Eating NYC: the wonderful Minetta Tavern

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I can’t remember where of from whom I heard about Minetta Tavern the first time, but when I asked people for restaurant recommendations leading up to my holiday everyone told me come here. So of course I did.

This extremely cosy one Michelin-starred restaurant in Greenwich Village was just as nice as I had hoped it would be. It gives you the impression it’s from a different time with red sofas, lots of mirrors and soft lighting.

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Considering the size of New York portions, we started our dinner with a drink (espresso Martini for Sinead and a glass of tatty for me) and then went straight for the main courses. Sinead had the roasted chicken with Swiss chard and fries. It was super simple but stunning!

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A decent portion of fries, as you can see.

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I decided on the steak frites, but substituted the fries for pommes Anna, and received one of the best steaks I have ever had! Just amazingly good!

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Not a small portion of pommes Anna either… but very good!

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We ate as slowly as we could to savour every bite but also to be able to eat as much as possible, so we were more than full when they cleared the table. But after some wine and a breather we decided to try the chocolate caramel tart with sea salt our waiter so highly recommended. And I’m so glad we did. It was pure perfection! I’m not even a pudding person but this was to die for. You simply must order it when you go.

Minetta Tavern, 113 MacDougal St., New York, NY 10012  (Betw. Bleecker & W. 3rd Street)

Eating NYC: breakfast at Balthazar

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Not jet-lagged at all while in the US, we actually overslept breakfast at the hotel every single morning and had to find breakfast elsewhere. An easy feat in New York, but also a little bit tricky if a donut from Dunkin’s (they’re everywhere!) doesn’t constitute breakfast in your opinion. One day we just happened to walk past Balthazar and decided to try our luck. We got a table straight away. A small one in a corner. But still, we were hangry and breakfast was near so it was perfect!

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I had my favourite egg dish; Eggs Benedict, and this was a great version. More rustic than The Wolseley’s but almost as nice. And in my ravenous state I loved the addition of the fried potatoes. Sinead had a lovely omelette, also served with fried potatoes, so we were both very happy with our menu choices. An hour and breakfast here put us in a good mood for the rest of the day. I would still like to try the breakfast at the hotel as it seemed great, but that’s for another trip.

Balthazar, 80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

Eating NYC: Emilio’s Ballato

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When my friend Sinead and I arrived in New York, all we had booked was the flights and the first hotel. It was easily the most unplanned trip I’ve ever been on, but it was fun to try to travel like this (it was so last minute and we were so busy we didn’t have time to plan beforehand) and also strangely liberating.

Our first night in the city we had dinner quite late, without booking and just tried our luck at  Emilio’s Ballato, an Italian restaurant food writer Diana Henry recommended in her New York special in The Telegraph.  

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The interior was charmingly dishevelled in a New York sort of way and we could tell the guests were enjoying themselves; drinking wine, sharing both stories and food. We shared a bottle of wine and dove straight into the starters as they arrived just a few minutes after the waiter had taken our order. Sinead had this huge portion of crispy, warm calamari and was almost too full for the next course.

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My starter, baked clams with breadcrumbs, parsley, butter and a little garlic, was a lot smaller but just as nice.

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We both chose pasta for the main course; Sinead had the excellent Pnne all’Arrabbiata…

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…while I enjoyed spaghetti with a summery ‘raw’ tomato sauce. It was all really nice and well-cooked but not outstanding. But despite this, I really liked the place. It all comes together as one really nice experience; the food, the ambiance, the interior, the staff.

Emilio’s Ballato, 55 E Houston St, New York, NY 10012

Delia’s potato salad with vinaigrette

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This simple, yet quite sophisticated potato salad is one of Delia’s creations, and as I trust her ability I didn’t actually test this recipe before I made it for a dinner party; I just knew it would be nice. And of course it was. One can always trust Delia.

The only change I made was to cut down a bit on the shallots, as chopping onions really makes me cry. I think I gave up after having chopped eight shallots for double the amount of potatoes below.

Potato salad with vinaigrette, serves 8

Adapted from Delia Smith’s recipe.

900 g washed new potatoes

6 shallots, finely chopped

4 tbsp finely chopped (ot cut with scissors) chives

salt

Vinaigrette:

1 dessertspoon sea salt 

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 dessertspoon mustard powder

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

150 ml olive oil

black pepper

Steam or boil the potatoes in salted water until soft, for approx 20 minutes. Leave to cool a little and cut into smaller pieces if needed. 

Meanwhile make the vinaigrette using a pestle and mortar: crush the salt coarsely, then add the garlic. Crush it, mixing it with the salt, creating a purée. Add the mustard powder and really work it in, after that add some black pepper. 

Then add the vinegars and really work them in. Then add the oil, but switch to a small whisk and give everything a really good whisking. 

Stir in the vinagrette while the potatoes are still warm and add the shallots. Add the chives just before serving. Can be served still warm or cold.

Wine tasting at Hällåkra, a Swedish Vineyard

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When I was little Hällåkra was a farm nearby our house, but the last twelve years or so the farm has been transformed into a vineyard. In the south of Sweden. It may sounds strange as some people imagine Sweden as an eternally cold country. But it’s not. Not in the south anyway. My mother has a fig tree, so the climate here is fairly mild. Very similar to Kent in England or even northern France, yet Swedish wine was unheard of until a few years ago.

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Anyway, having a vineyard so close by I’ve been dying to go, but fitting it in on my trips to Sweden has been a little difficult, but this summer I persuaded my friends to come with me, so we went to the wine tasting in the afternoon and then walked back to my parents’ house for dinner in the evening.

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My childhood friend Karl is now a sommelier working at the vineyard and was in charge of our wine tasting. He did a great job keeping it relaxed but informative and interesting at the same time. We asked lots of questions which Karl patiently answered, and despite the heavy (London-like) rain he also took us on a tour among the grapevines.So impressive! And a lovely walk in the sunshine.

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We tried six wines, three whites and three reds, and it was very interesting to compare them.

Two of the whites were from their own production but different vintages, and it was very interesting comparing the two as they were very different. We tried the Solaris (that’s the grape) from 2015 and 2014, which were both really nice but my favourite was the 2014. Of the reds Hällåkra’s Rondo 2013 was lovely as was the Austrian Gut Oggau Josephine 2012.

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In Sweden you (unfortunately) can’t buy wine straight from the vineyards, but they can be bought through the government-owned shop Systembolaget, using what the call private import as it’s not readily available in their shops. More information, here, in Swedish.

Hällåkra Vingård, Hällåkravägen 47, 231 72 Anderslöv, Sweden 

Harissa chicken with yoghurt sauce

 

 

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This slow-cooked chicken dish with a little heat went down a storm among some of my Swedish friends. And I do agree, it’s really yummy! Plus it’s served cold so perfect to prep ahead of a dinner, picnic or luncheon.

Harissa chicken, 6 portioner

2 whole quite large chickens

2 tbsp harissa

3-4 olive oil

2 tsp smoked paprika

2 tsp ground cumin 

1 tsp ground coriander

plenty of salt and pepper

Harissa yoghurt:

400 ml Greek yoghurt 

approx 3 tbsp harissa (to taste)

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 lemon, the juice

salt, pepper

To serve:

chopped parsley

Rinse and trim the chicken. Mix harissa, oil and spices. Season the chickens properly on all sides. Add the harissa mixture to the skin of the chickens and massage it in. Place in cooking bags or in a roasting tray covered with parchment paper (to keep the moisture in). Place in 150C oven for two hours. Leave to cool.

Once the chickens are cool enough to handle (or completely cool if you prefer), separate the meet from the skin and bones and pull larger pieces into smaller ones (like pulled pork).

Mix all the ingredients for the harissa yoghurt and mix 2 tbsp into the chicken meat. You don’t want it wet just the added flavours. If you prefer more of a kick to the meat add some more harissa paste and mix it in. Season to taste with sale and pepper. 

Serve on a large plate with some harissa yoghurt drizzled over. Add some chopped parsley for colour. 

 

Pudding at Paté Paté, Copenhagen

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After our underwhelming dinner at Kødbyens Fiskebar, we wanted to have pudding elsewhere and decided on invitingly cosy Paté Paté that we walked past on our way to the other restaurant.

Even though we just wanted dessert and a drink the staff was really welcoming and took good care of us, so our moods immediately elevated and we had a nice evening.

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Maria chose a Pavlovaesque dessert, which was really nice – just enormous! Daniel had the über-chocolately cake thoroughly recommended by our waiter and it was absolutely lovely. I decided to go for savoury instead and had the cheese plate which was also very satisfactory.

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What a difference between these two restaurants! The first one with staff as cold as the interior and inferior cooking, the second warm and friendly and easy, but lovely, food. We obviously should have come to Paté Paté to begin with and can’t wait to come back for a whole meal.

Paté Paté, Slagterboderne 1, 1716 København, Denmark