Saturday, December 13, 2014

Warm Apricot Punch For Cold Winter Days

Sorry, I've been late for this post.
We traveled to Vienna to spend Christmas  with our family.
Until everything is settled, luggage is unpacked and Internet is reinstalled it takes time.
I hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving, missed you all.
It's already very cold here and for Tuesday the first snow is expected.

People crowd at the beautiful Weihnachtsmaerkte (Christmas  markets) where all kind of sweets, hot chocolate, mulled wine and different kinds of punch are served.

At least one stall at every market sells for charity.
Many charity organizations, usually with voluntary helpers, are reliant on these donations. 

There are as well live concerts with Christmas music and the ambiance is beautiful and festive.

Christmas wouldn't be complete without the annual "Christmas in Vienna" in the Konzerthaus a great classical music event hosting international singing stars. This concert is broadcast on TV every year.
But before rushing to the next musical event, I would like to share with you one of my favorite punch recipes,  a highlite for every Christmas or winter party.
Apricots add a wonderful, aromatic flavor to this hot drink.

This is what you need:

750 ml apricot juice
750 ml white wine
2 star anise
4 cardamom pods, cracked
1 vainilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
75 g brown sugar
zest of 1 untreated lemon
3 table spoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 
150 ml apricot liqueur

Bring all ingredients except for the apricot liqueur to a boil, then let simmer for about 10 minutes.
Remove spices and lemon zest and add apricot liqueur.
Serve hot and top with a spooon full of whipped cream ( optional)
Serves 8 


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Will be back next week

Dear all,
Sorry for being late with my post.
Hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Will be back next week.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cartagena - Colombia's Caribbean Crown Jewel

After spending a week in the splendid capital Bogota we continued our journey to Colombia's Caribbean coast.
Cartagena de India is literally worlds away  from the Capital - climate, landscape, mentality, even Spanish is pronounced here in quite different.
The city was founded in 1533 by the Spaniards and become soon wealthy and powerful and turned therefor into an attractive plunder for pirates and corsairs.
For defense purposes, mighty walls and forts were built around the city and are still well preserved today.
The infamous Sir Francis Drake, a pirate in the service of  Queen Elizabeth the I. managed to conquer the city for a short time and marauded the place with his cronies.
Contemporary Cartagena is actually like two cities in one. There is the historic center, dating from colonial times and perfectly preserved and the modern part of the city with construction sites everywhere and a Skyline that resembles Miami.
Skyscrapers are pushing forward, setting limits to urban planning and the tropical way of life.
However, the rhythm of life seems relaxed, people are friendly and time is relative. You master it and don't allow time be your master.
Music is omnipresent in the streets. Caribbean sounds in one corner, Cuban Salsa in another one.
I was surprised by the Cuban presence here: Salsa, Cuban Cigars, Cuban restaurants everywhere until someone explained to me that most of Cubans here where immigrants who came via Venezuela to the nearby Cartagena.
The city's colonial heritage is charming and very much alive and we had lots of fun discovering sounds and sights.

Pegasus horses overlooking the harbour

A glimpse over the walls

Unspoiled beaches

For the romantics: a drink at the patio of the Monasterio Santa Claro Hotel at night.

Do not disturb: taking a nap in the middle of nowhere

Snow white sand and turquoise water

Taking a sunset drink at Café del Mar, on the walls of the old city

Strolling through beautiful colonial streets

The perfect balcony for Romeo & Julia

Jazzing up the evening

A building dedicated to the National Beauty Pageant. The whole week of competition  is a holiday and Cartagena comes to a standstill for a few days every November.

 View from our hotel pool over the harbor

Modern Cartagena

For the romantics: Dinner at Club the Pesca restaurant

Enjoying a gorgeous seafood risotto

A city of contrasts: beautiful old patio from colonial times

Cuban live music at a restaurant

A piece of heaven at Manzanillo beach
Cheers, hope you enjoyed the visit


Friday, October 31, 2014

Bogota-Colombia's Vibrant Capital

Arriving at the vibrant capital of Colombia leaves you virtually breathless.
The city is situated at about 2700m above sea level and boy - you gasp for oxygen when you arrive.
The local advice to avoid altitude sickness is "Caminar despacito, comer poquito y dormer solito" which means "walk slowly, eat little and sleep alone"
We took the advice, rested a bit after our arrival and then plunged ourselves fully into discovering Bogota.
Traffic is chaotic and sometimes it seems that all of the over 7 million inhabitants of Bogota agree at driving their cars all at the same time in the same street-then you have what people refer to as a "trancon" or traffic jam.
The climate is quite unpredictable and most days you have all 4 stations in one day which means radiant sunshine in the morning, heavy rain or thunder storm at midday and variations of the former in the afternoon.
The cultural life of the city is amazing: Gorgeous museums (the newest addition is the Fernando Botero Museum), theatre, live  music peformances from classic to Cumbia and Vallenato and the extraordinary puppet theatre of Jaime Manzur which features from the month of November on the Nutcracker and other classic master pieces.
Colombians have a reputation of being very friendly, well-educated and speaking a beautiful Spanish.
They continue to battle against the image of drug and crime problems of their country which certainly exist, but there are as well the millions of ordinary Colombians who work hard for their living and live a decent life.
We had a wonderful time rediscovering this exciting country, visiting Bogota and the beautiful Caribbean town of Cartagena de Indias.

A recreation spot near down town.  

Bell tower of the Cathedral of Santa Fe de Bogotá

Writing on the wall: Remembering Colombian literature Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whom Colombians called affectionously "Gabo"

The newest addition to Bogota's cultural life : Gorgeous museo Botero

Mona Lisa with a twist as seen by maestro Botero

The museum is situated in an old colonial style house with a beautiful patio

The "al agua patos" café where we enjoyed a delicious brunch

And nice ambience

Best tropical fruit granola I ever tried

Amazing sandwhiches - this one with a Mediterranean flavour

The classical versión with ham and eggs

Local flavor with shredded meat and tasty onions

A colorful small house cheering up a rainy day

Visting the studio of our dear friend maestro Armando Villegas,a great Peruvian- Colombian painter who recently passed away

Live music show at a restaurant owned by the King of Cumbia and Vallenato music and Grammy award winner Carlos Vives

A sign at the entrance that reminds you to better not bring your personal weapons with you :)

"The "place to be for the young,rich and beautiful- Harry's Sasson, listed among the 50 best restaurants in Latinamerica.

A more traditional ambiance for private dinners

The open kitchen

And the stylish bar

Street musicians at a fleamarket in Santa Barbara

Thank you for joining me at this visit to Bogota, see you soon. 


Friday, October 17, 2014

Breakfast Delight-Dill Pesto&Scrambled Eggs Baguette

Are you traveling light or are you the kind of traveler that brings half his home with him, just in case?
I belonged for years to the second category, bringing heavy suitcases along, causing astonished looks from fellow travelers and furious ones from my husband. He is usually a very relaxed and patient guy , but when it comes to too much luggage....
I know, I know, over packing tops the list of biggest travel mistakes but the temptation of being prepared for every kind of weather, occasion, sport, allergy- whatever - was irresistible.
Until I got my luggage lost at a Spanish airport and had to live out of my emergency package from my hand luggage for 2 days.
First, I wanted to faint, then I remembered all the Jungle Camp and Survivor reality shows ( I seriously compared me to them, being in Madrid!!) and thought, if they could I could manage too.
Realizing how little you really need and still being able to have fun was surprising.
Of course I tricked a bit and shopped for 2 or 3 basic things.
No, it was not a Chanel suit, just a shampoo ( I hate the one you usually get at the hotel) and an umbrella.
Lesson learned, I'm traveling light since then, bringing only the basics and actually enjoying my new freedom.
Should I ever have an emergency like being invited spontaneously by the Queen, I'll buy what I need , but not bring it along just in case.
So this week we are traveling to Colombia and despite of the two climate zones we will be visiting, my luggage will be a small one and my husbands smile a big one.

But before leaving, I wanted to share with you this little breakfast or brunch treat that makes you start the day with an energy kick and will spoil your taste buds.

You need:
4 thin slices Prosciutto
30g ( about 1/2 cup) fresh dill
40g pine nuts
30g grated parmesan
1 clove of garlic
3 spoonful olive oil ( this is aprox. depending on the consistency of the mixture)
1/2 baguette, cut in medium slices
For the scrambled eggs:
4 eggs
1/2 spoonful olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 spoonful whole milk
salt and pepper
-Bake prosciutto on parchment paper at 200 C until crisp.
-Mix dill, parmesan, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor adding bit by bit the olive oil until obtaining a smooth mixture.

-Roast baguette slices in oven until golden brown and crispy.
-Whisk whole eggs with milk, salt and pepper thoroughly to incorporate air.

-Heat olive oil and melt butter in a non stick pan. Don't overheat, this will discolor the egg mixture.
-Let the mixture just sit, then, with a wooden spoon or a flexible heat proofed spatula scrape the bottom frequently until just set.

-Do not overcook! The egg mixture should be soft and still a bit moist.
-Spread pesto evenly on the baguette slices.
-Top with scrambled eggs and crispy prosciutto

Serve immediately
Serves about 12p.










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