On 23rd April, 2014, a photograph I took of a roadside market outside Gabala in Azerbaijan was highly commended and came in the top 7 of the Food for Sale category in the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2014 Awards.
I was very pleased to see my photograph sit alongside those with much more photographic experience than I boast. It was a real honour to see it hanging on the wall in the Mall Galleries on Pall Mall in London from 24th to 27th April, 2014.
I have to thank Caroline Kenyon who inspired me to enter the awards and Jess Markwood, editorial director at Glam Media, who accompanied me to the awards.
From 7th to 17th March, Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, will celebrate its annual Restaurant Week festival. The event enables visitors to the city and locals alike to dine at some of the finest restaurants in the capital for a fraction of the usual cost (100 Kuna for a three-course lunch or dinner), as well as providing special brunch and cocktail offers. The festival was founded by photographer Ozren Drobnjak.
Moscow 57, a New York City-based hospitality and entertainment company, founded by Ellen Kaye and her partner, Seth Goldman, are opening a Russian Central Asian restaurant on the Lower East Side of NYC on February 5th.
The entertainment will feature guitarist Tony Romano and jazz vocalist Cleve Douglass, two regular performers at the company’s M57 Pop Up Urban Salons, as they prepare to tour Russia in support of the new album, Desert Flower. Ellen Kaye will host and perform with Ethan Fein and the Moscow 57 Band.
Kaye’s family owned The Russian Tea Room from 1947 to 1996 and this restaurant will draw on influences from Russia, Georgia, Belorussia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The opening night’s event will be a tribute to guest chef, Don Boyd, New Orleans’ restaurateur and slow food activist. Proceeds will go to the New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation. Boyd can be credited with spearheading the brand’s decision to launch a permanent venue for Moscow 57. For the last two years the company has hosted M57 Urban Salons, evenings of music, food and art, in New York and across the East Coast.
After some delays, Turkish all-day restaurant cafe chain, Kitchenette, will open its first outpost in the UK on 18th November, 2013 (it was originally slated to open in September).
It’s no secret that I completely fell in love with Istanbul when I visited in 2009 and I have fond memories of spending some time in a couple of the Kitchenette outposts in the city, drinking coffee and eating cake, so its arrival in London has got me rather excited.
Kitchenette first launched in Turkey in 2005. The chain has expanded to boast 24 branches, not just in Turkey but also Baku (to read more of my tips on visiting, eating and drinking in Azerbaijan go here), Moscow and St Petersburg.
The London restaurant will open at 200-204 Putney Bridge SW15 2NA. Restaurant interiors have been designed by Michaelis Boyd. The 80-cover restaurant will feature lots of warm natural timbers and handmade tiles. In terms of food, you can expect good brasserie dishes, a few daily specials and excellent desserts in a really relaxed environment. It’s thought that the brand plans to expand quickly in London and potentially elsewhere in the UK.
Kitchenette is owned by TAG Restaurant Holdings which invested in Tom Aikens’ dining concept, Tom’s Kitchen. However, Square Meal reports (read more here) that the Michelin-starred chef is likely to only play a very minor, executive chef role.
I recently did a bit of consulting for an UK-based tour operator, Poland Your Way, for the launch of its Polish culinary course. The operator has launched this fabulous package for enthusiastic gourmands interested in learning more about Poland, its cuisine and culture. Travellers have the option of staying for three or four nights, with accommodation and courses provided at a country manor hotel, close to the historic city of Krakow.
The hotel, Sierakow Manor, was once a 19th-century Polish nobleman’s home but it has been lovingly restored, offering a perfect mix of historical elegance and modern comfort. During the day, guests will gain an understanding of Polish culinary traditions, local ingredients and cooking techniques. Classes and demonstrations will be run for English speakers. The groups will be relatively small, with a maximum of 12 people per class.
Some common dishes you’ll get to know include pierogi (dumplings), uszka (a smaller version of pierogi), barszcz (beetroot soup), golabki (stuffed cabbage leaves) and bigos (hunter’s stew). The hotel also produces a range of traditional pickles and jams, as well as stocking a range of local produce such as honey, cheeses and beers. All items are available for sale for guests to take home.
Each evening guests will enjoy a three-course dinner of traditional Polish food, with wine or Polish beers. On one night, there will be a tutored vodka tasting experience, comprising of eight varieties.
If you stay for the fourth night, you also have the option to enjoy an excursion into Krakow, a guided city tour and an optional lunch in the historic Kazimierz district.
3 nights £505 per person (sharing twin or double room). Non-cooking partner, £355, includes all meals and the vodka tasting. £100 single supplement.
4 nights £655 per person (sharing twin or double room). Non-cooking partner £505, includes all maels and the vodka tastking. £130 single supplement.
Poland Your Way can also arrange optional extra excursions for those who want to extend their stay futher.
Zagreb is one of my favourite cities in the world. It’s a gorgeous capital, with delightful architecture and a buzzing nightlife scene, not to mention some excellent restaurants (click here to read more about Purger and Restoran Katedralis). So I was rather excited to find out that this March (2013) the city will host its very own restaurant festival. Participating restaurants (and there’s a lot!) will give visitors the opportunity to enjoy a three course meal and a glass of wine for just 100kn (£12). What a bargain!
Restaurant reservations can be made from 1st March at midday and the festival runs from 8th to 17th March 2013.
Konoba Batelina in Pula, Croatia, has been named one of the best places to eat in the world. Newsweek Magazine asked 53 of the world’s leading chefs to share their knowledge of the best restaurants in the world and Konoba Batelina made the cut. Out of 101 restaurants named, Konoba Batelina came in at number 53. I suggest you take a trip before it gets ridiculously busy, increasingly difficult to get a table, and no doubt more expensive!
Elsewhere in Central & Eastern Europe, Hot Spot and Weinbar Rutz in Berlin, and Cafe By Windmill and Chaika in Russia, were also noted as being places worth visiting while on your travels.
There’s a great new bar/restaurant called Babushka that has opened up in Hawthorn in Melbourne. This casual watering hole Babushka was created by David Christianson (Upfront Concepts), Grant Smilie (Ponyfish Island, 360 Agency) and Mark Douglass (Mark Douglass Design).
The venue has a main room with a rich assortment of chairs, pews, stools and tables of all sizes. There are decorative birch tree branches and forest-inspired wallpaper to give that Russian element. There are three additional private rooms and a picnic outdoor area complete with traditional stripy deck chairs. Kitsch but fun! Personally I love the dark red walls and communal table of the pictured room above – there’s something very Soviet about it and is bringing back those memories of studying at SSEES.
As the rich wealth of Russian food appears to have escaped the Aussies for the time being, the menu revolves around the humble potato for which East European cuisine is somewhat unfairly renowned. However, I am assured that dishes such as the potato pizza are delicious. Naturally there is also From Russia with Love vodka on hand. Unfortunately for the Aussies this place is a pop-up so get there while you still can and have a shot for me!
Babushka, on the corner of Power Street and Burwood Road, Hawthorn, Melbourne
I’ve got to say, Las Vegas is not really my kind of place. However, I was interested to recently read about the KGB gourmet burger and vodka bar at Harrah’s that opened last summer.
Vision 360, a Dallas-based architecture and interior design firm, were the guys behind making celebrity chef, Kerry Simon’s vision a reality. Simon wanted a sexy, hip, fun and energetic vibe and I think Vision 360 did a good job achieving that.
The 156-seat restaurant served lunch and dinner, seven days a week. Design highlights include a 10 ft long vodka bar made of ice, a hammer-and-sickle chandelier and custom artwork.
I can’t lie, ćevapčići is probably one of my favourite finds from Eastern Europe. The ground beef sausage shaped burgers are popular across Yugoslavia and are traditionally served with flat breads, kajmak and ajvar (more of my favourites!). The kind people at Cox & Kings recently sent me a jar of ajvar (an aubergine and red pepper condiment) they picked up while in the region, so I thought it was the perfect excuse to whip up my own ćevapi. I like to add a bit of an Ottoman twist with some cumin and coriander. Find out how to recreate memories from your time in the Balkans below…
Ingredients (serves 6 as a starter, 4 as a main)
500g mince beef
250g mince pork or veal
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp vegeta (optional)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
25g plain flour
10 tbsp rapeseed oil
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
Mix the mince, spices, garlic and onion together in a bowl
Form into sausage shapes
Roll each sausage in plain flour
Put in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes
Heat the oil in a griddle pan and gently fry each ćevap
Place the ćevapi in an ovenproof dish and heat in the oven for 20 minutes
Serve with flatbreads, sour cream, ajvar, and salad
Of course if you don’t live in a studio flat and have the luxury of outside space (and the sun should appear) you can always barbecue the ćevapi instead!
The ajvar was courtesy of our friends at Cox & Kings who provide fabulous tailor-made holidays all over the world including Serbia and other East European destinations.