Hungarian Inspired Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason

I was rather excited to hear about the Royal Academy’s latest art exhibition straight from Budapest and to coincide with this celebration of art from the former Eastern Bloc Fortnum & Masons has launched a Hungarian inspired Afternoon Tea.  This fabulous afternoon tea, with a distinct Hungarian twist, is served on exquisite  Herend porcelain, made by Hungary’s historic premier porcelain maker.

Immerse yourself in the Hungarian experience with delectable warm Hungarian strudels and traditional Hungarian cakes, as well as a selection of open afternoon sandwiches in the St James’s restaurant at £46 from 27 September to 29 October, Monday to Friday. Or for the duration of the exhibition, Monday to Saturday, with dinner in the Fountain Restaurant at £38.  For reservations call 0845 602 5694.

After enjoying the Herend Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Masons wander a few minutes down the road to see the Treasures of Budapest Exhibition, featuring glorious masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery, at London’s Royal Academy. The exhibition is open to the public until 12 December 2010.

The St James’s Restaurant, 4th Floor, Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER www.fortnumandmason.com

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Palinka & Sausage Festival in the Buda Castle

The Palinka & Sausage Festival at Buda Castle taking place this October is an excellent opportunity to discover the world of Hungarian palinkas (fruit brandy) and sausages and the centuries’ old gastronomic traditions and exceptional recipes. Secret ingredients and special preparations make these products not only unique but also places them among the world’s premium brands.  Beyond the exceptional culinary experience, this festival will also offer a spectacular yet relaxed cultural atmosphere. Check out the programme below…

7 October | 6 pm Jazzékiel | 8 pm Váradi Roma Café

8 October Roma Respekt Extra | 4 pm Colorstar | 6 pm Frenk | 8 pm Rutkai Bori és a Betonka

9 October | 4 pm Kishúg | 6 pm Jambalaya | 8 pm Madarak Házibulizenekar

10 October | 4 pm Hot Club of Hungary | 6 pm Riddim Colony | 8 pm Budapest Bár

4-day ticket for the price of a day-pass available in pre-sale: www.bonuszbrigad.hu

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Side Dish for September: Polish Potato Cake Recipe

Poland and most of Eastern Europe tend to opt for grain dishes, such as kasha, to accompany most meals.  However, Poland does use some potato and these potato cakes are really easy to make.  The small discs are tasty, crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.  Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients

450g mashable potatoes

50g butter

1 small white onion

45ml sour cream

3 eggs

25g plain flour

25g breadcrumbs

Instructions

Boil the potatoes until cooked, strain and adding half the butter, mash until smooth

Fry the chopped onion in the remaining butter until soft and add the sour cream

Blend the onion mix if you want a fine texture, if you prefer a bit more crunch add straight to the potato

Mix well and add two egg yolks to the potato mixture

Add the flour to the potato mixture

Polish Potato Cake

When everything is well combined form small balls then fold flat onto a well-oiled baking tray

Polish Potato Cake

Beat the remaining whole egg and glaze the cakes

Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the cakes

Cook on 180°C for 30 minutes or until golden brown

Polish Potato Cake

Serve as a side dish to a main meal

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Easy & Quick Georgian Red Pepper Sauce Recipe

Recently I made some Georgian shashlyk and as you may have spied from the final photograph I served this with my take on the traditional Georgian red pepper sauce.  It doesn’t have to be served with shashlyk as it would go well with any grilled meat dish.  It’s really easy, all you need is a food processor or blender!

Ingredients

6 red peppers (bell or pointed)

2 red chilli peppers

3 medium sized tomatoes (or a selection of smaller ones)

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tsp fenugreek seeds, ground

1 tsp coriander seeds, ground

Bunch of fresh coriander

Instructions

Peppers in the UK never taste quite as nice as peppers abroad so in order to get a bit of extra flavour I put mine in a foil dish in a low-heated oven (about 150 degrees centigrade) and warmed them for 15 minutes

Cut the peppers, removing the middles, into chunks and place in food processor (or into a pot if you are going to use a hand-held blender) with all the other ingredients except the fresh coriander

Georgian Red Pepper Sauce

Blend but try to keep the mixture quite thick

Stir then chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes

Chop the fresh coriander and stir into the sauce

Georgian Red Pepper Sauce

Season to taste and serve

Georgian Shashlyk

To check out my shashlyk recipe go to Georgian shashlyk

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Spa & Shroom? A Unique Holiday Package at Latvia’s Amber Spa

I recently wrote about the use of amber in both Lithuania and Latvia, so I was excited to hear the latest news from Latvia’s Amber Spa in Riga…  Spa and shroom? An unlikely combination unless you are a guest at this Amber Spa Boutique Hotel!  Mushroom picking is a favourite Latvian pastime so the boutique hotel has organised a special spa and shroom package for the autumnal mushroom season, making use of the gorgeous pine woods surrounding the spa in Jurmala.

Amber Spa Latvia

The special two night package for £395 per person includes two nights accommodation in a double room with breakfast, dinner in the hotel’s My Life restaurant, which serves a selection of traditional and homemade dishes alongside contemporary international cuisine, a mushroom picking tour and a traditional Russian Banya experience.

Take in the natural beauty Jurmala has to offer, with a guided mushroom picking tour through the local forests. Then, indulge yourself in one of Latvia’s other favourite pastimes with a traditional Russian Banya experience in Amber Spa’s deluxe Russian Banya. You will also be treated to a Banya besom massage ritual and Banya Detox De-Stress Treatment.

Amber Spa Latvia

When not alternating between the sauna and plunge pool in the Banya, enjoy the fruits (or rather fungi) of your labour with a specially prepared meal that will include your hand picked mushrooms to be served in the Banya. No need to dress up for dinner, your bathrobe will be just fine!  This really is my kind of place!

If you can tear yourself away from the spa (I’m not convinced you’ll be able to!) you can also enjoy the delights of the capital with a day trip to Riga. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed Old Town, home to one of the world’s largest and best preserved assemblages of Art Nouveau buildings. Then spend some time indulging in cafes, shops and markets and get the latest European fashions at Berga Bazars, built at the turn of the century.

The Spa and Mushroom Picking Package includes:

2 Nights in a Studio Suite Room (inc. breakfast)
Dinner in My Life Restaurant (ex. drinks)
Mushroom picking
Banya Detox De-Stress Treatment
Banya besom massage ritual
Dinner in banya (ex. alcohol)
Swimming pool and Gym facilities
Aqua aerobic, personal training studio, group class studio
10% discount in “Amber SPA & Beauty”
(Package valid until 12 September 2010)

To book contact Amber Spa on email: info@amberspahotel.lv
For further information about Amber SPA Boutique Hotel and special packages visit www.amberspahotel.lv

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14th Vegetarian Festival in Budapest

Vegetarian Festival BudapestOn the 28th and 29th of August The Health Foundation will hold its 14th Annual Vegetarian Festival in Budapest.  From 10 am to 6 pm the Pataky Cultural Center (1105 Budapest, Szent László tér 7-14.) will be a hub of activity and celebrations.  As ever the focus will be on how important a good diet is, particularly how a vegetarian or vegan diet can be beneficial for those with health problems.  Presentations will aim to educate on the topics of lifestyle, health and allergies.

For more information (currently only available in Hungarian) visit the festival site www.egeszsegvar.hu

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Get Ready for the Stew Competition at SzeptEmber Feszt

SzeptEmber FesztThose who have visited the SzeptEmber Feszt before know that it offers an uninterrupted flow of cultural and gastronomic events for three days on end, with a pinch of novelty added to the programme each year.  One emblematic programme of the festival is the Stew Making Competition. Besides the competing teams, mayors (on Saturday) and Members of Parliament (on Sunday) will also demonstrate their cooking skills.

Those not participating in the competition can taste stew at the Stew Show. The show will be held in Stew Square, where restaurant chefs will be offering over 30 truly special stews to those interested and hungry. Sample portions of 0.2 litres will be served at prices from HUF 300.

A foretaste of stews to come:

Wild Boar Stew with Prunes
Fairy Ring Mushroom Stew with Blueberries for Vegetarians
Kangaroo Stew with Raspberry Essence
Crayfish Stew Zala Style
Crocodile Stew
Emu Stew
Buffalo Stew with Bolete
Beef Cheek Stew with Tripe
Cock Stew with the Pride and Fame of Little Rooster
Dudum Stew Cooked with Dumplings
Frog Stew Soroksár Style
Sturgeon Stew

For three days Feszt-goers will be entertained by more than a hundred performers playing on four stages. There will be pop, rock, jazz, and country concerts.  While the adults are enjoying good food and modern culture the children will not be bored either. They can do crafts, make clay movies, and play various interactive games.  Families will find it easy to stay for the whole day as the Feszt will have baby feeding and changing rooms, as well as a child supervision facility.

Come to Népliget at the first weekend of this September. Don’t miss this year’s SzeptEmber Feszt!

www.szeptemberfeszt.hu

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Gastronomic Adventures at Hotel Monte Mulini

Hotel Monte Mulini
Hotel Monte Mulini

Istria prides itself on being the gastronomic capital of Croatia and foodies in the know will already be well aware of this culinary hotbed. The 5-star Hotel Monte Mulini perfectly showcases the region’s delicacies from award winning wines and fresh truffles to a range of seafood including oysters and spider crabs.

The hotel’s traditionally styled Wine Vault restaurant features an extensive wine cellar with an impressive selection of 550 award-winning Croatian and international wines personally selected by Croatia’s leading sommelier, Emil Perdec.

Twice winner of the prestigious Trophée Ruinart in France, popularly known as the European Championship for Sommeliers, Emil Perdec is working alongside renowned chef Tomislav Gretic, who opened Dubai’s Asia de Cuba and perfected his craft at Zurich’s Dolder Grand and Dubrovnik’s Palace Hotel, to establish the Hotel Monte Mulini, as Istria’s leading destination for wine connoisseurs and gourmets.

Hotel Monte Mulini
Hotel Monte Mulini

With two of the most popular types of Croatian wine, the crisp Malvazija and full-bodied Teran produced in Istria there is little wonder the region is now recognised as a top food and wine destination by food writers and wine connoisseurs all over the world.

In both the Wine Vault and Hotel Monte Mulini’s Mediterraneo restaurant, chef Gretic serves delicious French-Mediterranean concoctions that include local produce such as heady white truffles, wild asparagus, freshly caught seafood and fish and Istrian prosciutto.

Istria is a year round destination and the hotel’s menu changes daily. Spring is the season for wild asparagus, summer and autumn for black truffles and autumn and winter for famous white truffles – real gourmets will know this is when the truffles are at their finest. During truffle season truffle fans will be delighted to find they feature heavily on each menu and are often served with every course, even the ice cream! To help truffle aficionados get to the source of their desire, The Hotel Monte Mulini can arrange truffle hunts for guests, and participants even get to keep the truffles they find!

Room rates at Hotel Monte Mulini start from €235 including breakfast and VAT for a double room. For further information or reservations please visit www.montemulinihotel.com or call +385 (0)52 636 000.

Truffle hunting can be arranged and booked at the hotel. This costs €120 per hr or €350 per half day and participants get to keep the truffles.

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The Island – The Floating Dining Room at Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg

For those seeking rest as well as those who are romantics, a private refuge of a very special kind is awaiting them this summer in form of a green island at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg. Floating in the inner harbor of the Mittelland canal, The Island can be booked as a one-of-a-kind destination for an outing for two to four persons from June to September. Delicately arranged food and champagne put a perfect finish to the excursion. The island arrangements cost from 120 euros to 395 Euros for each person.

Ritz-Carlton Wolfsberg

The crossing to the floating island itself is an adventure. On board a nostalgic mahogany motorboat made by the traditional Swiss boat builder Pedrazzini, hailing from the 1940s, island guests are greeted by their personal skipper with a glass of champagne. The boat casts off from the hotel’s own pier at the floating outside pool of The Ritz-Carlton. From there, an expedition trip commences that opens up completely new vistas on the buildings along the inner harbor for the passengers. The skipper, meanwhile, explains a few of the intriguing factual details on both the park landscape of the Autostadt and the impressive backdrop of the landmarked VW power station.

After a round tour of the Autostadt, the skipper pilots the boat toward the actual goal in the inner harbor: the largest of the four artificial islands, measuring 13 x 13 meters. On the green float with a surface of more than 160 square meters, three willows arch over a wooden terrace at ground level, furnishing ample shade even on sunny days. Being solidly fixed in the inner harbor, the island hardly moves and is eminently suited for safely stepping on it and spending some time there. Upon the boat’s arrival at the island, a butler receives the guests and places them at a stylishly set teakwood table. There is a choice of four different arrangements for the individual menu depending on the time of day. Two champagne breakfasts are offered for a relaxing morning break—one can pick breakfast either with or without caviar. The Island Tea arrangement is perfect for a private afternoon tea, letting no wish go unfulfilled, with premium loose leaf teas and champagne, freshly baked scones, savory delicacies and the finest patisserie.

The Riviera Dinner rounds off the island experience to perfection. With a vista on the brightly illuminated Autostadt and The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg, in the evening, the sunset can be thoroughly enjoyed while being served an exclusive three-course dinner of select seafood such as lobster, mussels and oysters, as well as a pitcher of premium champagne.

With the floating island group, a new staging evolved as part of the Autostadt’s Four Season concept, connecting nature in the park with technology and culture in an artistic fashion. Each island is planted with one of four tree species each: alder, willow, water chestnut and pine; this way, the greenery of the park continues and is extended to the water. Connected to the foundation at the bottom of the inner harbor, the three smaller island plateaus, measuring 7 x 7 meters each, are allowed to drift freely and move with the rhythm of the wind within a radius of around twenty meters. In conjunction with the larger island, a picture of living movement emerges, which integrates the cuisine of The Ritz-Carlton by means of the green dining room.

Reservations for all island arrangements are accepted by telephone or email: Tel +49 5361 607091 ; email ccr.wolfsburg@ritzcarlton.com

About The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg

The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg has 174 rooms and suites and is located in the centre of Autostadt, the world’s first custom-designed celebration of automotive innovation encompassing architectural originality, scientific advancement, artistic inspiration and lifestyle aspiration. With its impressive open circle architecture, The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg has won numerous awards. It offers nine conference rooms, the restaurants Aqua – honored with three Michelin Stars – The Grill, Hafenterrasse and the Newman’s Bar as well as the Kraftwerk spa with its floating open air pool. More than six hundred works of art, with a focus on photography, shape the ambience of the hotel, as do the modern-classic furnishings by renowned French interior designer Andrée Putman. The hotel is just an hour from Berlin or Hamburg by ICE high-speed train. Additional information and reservations may be obtained by calling +49-5361-607000, toll-free within the USA or Canada at (800) 241 3333, toll-free from the UK on 0800 234 000, or at www.ritzcarlton.com/wolfsburg.

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Cosmo Hotel Berlin Mitte – New Exec Chef

When taste, scent and philosophy come together in the kitchen the results are sure to be interesting. Ottmar Pohl, the face behind the term ‘aroma cuisine’, is heading up the restaurant at COSMO Hotel Berlin Mitte. Executive Chef Pohl is famed for serving his guests out-of-the-ordinary and unique taste sensations using regional and Mediterranean herbs. By heating the rare and wild herbs in fragrant oils, Pohl releases their natural flavours. These unique aromas are used to dress organic meats and products which are sourced locally. The result is perfectly balanced dishes which are also kind to the environment.

COSMO Berlin Mitte Hotel

The design of the COSMO Restaurant is elegant and timeless. Clear shapes and warm colours create an informal and casual atmosphere, whilst ceiling-high windows open the view to the adjacent park. Nik Schweiger, the lighting designer, has constructed bespoke oversized ceiling-sculptures which provide soft lighting.  A highlight of the space is the open kitchen where guests can watch Ottmar Pohl create his innovative aroma cuisine dishes, including ‘Brook trout, rhubarb pepper vegetables and sweet cicely’ and ‘Baltic Sea wild salmon with popcorn and carrot-anise dumplings’. The 34-year-old chef has previously worked for the three-Michelin star hotel restaurant ‘Traube Tonbach’ in southern Germany and at the renowned restaurant ‘La Societé’ in Cologne.

Passionate about ethical sourcing and minimising the carbon footprint of his kitchen, Pohl shops locally and regularly visits spice alchemist Ingo Holland, owner of the Old Spice Office in Bavaria. He has also studied philosophy, is a self-confessed ‘nature freak’ and is a modern literature fan.

The COSMO Hotel Berlin Mitte is characterised by an individual and urban style. Located in the heart of Mitte between Alexanderplatz and Friedrichstraße, the hotel provides an attentive and yet relaxed service experience. Employees serve as an advisor, guide and door opener to the hippest shops, bars and clubs of the city. Rooms feature unspoilt views of Berlin and minimalistic design. Soft spice colours vary in tone from room to room and create a feeling of comfort, whilst a changeable lighting system and sleek furniture reflect pure sophistication. The contrast between relaxed and refined, light and dark, opaque and solid, soft curves and defined lines, makes the COSMO Hotel Berlin Mitte and Ottmar Pohl’s restaurant one of the top addresses in the city.

To make a reservation visit www.designhotels.com/cosmo

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