Balearic Eats

Time to go raving in Ibiza, raving over the food that is.

The view from Hotel Torre del Mar

The view from Hotel Torre del Mar

A large poster catches my eye on the way in from the airport, it’s of Fat Boy Slim heavily photoshopped to be both very fat and very slim at the same time. He’s looking his age either way, which is in fact my age. That he can get a massive room full of people to wave their hands in the air is quite remarkable, as is the massive fee he reportedly gets for doing it.

Ibiza is of course well known as clubbers’ island; posters for the various venues are more numerous than posters advertising cars, washing powders or indeed anything else. My plane had boasted plenty of stags and hens already deep in the party spirit, while the despairing cabin staff tried to keep order. Ordering a drunk man dressed as a giant chicken to sit down is never easy.

View over the almond orchards

The inner beauty of Ibiza

There is more to Ibiza than drink and dancing though. It’s a beautiful place once you get away from the epicentres of E consumption, with lots of hidden, quiet beaches and small inland villages. Continue reading

Abruzzo. The Italian region ready to be revealed

Nun’s naughty bits, a wine that’s not a cheese, wine boxes that aren’t square and vino that flows from a drinking fountain, Nick finds Abruzzo is an Italian region that’s full of surprises.

Nuns Breast, a patisserie from Abruzzo

A lovely bun

“They’re called ‘Nun’s’ Breasts’, “Sise delle Monache” in Italian, says Valentina di Camillo unveiling a tray of freshly made pastries in the garden overlooking her family’s glorious vineyards. The origins of the pastry’s name are vague, they were first called ‘Three Mountains’ owing to their triple peaks but the new name came about when a nun… well, let’s leave it there.

Liver sausage

Liver sausage, goes great with red wine.

They are delicious, soft as can be and stuffed to bursting with sinful crème patissiere. One of these and a black coffee and your morning is off to a good start. Personally I am eating them just after an al fresco breakfast consisting of superb cured meats, pungent cheeses and a fair few glasses of Valentina’s lovely wines, so I am using the coffee and sugar to offset the alcohol I’ve knocked back. Continue reading

Snuffling for truffles in Spain

Italy? Yes. France? Of course. But Spain? Discover a region where the truffles and mushrooms aren’t just delicious but one of the area’s biggest industries and tourist attractions.

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Gourmet’s best friend

‘He got bitten by a snake out here a few months ago, he almost died!’ The man from the company Tuber Viveros ruffles the neck of his dog with affection, ‘but he’s okay now and happy back at work.’ His dog looks up at him adoringly, keen to get on with his job.

That job is to sniff out truffles, because somewhere in this massive plantation of trees stretching out in all directions, the black gold lies buried. The dog’s work is made a little easier by the fact that every tree is almost certain have a truffle or two amongst its roots, some ripe some not. That’s because the element of chance was reduced by a discovery back in the 1970s. Continue reading

The world’s biggest buffet

Eat for England.  Les Grands Buffets, Narbonne, France

Remorseless eating machines | The world’s biggest buffet

I agreed to it for a laugh, really. “The world’s biggest buffet”? Well that surely had to be a barn-door target for some snarky reviewing.

At first we couldn’t get to the place to even mock it from the outside. Instead we sped with increasing impatience up and down the fast two-lane on the industrial outskirts of Narbonne, trying to find a way in. Massive signs advertised furniture stores,car exhaust fitters and flooring warehouses, but the only way to access the area seemed to be to drive the wrong way around a roundabout and then floor it down a one-way street against oncoming Renault Twingos.

So we did that and made our way on foot across an airfield’s worth of tarmac to an enormous building that also seemed to house an ice-rink or a roller-rink. It was hard to tell: it was closed and dark, just like every other “grand surface” in the area.

Les Grands Buffets

Continue reading

Sharp and sweet. The vinegars of La Guinelle

Foodies talk a lot about balsamic vinegar and its amazingness, but in the South of France I find an artisan making something a drop more interesting and rare
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‘You need good wine to make good vinegar,’ says Nathalie gazing watchfully over her militarily ranked wooden casks. The south of France sun is beating down on the covers that shade the casks from the full heat, her dog is flopped out on the road outside. It’s too hot to do much. Time moves slowly here. Continue reading

In a Maltese City Garden

At the Phoenicia Hotel they take luxury and food very seriously. Nick Harman goes into their garden to meet the head chef and to taste the Maltese difference.

Saul bounds away up the vegetable patch like a puppy in an apron, still talking to me over his shoulder. Then, after grabbing a few tomatoes off the vine, he comes hurrying back. ‘The freshness is fantastic,’ he said biting into one ‘and with the kitchen just over there it gets straight to the plate.’ Saul could be any keen cook enthusing over his vegetable plot, but this particular patch is a massive seven and a half acres in size. It’s the back garden of the Phoenicia Hotel, Malta and Saul’s the Head Chef.

The gardens are grand and have bird’s eye views over the harbour, especially from the luxurious Bastion swimming pool. These verdant acres have been many things since construction began on the hotel in 1939, including being bombed in the war and used as a children’s playground, although no one is saying which did the worst damage. Continue reading

Simply Red – Taking the Gastrobotanical Tomato Tour in Alicante, Spain

stairtomsAnyone stumbling slightly the worse for wear into the lobby in the Hospes Amerigo Hotel might be forgiven for thinking the DTs had set in. Not pink elephants but red globes are everywhere; they’re piled in heaps next to the reception desk, they’re lined up like tubby soldiers on every available spare shelf, they lurk by the lift doors and they offer themselves as trip hazards on the marble stairs. There really are a lot of tomatos hanging about in this chic converted monastery in Alicante old town.

The reason is simple, Hospes Amerigo is launching a new holiday idea for foodies who also love the sun, ‘Discover the Tomato’. For three days guests can immerse themselves in a local product; seeing how it’s grown, how it’s harvested, how it can be cooked and most importantly how it can be eaten. Continue reading