Cava and pinxtos at Boqueria, Stockholm

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It was snowing in Stockholm two weekends ago so after walking around for a bit on the Saturday after a very late breakfast we were happy to escape the cold and look around a shopping centre. We got bored fairly quickly though and went to a pinxtos bar in the shopping centre and had a glass of cava. And then another. And then had some pinxtos.

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It was a really nice setting (especially for being in a shopping centre!) with high ceilings, natural light and lots of tables scattered around the atrium with the bar in the middle. Close by was the proper restaurant but we preferred the bar.

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The pinxtos were not nearly as good as the real deal in Spain’s Basque Region, but for being served in Sweden they were nice. We had some with serrano ham and Manchego and I also tried a seafood one and one with chicken and tarragon. The olives and Spanish almonds were great!

Boqueria, Jakobsbergsgatan 17, 111 44 Stockholm, Sweden

Two favourites in Palma revisited

During the last few years I have come to love Spanish cuisine. In London there are plenty of authentic and nice tapas around, at Barrafina, Barrica and the Saltyard group for example.

Palma has plenty of nice restaurants and it was especially two I couldn’t wait to go back to; Tast and Puro Chef.

Tast

On Saturday we had lunch at Tast in the middle of the town centre. There are cold pinxtos at the bar to pick yourself and warm pinxtos and tapas on the menu to order. Further in there is a proper restaurant serving more filling maincourses but I prefer the all day bar menu. We ordered some pan con tomato because the neighbouring table had some and it looked amazing. And it was. Of the cold pinxtos we had crab mayonnaise with smoked salmon, white fish with pickled pepper and fried quail’s egg and beef with tomato and mayonnaise. The marinated camembert (looks like a fish tartar) was the only one we didn’t like – the others were amazing! From the menu we ordered a crab and gulas (mini eels) gratin each (so so good!), a kebab with monkfish, king prawn and peppers and a mini toastie with the local sombrassada sausage and cheese. All great!

I like the fact that Tast is unpretentious, nice but not fancy and that the food is consistently good. Everything is well-cooked but simple and you can pop in for a proper dinner or just a glass of wine and nibbles. The wines, by the way, are very good and very reasonably priced!

Tast, C/ Unión, 2, 07001 Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Puro chef

Another afvourite is Puro Chef in Santa Catalina. Here they take pinxtos to gourmet level, serve nice tapas, proper maincourses and puddings. I never seem to be able to order anything other than the amazing gourmet pinxtos and a few tapas to share.

The jamon iberico croquetas were the best I have ever had (and I have sampled my fair share). They came out piping hot, were incredibly delicate and creamy and of course the flavour was spot on. How they were able to deep-fry anything so soft is a mystery to me! The amuse bouche was a creamy concoction with tuna and eggs served on sourdough. Of the gourmet pinxtos we both had the scallops with paprika purée which was delicious. Laura had the anchovies and lime toast full of salty goodness that she really liked and I couldn’t help but order the crispy suckling pig with Spanish sauce that I fell in love with last time. And it was just as delicious as I remembered. But the star of the evening was a brand new pinxtos the waitress recommended to us. Octopus with potato foam. It was utterly amazing. The foam was rich and light at the same time and had the most amazing flavour and hidden underneath were pieces of wonderful octopus.

Puro Chef, c/ Sant Magí 66, Palma De Mallorca, Spain

Pinxtos and tapas in San Sebastian, Spain

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Pinxtos are extremely popular in The Basque Region and in the Old Town of San Sebastian there are plenty of pinxtos bars to choose from, each with their own specialities.

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Our first night in San Seb, after the Mugaritz lunch, Caroline and I were still very full around 10pm but we decided to ignore those signals and have a few pinxtos just because we wanted to. We started slowly with one each and a glass of wine. Carolien had the one with mini eels and I had the one with crab, mayonnase and smoked salmon.

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After a little breather we had another one each. I couldn’t resist the jamon and Caroline had the grilled squid with ink. Two pinxtos each was definitley enough and I’m so glad we did as I loved the atmosphere in the Old Town bars. The place we went to this evening is called Ganbara, and one I was desperate to try because a famous Swedish TV chef went here with the owners of Arzak when he was visiting San Sebastian.

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The second evening we did a proper pinxtos bar crawl, starting at Baztan. Caroline had the sausage wrapped in bacon and the morcilla (black pudding) with pickled peppers.

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I had a yummy mini burger (great idea!) and cheesy courgette with ham.

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Apparently you just throw your serviette on the floor after your meal, but I struggled to do that. It makes sense in a way; the bars are packed and the staff have enough to do collecting dirty plates and glasses that collecting napkins isn’t a priority and it is easy to just sweep the floor after service. But still…

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Next we went to Casa Vergara where we had the local slightly sparkling wine Txacoli which we really enjoyed together with some pinxtos; mini eels in smoked salmon, anchovies and green pepper and a marinated mussel.

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At Casa Alcalde next door to Casa Vergara, we had one last pinxto with morcilla, fried quail’s egg and baked cherry tomato. Yum!

We had a look at plenty more pinxtos bars and some places seemed better than others (the ones we went for). Some had piles of deep-fried whatever and didn’t appeal that much to us.

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Our last day we went back to Ganbara and had lunch in the restaurant. We started with a plate of wonderful jamon and the local equivalent to padron peppers, these were less spicy, but tasted very similar otherwise.

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For the maincourse Caroline had the trio of cod which was rather interesting but not amazing. The one with the brown sauce was less tasty but the other two were quite nice.

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I had local gambas, big juicy prawns, that were fried and served with olive oil and lemon. Super simple and delicious!

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We went back to Ganbara one more time before leaving for the airport. It was early evening and because they had just stopped serving lunch it was quite bare with pinxtos on the bar counter but we could order from the menu. The pig’s trotters with mash, above, was sadly not amazing. I love pig’s trotters but these were too fatty for my liking.

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The croquetas with mushrooms and jamon were delicious though and so was the fried foie gras.

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We finished off the meal with octopus and squid. I had the cold marinated octopus that I love, so soft and delicious and Caroline had the grilled squid with ink one last time. Despite a few let downs (the pig’s trotters and the cod) we loved Ganbara! All the other food we had here (and it was quite a lot) was great, the staff super friendly and the all the pinxtos super fresh!

Ganbara, San Jeronimo Kalea, 19, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain

Baztan, Calle Puerto, 8, 20003 Donostia – San Sebastián, Spain

Casa Vergara, Kale Nagusia-Calle Mayor Kalea, 21, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain

Casa Alcalde, Mayor Kalea, 19, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain

Homemade pinxtos

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Mother and I made pinxtos for our guests at two separate occasions this summer. I often serve crostini or bruschetta at dinner parties and this is obviously similar. Only difference is that you usually don’t toast the bread for pinxtos (which we did) and the toothpick securing the toppings. In Spain you can serve almost anything on or as pinxtos, but most common are crab and mayonnaise, prawns with mayonnaise, baby eels, morcilla or jamon.

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Ours were pretty simple, like tomato (from my parents’ garden), basil (also from the garden), buffalo mozzarella and olive oil.

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Cold-smoked ham with grilled peppers in olive oil.

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And one with crayfish, dill and rosé pepper. At the second dinner party we varied ourselves with toast Öjeby, which also worked really well.

Crayfish pinxtos with dill and rosé pepper, makes about 8

8 slices baguette

olive oil

1 tub crayfish tails, drained 

100 ml creme fraiche

2 tbsp Hellman’s mayonnaise

1 tsp crushed rosé peppercorns 

chopped dill

salt, white pepper

lemon and dill to decorate

Place the bread slices on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake in 200C for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool. Mix creme fraiche and mayo in a bowl. Chop the crayfish tails and add to the mixture. Then add in rosé pepper and dill. Season to taste. Divide between the baguette slices. Decorate with lemon and dill and serve immediately. 

Santa Catalina and dinner at Puro Chef, Palma de Mallorca

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Our last evening in Palma I wanted to check out the Santa Catalina neighbourhood, just west of the town centre. Around five years ago this area was a bit run down and it started transforming itself into a trendy neighbourhood with lots of restaurant and bars. The vibe is similar to London’s Soho (bar the sex shops) or New York’s NoLIta but smaller. I really liked this cosy part of town and it felt much less touristy than central Palma.

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We walked around looking for a nice restaurant and maybe a bar to have a drink before dinner. The choice of both restaurants and bars was wide with both Indian, Japanese, Lebanese and of course Spanish.

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Outside this cool painted bar people were drinking on the pavement, just like in London.

We found a cosy café/bar/casual restaurant where we had a glass of wine and were offered homemade poppadums and mango chutney before heading a few doors down the street to Puro Chef for dinner.

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Walking past earlier that evening the German article in the window, about the gourmet chef, caught my eye and after looking at the menu I was convinced we’d experience some great cooking here.

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The nice looking menu was divided into different sections; one with gourmet pinchos, one with tapas to share, another with main courses (quite a few with Italian influences) and of course another with puddings. We were seduced by the pinchos and started there and they were so lovely we didn’t really branch out into maincourses or tapas (bar one).

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The amouse bouchen was fried Globe artichoke with foie gras which we loved. Just a hint of foie gras and crispy on the outside.

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The potato with prawn and tartar sauce was amazing and beautifully plated.

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Perfectly cooked scallop with potato and bell pepper purée with root crisps was another hit – so delicious!

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The only tapas dish we tried was the prawns (surprise) that were dipped in batter and deep-fried until crisp. The shells were so soft we ate it to not miss out on the crispy goodness. These were lovely too, but not as good as the pinchos!

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The pig’s trotters with fried quail’s egg and pickled pepper were full of umami and utterly delicious!

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These croquetas with morcilla and peppadew peppers served with pear jam were magnificent. The croquetas were of the perfect consistency; a soft and gooey on the encased in a crisp coating. And the sweetness of the pear worked well with the heat from the peppers.

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Fried cod with mayonnaise and herb oil was also very good.

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But these crispy pork rolls were to die for. Crispy, porky little rolls with some shredded vegetables and bathed in the most delicious sauce we had to order quite a few of these!

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We really enjoyed our evening here! The interior is modern and laid back, the waitresses sweet and very helpful and the chefs eager to impress. Not only were they good at creating interesting flavour combinations, they also had the techniques down, everything was cooked to perfection.

I expected good food in Palma and I am glad I got to have so much of it. And I utterly adore the modern tapas (which we see a lot of in London too); small plates created with classic ingredients but with some kind of added twist. Both Tapa Negra and Tast serve similar dishes in Palma and these three (Puro Chef included) restaurants really stood out as my favourites.

Back in London since two weeks I still dream of the amazing pinchos, WHERE can I find some here?!

Puro Chef, c/ Sant Magí 66, Palma De Mallorca, Spain