole bowl of it on friday and two days later this little smear was all there was left.  I barely managed to take a picture of it!  It is definitely full of flavour (consisting mainly of roasted tomatoes and paprika with a kick of chili and coriander), but what I really like about it is its versatility.  We’ve been eating it slathered on steamed veggies, spread over pan fried fish and it even brought to life a mediocre bowl of celeriac soup. I’m guessing it would also make a great dip.

RECIPE

1 red pepper, stem and pits removed, roughly chopped

6 tomatoes, rougly chopped (remove the pips and watery centre)

a small onion, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons of unflavoured coconut oil or olive oil

a small bunch of coriander

harissa (start with a pea sized amount as this is hot!)

lime juice to taste (about 3 tablespoons)

salt

 

Preheat the grill.  Combine the red pepper, tomatoes and onion on a foil lined baking sheet and toss with the oil.  After about 10 minutes, check:  the vegetables should be slightly collapsed with charred edges.

Peel the pepper and place with the tomatoes, onion and the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and puree. Add salt and more lime juice to taste if necessary.

Note: you can use flavoured salt,  for an extra kick I used this paprika salt by Anxoves L’escala we bought at the food market in Barcelona

 

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Living in rented accomodation and moving across continents (twice!) meant we never had a lot of plates or other breakables as it was just easier to buy everything new locally.   I’m now slowly building our crockery collection having chosen the beautifully pure and simple Pieter Stockmans plates from Serax.  The plates are glazed on the top but onglazed on the back which makes for a beautiful contrast.  Now available in the Joy of Little Things shop here.

PS I also have my eye on their beautiful marble presentation platters I saw during their recent open days but being the new collection, they won’t be available until later this year though… just in time for my birthday…

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I don’t think that anyone who knows me is going to be terribly surprised that the list below of my favourite places from our recent trip to Barcelona seems to consist mainly of restaurants…  We love this city for many reasons: its position right next to the sea, warm climate, beautiful wide avenues, nice shops and green parks, but the food is definitely one the main reasons we appreciated our three days here.  Having visited all the major attractions on our previous visit, we were free to just stroll, drink coffee and go from one meal to the next.

Hotel Praktik Bakery

We loved this hotel for its fairly central but quiet location (off the Ramblas, from our balcony we could just see the Sagrada Familia) combined with modern design.  In the reception area there is an outpost of the famous Barceloneta based Baluard bakery so you wake up with the smell of freshly baked bread.  What’s not to like?

Pakta

The meal at this restaurant alone would have been worth the trip.  Chef Albert Adria (brother to the famous Adrian) serves an amazing tasting menu based around peruvian japanese fusion kitchen.   The many little dishes were incredibly flavourful and beautifully presented, from the herbal cocktail to the corn tuile, the razor clam with tamarind and nori, the ceviche of guanabana fruit, the squid maki… everything was just perfect.  We’re already planning another trip to Barcelona just so we can have another meal at Pakta.

Incidentally, I only realised I had been clipping images from this restaurant for its amazing design of coloured cords once we got there, check out the review on Dezeen here.

Bacoa

Many restaurants claim to serve the best burgers in Barcelona, I didnt try them all but definitely loved Bacoa.  The burgers are superfresh, the buns and ketchup home made.  The Japanese burger with terriyaki sauce was fingerlicking good!

Saboc

The menu at Saboc is divided according to cooking temperature 20C, 80C, 100C and 200C.  We loved it for its simple use of good ingredients (and the lovely design!).

Bar Jai-ca

Though we were very tempted by the beach bars in Barceloneta (unfortunately we didnt get to eat at the much recommended Pez Vela), we ended up eating traditional tapas at Bar Jai-ca.  This part of Barceloneta is fairly quiet with people sitting around squares and beautiful houses.

Other places we liked were Teresa Carles, a vegetarian cafe, for fresh juices and the best pear chocolate muffin I have ever eaten, Oval burgers ( a close second to Bacoa) and snömelk artisanal icecream.  You can check out the full album here.

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I just love the clean lemony taste of lemon balm but find it hard to get hold of.  Since we’ve planted some in our herb garden, I have been using it a lot to make this refreshing lemon balm mint drink.

Ingredients

a handful of mint sprigs

a handful of lemon balm sprigs

3 tablespoons of rice syrup

juice of 1 lemon

 

Bring 250 ml of water to the boil and remove from the heat.  Add the rice syrup, the mint and lemon balm (no need to take off the leaves) and let it sit for about 15 minutes.  Remove the leaves and add the lemon juice.  Pour into a clean glass jar and let it cool in the fridge.

When you’re ready to make up your drink, pour some in a glass and dilute with water.  I like a 1:3 syrup to water ratio so the taste isn’t too strong .  Add crushed ice, lie back on the balcony and pretend you’re on holiday.

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Once in a while you come across objects that are both incredibly beautiful and useful at the same time.  I love the ceramics created by Clair Catillaz in her Brooklyn based studio, Clam Lab.  Her objects make me think of Morandi still lifes.  In the shop you can now find her tea bowl, pour bowl medium and small and burnished carafe. I had a chat with Clair about shapes, clay and inspiration.

1) What attracts you to making ceramics?

I’m interested in tactile utilitarian objects of all kinds, so the medium lends itself well. I also love how directly the materials are connected to the earth. And clay feels so good.

2) Can you tell us more about the materials you use, the types of clay and glazes?

Most of my materials are commercially mined and prepared, but I really love to collect clay from places I visit and incorporate it into my glazes. I’m still learning about making things from scratch, but it’s incredibly entertaining and very educational. I like to make limited runs of things based on the materials that are available.

3) The shapes of many of your objects like the carafe and the bowls is quite primitive and sculptural. What inspires you right now?

I’m interested in how forms resonate with human hands, and vice versa. Trends come and go, but the objects that have staying power always feel good to hold. How cool is it that a vase made tens of thousands of years ago is still “good”? I hope to make objects in this spirit.

4) If you weren’t living in NY creating ceramics what else would you be doing?

Maybe living a more nomadic lifestyle? I love to to travel. But I need to have busy hands wherever I am.

 

photos copyright Dorotee Dubois

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Selfishly, I feel reluctant to write about our holiday in Menorca. This small island feels so unspoilt I almost want to keep it a secret! Like Ibiza, together with Mallorca its closest neighbour, it has beautiful beaches but Menorca is just a tad less concerned with the coolness factor of things. Instead we found genuinely warm people, always ready with a smile, an abundance of locally produced delicacies (honey, cheese, wine, porc…) and wild landscapes.  The highlights…

Es Cranc, Es Fornells
Rumoured to be one of the best places for seafood on the island, we drove here straight from the airport (yes we have our priorities straight when we are on holiday…). The fish soup we had as a starter turned out to be an enormous turreen of incredibly flavoursome broth with seafood. The waiters kept on convincing us to let them pour ‘just un poco more’ in our bowls… The grilled squid that followed was delicious too but after all that we were too full for dessert so had to ask for their famous cheesecake to go… It was by far the best cheesecake I have ever eaten with a tangy cheese filling on the perfect crumbed crust and a light strawberry coulis and took us two days to finish between the both of us.

Tres Sants, La Ciutadella
Our hotel in La Ciutadella was located in an ancient palazzo. The room in the tower had small windows on floor level from which to look out over the terracotta roofs. We loved it for its simple luxury like the recessed bath. It rained the day we arrived so we really appreciated the long lappool and hammam in the arched basement.

El Hogar del pollo, La Ciutadella
A five minute walk from Tres Sants brought us to this unassuming little restaurant. If it hadnt been recommended we’d definitely have walked past its interior with green plastic chairs.  I’m glad we didn’t though as the food was so good there we went back twice. Our favourites were the pork shoulder (meltingly tender), peppers el padron blistered and dusted with seasalt, meatballs in a sweet tomato sauce and juicy clams in lemon juice.

Cala en Turqueta
There are so many beautiful bays on the island, this is only one of many. You can drive to some though most require a 15 to 30 min walk of varying difficulty to get to.

La cuina dels angels, Mahon
In the open kitchen, the owner cooks, bakes and makes appear all kinds of delicious dishes. Their 17.50 euro lunch menu was a real delight: local clams with green beans in a white wine broth were followed by chicken in a light pastry and a chocolate coulant. Included in the price was a glass of wine, water and homebaked bread. They also have a second location at the fish market.

Binifadet, St Lluis
This winery has only been going for a couple of years but its wines definitely merit a stop here. As it’s very small many of the processes that are automated elsewhere are still done manually here which makes for an interesting tour (like the removal of sediment from sparkling wine, impressive!). It also has a nice terrace with view over the vineyards where they serve a lovely burger and chocolate coulant (yes, for the sake of research, I tried both).

Pan y vino, St Lluis
The cook here is French and so is the food though some local ingredients are used. We had the 10 course tasting menu here for Philippe’s birthday. Definitely worth it!

 

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