Tag Archives: Chocolate

A Weekend in Puglia, Italy – Part 2

On Sunday we headed into the Southern Italian city of Lecce…well, we got there eventually. Our tour bus had a flat tire on the way, so we cooled our heels by the roadside for an hour watching the Formula 500 which is the highway in Italy.

It was another gorgeous December day. And we did what any good tourists do as soon as they get off a tour bus… we headed to a cafe for coffee!

Then in was a leisurely tour around the beautiful city — I got so caught up in photographing the chocolate stalls in the chocolate square (a chocolate square, imagine!!!), that I almost missed the bus out of town. But I was retrieved and we headed off to a fantastic farewell lunch at an olive farm before heading off to the airport in Bari…..got what ended up being a 5 hour wait. Oh well. Still, it was an unexpected treat to spend a couple of days in Italy.

 

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Lunch at the Amal Women’s Training Centre and Moroccan Restaurant

The other day, after spending the morning in the Jardin Marjorelle in Marrakech taking photos, I hopped into a taxi to Gueliz — the section of the city built by the French during the Protectorate in the early 20th century. I got out at a fork in the road in search of the restaurant run by the Amal Women’s Training Centre. And I got lost. I haven’t yet found an English map of Marrakech and I’m not sure it would do much good as most of the streets have no signs or an occasional sign in Arabic or French.  I think its the kind of place you learn to get around by trial and error. And I’ve been making a lot errors. Moroccans are very helpful when asked for directions — although I’ve been perplexed to twice have people smile and nod and say “droit, droit” while gesturing left, left.

Anyway, after a phone call to the Association Amal, I was given very clear and friendly directions in English to the restaurant — I was only about 20 yards away from the front gate!

The reviews on tripadvisor were almost uniform in their praise at the quality of the cooking at an extremely good value, so I was eager to stop by on this trip and try it out for myself, as well as supporting a cause which is close to my heart.

I found out about the Amal Women’s Training Centre about a year ago when I stumbled upon a blog called “Life in Marrakesh” written by a remarkable woman named Nora who was born and raised in Morocco to American parents: http://moroccomama.wordpress.com/?blogsub=confirming#subscribe-blog.

Nora started up the nonprofit Amal Women’s Training Centre when she felt compelled to do something about Morocco’s marginalized women — the single mothers, widows, and girls who’d never had access to any education. Many of these women are illiterate and have struggled with poverty. The Association Amal’s goal is to improve the quality of life of these disadvantaged women by giving them the tools they need to start supporting themselves, beginning with cooking, hygiene and literacy skills.

Behind the leafy hedge, off the hot and dusty streets of Marrakech, I found a cool and inviting patio shaded by umbrellas and orange trees. It was buzzing with people, and a couple of hopeful cats, and a menu chalked upon a large board tempted me with Moroccan salad, grilled chicken and chocolate mousse for dessert. Except for the chocolate mousse (which made me oh so excited), it wasn’t an unusual menu for Morocco. So I wasn’t expecting what I got.

A girl with a charming smile took my order in perfect French, and a short while later brought over a large bottle of water, a basket of fresh bread and a plate of warm delights that was nothing like any Moroccan salad I’d ever seen before. There were light and flavourful marrow and carrots (sweet!), and tiny herbed potatoes, an aubergine puree, and several filo-wrapped vegetarian parcels. It was a feast for the eyes as well as for the palate, and I ate every last morsel. Even the cats didn’t get a nibble.

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I was excited now. This was far beyond what I’d been expecting. Then the main course arrived — the grilled chicken with chips.

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The chicken was succulent and lemony with an edge of charcoally crispness and sat on warm pureed tomato with grilled chicken livers. It was accompanied by a grilled tomato covered with seasoned breadcrumbs, a silky garlicky aubergine dish and a handful of crisp french fries. This was no simple lunch — this was a feast! And I was enjoying every moment of it. Okay, I relented. The cats got a couple of the chicken livers.

I was getting full, but there’s always, always room for pudding — especially if it’s chocolate. And the mousse arrived, garnished with a sprig of fresh mint. Oh joy!

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I ate it and I was happy. All for 75 dirhams (about £6 or $12 Cdn).

The Amal Women’s Training Centre & Moroccan Restaurant, Angle rues Allal ben Ahmad et Ibn Sina, Quartier l’Hopital Tofail, Marrakech 40000, Morocco

T: 212 604 238860 or 212 524 446896

Follow it on Facebook!  https://www.facebook.com/AmalNonProfit

Doing the Best I Can

It was one of those days. You know the ones. You take one step forward and two steps back. The email demands ping relentlessly into your inbox. You feel unappreciated. By the end of the day you’re so tired you can barely think. You stop at the convenience store on the way home and buy ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food)…AND Green and Black’s Milk Chocolate bar — large size. Then you walk into the Tube station and you see that someone has written this on the Tube station notice board:

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Flat Hunting

I’m looking for a flat to rent in Brighton. I’ve been Zoopla-ing and Rightmove-ing and Prime Location-ing, wearing out my shoe leather as I zigzag across the city from viewing to viewing. Thank heaven for Ella’s Yummy Delights on Queens Road (just down the road from the train station). The perfect place to recharge my phone, have a hot cuppa tea and a slice of heaven on a plate (chocolate of course).

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Ahh, that feels better.

http://www.ellasyummydelights.co.uk/

Birthday!

I was promised cake. Chocolate (of course). There were candles, not, admittedly, matching my years on this planet, but that would have needed a much bigger cake.

Hankenstein insisted on being the photographer while I sucked in my breath to blow out the candles.

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Happy Birthday to me!

Birthday Girl

It was my birthday today. It was a work day, but I took myself out for a nice dinner. I wanted white tablecloths and waiters in white shirts and aprons. You gotta treat yourself nice sometimes. I took myself out for a date to Como Lario in Chelsea for some modern Italian food in a comfy, unstuffy setting. It had a kind of polished 60s feel — not contrived or retro. Pale grey walls, red upholstered furniture, framed black and white photos of 50s and 50s film stars and a phalanx of handsome Italian waiters. There were businessmen enjoying an early supper, couples dressed up for a date, a few single women (nice to know I’m not the only one), and a family enjoying a birthday dinner. It’s the kind of place you could imagine Sinatra and Ava Gardner canoodling on a banquette in the corner over linguine with mussels. I loved it.

I started with a Cinzano Rosso on ice with a slice of lemon — a drink I used to enjoy with my mother whenever I visited her — and popped plump olive after plump olive into my mouth while I mulled over the menu. I’m a game lover, so when I saw the wild board prosciutto marinated in red wine and served with dried pears and honey, well, I was sold.

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The meat was sweet and smokey, really delicious with the pear and honey. I chose a glass of Sangiovese Rosso Sicilana Igt Vignali Roccamora 2011 which was a lovely ruby red, fragrant and light and fruity. Perfect with the boar.

Something about the boar must have brought out my carnivorous side, because I skipped over the pastas, as tempting as they were, and the fresh fish and poultry and headed straight for the meat section. I chose sliced sirloin of beef dressed with olive oil and charcoal grilled, served with rocket salad and some boiled baby new potatoes.

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I loved it. The wedge of lemon was inspired. It added a lovely zest to the rocket.

Then it was pudding time. Birthday pudding time. 🙂 There was much to tempt a sweet lover like me, but the chocolate crepe stuffed with mascarpone, chocolate shavings and cherry liqueur had me at hello.

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And in the blink of an eye, it was gone.

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I followed it all up with a delicious espresso served with a choice of sugars.

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Happy Birthday to me indeed!

www.comolario.co.uk

A Night Out in Soho

My cousin Craftgirl and her son Marky Mark were in London for a flying visit from the homeland, Newfoundland, this week so Tootsie and I met up with them at a stylish Italian restaurant in Soho for supper before they headed off to the West End to see some theatre. I did my research and found Bocca di Lupo, in easy walking distance to the Wyndham’s Theatre,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wyndham’s_Theatre , where they were going to see “Relatively Speaking”, and smack dab in the middle of Soho’s red light district, where fabulous delis and cafes rub shoulders with strip clubs and “adult” bookstores. Bocca di Lupo had a slew of great reviews and had an early sitting to accommodate theatre-goers, so Bob’s Your Uncle, as they say over here.

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Tootsie and I were a little early so, after admiring the tastefully chic décor (all beige walls, dark wood panelling, handsome leather chairs, very good paintings, and a shows-stopping modern chandelier), we compensated by dipping into the extensive drinks list, with me choosing a cocktail of martino rosso, prosecco and, umm, something else, and Tootsie opting for a cocktail of prosecco and, ohh, I forget. It was pink. They were very good.

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Craftgirl and Marky Mark arrived and we hmmmed and hawed over the menu full of intriguing offerings. I chose the manzo di pozza beef carpaccio with shaved pecorino cheese and rocket (a lovely flavourful dish which got my taste buds jumping), followed by tagliatelle with girolle mushrooms, garlic and parsley — which was perfection — the pasta cooked just al dente and the mushrooms firm and meaty. Tootsie had the same thing with a salad and we were very happy with our choice.IMG_9860

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Craftgirl ordered the lobster risotto with a salad, which she said was scrumptious, and Marky Mark started off with a lamb chop with sweetbreads, peach and honey mustard, followed by the trofie pasta with pesto Genovese, green beans and potato. We washed it all down with an earthy Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2012. Very very pleasant food indeed.

We made sure to save some room for dessert, and I had the pudding of chocolate, coffee, and caramel sauce…

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…which was almost fudgy in its consistency and full of chocolately flavour, and the others tucked into some delicious home-made gelati (Bocca di Lupo has a gelati shop across the road called Gelupo). Then we paid up and had a brisk walk through Soho, getting them to their theatre in the nick of time for their show.

Then… it was still early. So Tootsie suggested we drop into our favourite Leicester Square wine bar The Cork and Bottle, a subterranean treasure tucked behind an innocuous door and rarely found by tourists. It’s been there forever, and has a décor which has evolved over years of adding on without taking away. Just the kind of place to wile away an evening (or a lazy afternoon) over wine and nibbles, far beneath the crowds of Leicester Square.

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IMG_9870We chose a carafe of chilly white (Tootsie chose and I neglectfully forgot to ask her what she selected, being caught up in taking photos of the interior)….

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…and we had a great natter, deciding to have a sisters’ night out in London once a month from now on. Watch out London, here we come!

Bocca di Lupo, 12 Archer Street, London W1D 7BB, Tel: +44 (0) 207 734 2223, www.boccadilupo.com

Gelupo, 7 Archer Street, London W1D 7AU, Tel: + 44 (0) 207 287 5555, www.gelupo.com

The Cork and Bottle, 44-46 Cranbourn Street, London WC2H 7AN, Tel: +44 (0) 207 734 7807, www.thecorkandbottle.co.uk