Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Mexico City: Restaurant Review - Pujol

When I was in Mexico City earlier this year I was on an organised trip which took us to some great restaurants but one of the best restaurants in Mexico City was not on the list.  I kept thinking how much I would have loved to visit and have a meal at Pujol, one of the top 20 restaurants in the world and probably the best and most well known in Mexico City.

Anita, one of the other ladies on the trip and I got talking how much we would have loved to eat at Pujol the food theatre by head chef Enrique Olivera so we gave them a telephone call.  They tend to be booked up for three-four months in advance, and even though we were  not expecting to get a reservation,  Anita still made the phone call.  Surprisingly they could fit us in for lunch on the Monday, our free day before we took off for home that evening!!  We were ecstatic with anticipation!

We arrived by taxi to a very understated premises. A tiny plaque on the wall was all the indication that we had arrived at the right place.
Pujol offer a wine experience to accompany the meal however with a flight in the evening I really didn’t want loads of wine and neither did Anita so we just ordered one large glass each to go with our meal.  The wine list was international with wines from all over the world however as we were in Mexico and I have tasted Mexican wine before which is very nice, I went for a white 2013 Fluxus, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja california, Mexicoand Anita settled on a red which was also Mexican.

There is only one menu for the lunch time and each party had the same pre-starters and puddings.  There was choice in the other courses with three items and you picked one from each section.  Anita and I tried to have different choices to see as much of the menu as possible.
Our menus were presented in a sealed envelope, adding to the mystery of the occasion and the place.  Once opened there was still some surprises since the descriptions sometimes didn’t give much away.  The dessert course for instance was called ‘Happy Endings’!
The first course, a sort of pre-starter called ‘Street Snacks’ was five little portions of exquisite tapas containing much of the Mexican cuisine we had grown used to but with a slight variation on ingredients and presentation.

The hollowed out gourd arrived smoking and intriguing capturing our attention and those of the diners around us who had not yet been served. There is an element of theatre as well as taking you away from the traditional ways of serving Mexican food whilst the flavours and names of some of the dishes remained true to tradition. 'Baby corn, powdered chicatana ant, coffee, costeno chile mayonnaise'.
The little brown flecks on the baby sweet corn are in fact the powdered ants!  That I could handle but if they had bodies and antennae looking at me I would have abstained!
'Escamol sheath'
'Bocol Huasteco (corn dough with cheese, lard)'
I think this was my favourite bit of the whole meal, the sesame crunch and taste was just exquisite, so delicate and fine. 'Chia tostada'.
Next course we had three items to pick from and I chose the 'Green Mole'.  The other two were 'Tongue with broth' or 'Cuitlacoche, molleja, chicken liver'.
Again we had three to pick from and I went for the 'Suckling lamb taco, avocado leaf adobo with avocado puree'.
For the fourth course I wanted the 'Chicken, green sauce chicarron, broad bean and pea'
Anita picked the Egg infladita, chapulin sauce, bean with hierbe de conejo. 
She didn't really like this dish and the waiter insisted on bringing the 'Candied catch of the day, red jalapeno, ginger, hoja santa, pumpkin seed.  We both tried this one and agreed it was the best so far!!
At this point we had a palate cleansing lemon filled with frozen lemon sorbet.  So fresh and citrusy it sort of revived us ready for course no. five!
Our fifth course was 'Mole madre, mole nuevo (738 days)'.  This dish consisted of a 'mole', dark and rich sauce that had been started 738 days before and was smoky and chocolaty to which new ingredients are added each morning. By now this would be called mole 788 days!  You roll up the soft taco and drag it through both of the mole at the same time. A truly unique taste experience.
Finally the last course was called 'Happy Ending'! We were waiting in anticipation to see what would be fitting for such an enticing name.
And here is each item in detail:-
A pair of thinly sliced apple slices sandwiched with a cinnamon cream.
A home made ice cream.

A mouthful of chocolate mousse with a coffee jelly.
Churros and chocolate dip.
and finally a slice of green 'tuna' (cactus fruit) and a slice of red 'tuna', both locally used in many restaurants and homes.  I would never have thought I would be eating the fruit from a cactus but they were refreshing and I had them most mornings for breakfast as well!
Following a coffee we made our way back to our hotel having spent a really enjoyable couple of hours in lovely, pleasant and stress free surroundings ready to collect our bags from the hotel and make our way home.
We were both grateful we had the opportunity to spend the afternoon at Pujol, in the Polanco district of Mexico City.  The meal cost £1,450 pesos - the wine, coffee and tip were extra.
Our total bill about £62.00 each.
I would highly recommend you try to eat here if you ever visit Mexico City but be sure to make a reservation to avoid disappointment.

Address: Calle Francisco Petrarca 254, Miguel Hidalgo, Polanco, 11570 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Stellar Bamboo Chopping Board

I prefer to use bamboo in the kitchen instead of wood such as cooking utensils and chopping boards.

I was sent this bamboo chopping board which has a built in knife honer by Stella.  
Forgot to sharpen your knife before slicing? Now there's no problem as the sharpener (or honer) is built in. 
Bamboo is stronger than wood and more hygienic as it doesn't get those thin splits that harbour bacteria. 
This board also has little plastic feet on the underside to protect your counter tops and work surfaces. 

Three little bamboo rules:- 
• hand wash with warm soapy water and dry immediately, 
• do not leave to soak,
• do not put it in the dishwasher

Follow these steps and your bamboo will last years. 

I was sent this bamboo chopping board by Stellar. All opinions and photos are my own. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Devon: River Cottage Host A Bloggers Day Out

When food bloggers get together we chat, photograph like there is no tomorrow and eat!  A group of us had just this opportunity recently when Foodies100 and River Cottage HQ invited about 50 of us to spend the day in Devon at the home of River Cottage.

Mr R had some time off work so we got in the car on the Tuesday and drove to Devon to Axminster just about 7 minutes down the road from River Cottage and stayed in the beautiful B&B called Prestoller House (You can read my review and giveaway in a forthcoming post).  We booked two nights away because I had never been to this part of the country and in our free time I wanted to visit Lyme Regis, Dorset, which is also not far away from Axminster. My friends and fellow bloggers Nayna, Tina and Manjiri were staying just down the road and Mr R kindly offered to take them with us in the car to the event.

We met in a huge car park full of excited food bloggers whilst we waited for our ‘luxury’ transport down to the farm along a steep and rocky path. I was glad not to be walking down there even though we were bumping along and knocking into each other in the trailer part of the transport.

Upon arrival we had a welcome and over view of the day in a huge yurt with a lovely cast iron fire gently warming up the interior.  Coffee and a pastry followed along with the excitement of greeting fellow bloggers we hadn’t seen for a while and putting faces to names of blogs we followed but perhaps hadn’t met.

We divided into three groups and my group had the garden and farm tour first.  River Cottage grow as much of the food that the restaurant needs as seasonably possible along with supplying some eggs, pork, lamb and beef from their small stock of animals who are looked after in the most affectionate and authentic way possible.  If pigs can smile then these were certainly beaming up at us.  In fact the pigs sort of stole the show and appear in loads of photos.

The kitchen garden is cultivated in a strict rotation system allowing nature to provide the nutrients the plants need instead of using artificial means including a simple system of composting to make sure none of the nutrients go to waste.

The flowers framed the views everywhere you looked and quite a lot were edible making their way later on onto the butter we made.  Our guide for this session, Jim, was really knowledgeable and quick to answer all the questions we had for him.  River Cottage are a responsible and sustainable farm and waste nothing.  They are responsible for the education and improved welfare as well as sustainability of animals and fish.

Our second session was in the kitchens of the cookery school where we were told we would be making bread and butter! As bloggers we are constantly looking for the next foodie high and often forget about the simple things.  I hadn’t made butter since my children were young and had completely forgotten how simple and satisfying it was to make.

500ml of double cream was quickly whipped into a combination of butter and butter milk and just as deftly we squeezed the butter milk out as much as we could and popped the butter into the fridge.  A little later we plunged the butter into ice cold water and squeezed off some more of the butter milk, spread the butter out on a piece of greaseproof paper.
We proceeded to embellish it with edible flowers from the garden and a sprinkling of sea salt.  We rolled this up and stored in the fridge ready to take home.

Meanwhile the buttermilk that had come from our butter making was added to spelt flour, baking powder, chopped apples from their trees, a handful of blackberries we had picked, honey from their hives, grated cheddar cheese and some seasoning and quickly made into a simple, speedy, no rise soda bread!  The bread was quickly patted, sprinkled with some extra flour and cheddar cheese, scored into four sections and popped into the oven, to bake and then cool ready to take home to eat with our butter.

We sat down at long refectory style tables to eat a sumptuous meal prepared with fresh vegetables and meat from River Cottage which included a ravioli made from a 36 hour slow cooked beef on a bed of ratatouille of beans, tomatoes, topped with pesto and some fresh garden leaves.
Pudding was fennel infused meringue with coffee bean, vanilla and salted caramel ice cream with damsons.

Our final session of the afternoon was a food photography workshop led by Lucy Heath of Capture By Lucy with an initial chat about some of the photographers and cook book  illustrations she loved.  Then outside to photograph and talk about some of the vegetables and plates, cloths and other props Lucy had picked for us to use.

We set up our ‘stage’ and took photos of the same items from different angles looking for our favourite.  It was an interesting exercise to see how differently the same items could look with the light coming from different angles and the camera in different positions.

All of the 'tomato' photos were set up and not touched but the photos were taken from different angles.
And my favourite shot ....... Which one is your favourite?
The kitchens were available for us to pop into and have a look as was the kitchen the television programes are filmed in.  I did wonder if an alien had landed but on closer inspection it was a Big Green Egg!!

Exhausted we waited for our ‘luxury’ transport to take us back up the steep driveway to the car park and our transport to our B&B before Mr R drove me, Nayna, Tina and Manjiri out for a meal in Lyme Regis.

If you would like to make your own butter at home here is the recipe:-


200ml double cream
Pinch salt, optional

Whip the cream until you form butter, add salt if you wish to make salted butter.

Keep mixing using a spatula to squeeze excess butter milk from the butter.

You can wash the butter in iced water if you wish to prolong the life of the butter. Left unwashed, the butter will last up to five days in the fridge.

If you pat the butter out on grease proof paper you can decorate with edible flowers the roll up and put in the fridge.  When serving slice into thin slices and serve on a little plate.

I was a guest of Foodies 100 and River Cottage and was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photographs are my own.

Monday, 28 September 2015

London: Hotel Review - Novotel London Heathrow

Flying from London Heathrow airport to exciting destinations or coming in from afar and want a hotel with easy access to West London? There are a number of the big name hotels within a 5 minute drive of Terminals 1, 2 &3., I recently stayed at the Novotel London Heathrow because I had a food blogger conference to attend in Chiswick, West London.

The foyer of the hotel is large and airy with lots of light magnifying its large entrance.  We were greeted by very friendly reception staff. As I booked in I was advised that breakfast was not included in my room rate and did I want to add this.  I pointed out that it was included and they quickly amended their records.
The room was a family room with a huge double bed all to myself! The bed was incredibly comfortable, I did wake up somewhere in the middle far away from where I started!!
There was an interconnecting door to the room next door if you had a larger party and wanted easy access.  It was quite safe, you couldn’t open the doors unless both rooms wanted to.

I had the usual mini fridge in the room stocked with mineral water and a coffee-tea station.
There was a lovely fruit bowl in my room with mini cakes which I gratefully devoured with my coffee before bed!
I didn’t like the toilet being separate from the main bathroom though but that’s just me being fussy.  The shower was an absolute treat. One of those rain forest effects pouring straight down on your head and the water was a lovely temperature.  I did my usual, lather rinse, think about getting out then lather and rinse again just to enjoy more of the lovely rain forest effect!

The breakfast (which would normally cost £16.95) was a very good representation of the usual Full English Breakfast with lots of added extras.  I do enjoy cutting my own slice of bread from a fresh artisan loaf and popping it into one of the continuous toasters.
There was a great selection of cereals with optional toppings, cold meats and cheese and yoghurt and fresh fruit ready prepared. 
I did like the fruit in the metal stands that looked like the fruit pieces were on a special escalator!
Small children will be kept occupied in the well equipped space whilst mum and dad can have a drink.
The bar was large and open with a huge flat screen TV to watch the rugby or in my case the qualifying for the F1!
I would be happy to stay here again in November when I fly from Heathrow airport to the States for Thanksgiving.

I was a guest of Novotel and was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions and photos are my own.