Konoba Batelina in Pula, Croatia Named One of World’s Best Places to Eat

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!

Konoba Batelina in Pula, Croatia
Konoba Batelina in Pula, Croatia

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.

Check out the rest of the 101 restaurants on www.thedailybeast.com

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Grand Hotel Europe Launches Vodka Experience

Russians are famed for many things, but arguably none more so than their love of vodka. This tipple is said to have been first created in St Petersburg. To celebrate this long-standing Russian love, The Grand Hotel Europe in St Petersburg has created a vodka experience where guests will learn how to pair the Russian spirit with food, have a cocktail masterclass with the hotel’s head barman, and indulge in specially created vodka spa treatments.

Grand Hotel Europe St Petersburg
Grand Hotel Europe St Petersburg

First up comes the food pairing. The hotel’s executive chef will take vodka enthusiasts through the classic accompaniments of Astrakhan Beluga Caviar, marinated salmon, and strawberries with icing sugar. Once guests have let the knowledge seep in, they’ll then spend an evenign with the sommelier and learn how to create some of the most popular vodka based cocktails  including, a Dirty Martini, Bloody Mary, Moscow Mule and White Russian. To finish, guests will be pampered with one of two vodka-based spa treatments designed to rid the body of unwanted toxins – the welcome to Russia vodka scrub or the vodka massage.

With the hotel’s lobby bar serving no less than 22 types of vodka, the Grand Hotel Europe really is the place to head if you want to indulge in a lengthy Russian session of vodka imbibing and zakuski devouring, or just buff up your knowledge of the traditional tipple.

The vodka experience is priced from £72 per person, and nightly rates start from £272 for a superior king room per night including taxes. Visit www.grandhoteleurope.com for more information.

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Hungarian Pinot Grigio Rose from M&S

Hungarian Pinot Grigio Rose at M&S
Hungarian Pinot Grigio Rose at M&S

Last week I was rather excited to spot a Hungarian Pinto Grigio rose on sale in Marks & Spencer in London. I’m not sure how long the British supermarket has been selling it, but I figured I’d give it a try over the weekend while we had some beautiful summer sunshine – even if it didn’t last for long!

The wine is a very delicate pinkish and has the taste of summer berries. It’s lovely and fresh, a very crisp wine, ideal for just sipping on, or with a light summer salad or seafood. We enjoyed it with a seafood platter.

The rose is from the Neszmely region of Hungary, just south of the Danube river. Vines have been grown in the region for 2000 years.

Winemaker: Akos Kamocsay at Hilltop Neszmely winery

£6.49 per bottle; £38.94 for a case of six

Alcohol by volume: 11.5%

M&S

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Slovenia’s Puklavec Red & White Wines on Offer at Waitrose

This weekend (and I’m not sure how long for) Waitrose has reduced the price of Slovenia’s Puklavec’s wines. On offer is the vineyard’s full-bodied and gloriously fruity Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend, as well as their citrusy and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. Wines are reduced from £8.99 to £6.74.

Slovenia's Puklavec Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot
Slovenia’s Puklavec Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

It’s just a pity the King’s Road store in South West London mixed up the bottles and put the white with the reds, and the red with the white!

Slovenia's Puklavec Sauvignon Blanc
Slovenia’s Puklavec Sauvignon Blanc

I’m going to enjoy the red with some veal schnitzel (recipe here) and imagine sitting overlooking the spectacular Julian Alps; and the red with some mussels (recipe here) and pretend I’m sat on the glorious Adriatic in the idyllic seaside town of Piran.

Waitrose

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Babushka Bar/Restaurant in Hawthorn, Melbourne

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).

Babushka

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

Tues-Fri 5pm-1am, Sat 2pm-1am, Sun 2pm-11.30

Babushka

(Though it’s also worth checking out their Facebook page – these guys clearly have a great sense of humour!)

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Zubrówka Pop-up Cinema at Browns Courtroom

The Frisky Bison
The Frisky Bison

I am a huge fan of Zubrówka. I first experienced it at Na Zdrowie (now The Polish Bar) in Holborn while studying at university. Since then it’s become one of my favourite tipples so I was terribly excited to hear that the premium Polish vodka brand is opening  a Pop-Up Cinema at Browns Courtrooms in Covent Garden.

Zubrówka has teamed up with Appletiser to create the Frisky Bison which can be enjoyed while watching iconic films such as: Cocktail, Point Break, Animal House and Rebel without a Cause. Tickets cost £15 and include a complimentary Frisky Bison and Bison Bites. There are just 70 seats available each night so make sure you book your ticket before they all run out!

Zubrówka Pop-up Cinema at Browns Courtoom runs from 26th to 29th July 2011.

For more information visit www.friskybison.com

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KGB Restaurant Las Vegas

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.

KGB

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.

KGB

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.

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Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc & Furmint 2009

Puklavec & Friends Furmint Sauvignon BlancI recently wrote about the Puklavec Sauvignon Blanc from Slovenia available in Waitrose. I’m a huge fan of the folks at Puklavec having met them at the International Wine Festival last year. It’s such a shame that the likes of Waitrose have only picked up one bottle from their impressive range. I tried out the Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc & Furmint and it really is a notable wine.

With the sauvignon comes all those renowned citrus fruit aromas and notes. However, the furmint’s mineral and aciditiy characteristics gives the wine a more mellow and crispy note. Think the aroma of lime and the taste of elderberry. This pale and delicate wine is a great wine for summer. Team with a salad or fish, or just enjoy as an aperitif.

For more information and to find out your nearest stockist check out the (very swish) Puklavec & Friends website.

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Recipe: Balkan Ćevapčići Served with Ajvar

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…

Ajvar

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

Instructions

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

Ćevapčići

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.

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Albastrele Sauvignon Blanc 2009 from Laithwaites

Albastrele Sauvignon BlancWhen my Laithwaites wine package turned up I was excited to see yet another East European find – this time, Albastrele Sauvignon Blanc 2009 from Moldova. As expected this is a really zingy wine, full of citrus aroma and flavours but more subtle than New World Sauvignon Blancs which tend to be overly grapefruity.

Should the sunshine make a reappearance this summer, you’ll want to be sipping on this as an aperitif, or alternatively, with bold flavoured food, particularly spicy dishes.

A Pinot Grigio is also available from the same winery for those who prefer a lighter, crisper wine. You can check out my review of that wine, here.

12 bottles Albastrele Sauvignon Blanc 2009, £89.88, from Laithwaites.

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