A Guide to Austrian Mountain Food

A Guide to Austrian Mountain Food

Austrian mountain food is perfect for fuelling up after a hard day’s skiing. There’s no shortage of tasty winter warmers served up in the mountain huts and restaurants of Filzmoos in the Austrian Alps. Hot, hearty dishes designed to ward off the cold and keep ski legs hot to trot. Here’s my guide to Austrian mountain food – just so you know your Gröstl from your Käsespäetzle…

A Guide to Austrian Mountain Food

 

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Crete Food – What to Eat in Crete

Crete Food – What to Eat in Crete

Crete Food - pies, pastries and olives

 

Food in Crete is bursting with intense Mediterranean flavours. The Cretan diet is uncomplicated and made from fresh, healthy ingredients, much of which is grown in Crete’s natural environment using ‘earth friendly’ methods. Agrotourism in Crete is popular and it’s easy to see why.

The Cretan Mediterranean diet uses golden olive oil from the island’s plentiful olive groves along with lemon juice and a few choice herbs for added flavour. Lamb, chicken, pork are popular meats and, as Crete is an island, plenty of fresh fish is on the menu.

Vegetarians won’t be disappointed in Crete; plump ripe tomatoes, softly gleaming aubergines (eggplant) and yellow-flowered courgettes (zucchini) are abundant. Then there’s the Greek cheese, Greek yoghurt and Greek pastries strewn with nuts and drizzled with honey. So, what to eat in Crete? Read on for some of the best traditional Cretan food…

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Dubai Food Festival – Find your Flavour

Dubai Food Festival – Find your Flavour

Dubai Food Festival was in full gastronomic swing when we arrived in the city last month. Celebrity chefs, pop-up dining, mystery dining tours and home-grown food all made appearances at the culinary collaboration.  This was the second Dubai Food Festival which showcases the multicultural aspects, fine-dining and home-grown restaurants of Dubai’s food scene.

Beach Canteen Dubai

The Beach Canteen

I’d never thought of Dubai as a leading gastronomic destination but with over 200 nationalities living in the city there’s a huge culinary diversity and range of flavours including the city’s own Emirati fare and Arabic traditions. The theme at this year’s Dubai Food Festival was ‘Find your Flavour’ and we set out to do just that in the few days we were in the city as we indulged in some of the festival’s delicious line ups.

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Vietnam – Food, Flavour and Phở

Vietnam – Food, Flavour and Phở

vietnamese woman with baskets

Rambutans, Bananas and Mangostreens in her basket

Vietnamese cuisine with its refreshing flavours, citrus hits and use of distinctive herbs and warm spices is one that’ll shake up your taste-buds.  With its careful use of oil it’s also one of the healthiest.  The mere thought of succulent lemon grass chicken, green papaya salad or crisp spring rolls stuffed with minced pork, ginger and Thai basil starts me salivating.  Not only does it taste amazing it looks good too. The food pops with colour – think fresh green herbs, blushing-pink prawns and scarlet-red chillies against a backdrop of pale, fluffy rice. It’s simple, yet sophisticated, vibrant yet subtle.

Pho Ga

Pho Ga

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Italian Coffee Culture

Italian Coffee Culture

Coffee culture is an essential part of Italian life, akin to an art-form and nigh on a religion. There’s a myriad of coffees on the menu from Espresso to Caffé Shakerato – then there are the two, three or four different ways they’re served. Coffee is a serious past-time in Italy and comes with its own etiquettes and customs. Let’s get to grips with the ground rules – just so we don’t commit any Italian coffee faux pas.

Caffè Marocchino

Caffè Marocchino

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Catania Cafe Culture

Catania Cafe Culture

Catania’s cafes and bars are the perfect place to indulge in a cup of coffee and a cannolo when the sightseeing begins to take its toll. There are some gems when it comes to Catania’s cafes; chock full of character, charm and full of dazzling displays of the best Sicilian paticcerie. Sicily takes the sugar rush to a whole new level.

Sicilian Pastries

Sicilian Pastries

Cannoli in Sicily

Our first morning in Catania we stopped off at Caffè del Duomo on Piazza Duomo and I couldn’t wait to try Sicily’s most famous pastry – Cannoli. In the film ‘The Godfather’ there’s a classic line ‘Leave the gun. Take the cannoli’.  And after tasting one I can see why.  Holy Cannoli!  A crisp tube of fried dough is filled with rich, fresh, ricotta, sweetened with honey and sprinkled with ground pistachios – or if you prefer, chocolate shavings or candied fruit.  Worth every single calorie! We sat outside overlooking the square while I indulged in my creamy, dreamy cannolo and a cup of coffee.  Cannoli is the plural in case you were wondering.

Cannoli in Catania

Cannoli in Catania

The Caffè del Duomo has tables out on the square under shady awnings but don’t just use the waiter service – go inside and check out the interior which has a Belle Époque feel to it. Built in the 1800s, the walls are lined with curved shelves holding brightly coloured liqueurs; a bank of frosted glass lights cast a glow over a red marble counter and at the back of the café the curves continue with a stunning red marble spiral staircase. In most cafes it’s cheaper to stand and drink your coffee at the bar so if you’re just in the market for a quick Espresso out of the sun then head for the bar.  Savoury snacks are available on the hot buffet table ‘tavola calda’ if you’ve not got a sweet tooth.

Best Catania Cafe – Prestipino

The following day, during our tour of Catania’s La Pescheria and marketplace, our guide took us to the café next door to Caffe del Duomo. I hadn’t even noticed it the day before – probably too busy swooning over my cannolo. Prestipino Boutique is the smaller of two Prestipino cafes and my favourite of all that we visited.  A tiny place but big on taste. On entering I was presented with a ‘Biscotti con Mandorla’ a small, swirled almond biscuit.  Light and delicate on the outside, the swirls were slightly crisped on the outer edges but as I bit through the crispness I was surprised by a delectable marzipan paste flavoured with pistachio.   It was so good it actually brought tears to my eyes.  It really did!

Prestipino Boutique, Catania

 Prestipino Boutique Bar, Catania

A glass cabinet takes up most of the space in the café containing shelf upon shelf of deliciousness.  Fruits of Martorane are miniature works of art.   The marzipan fruits and vegetables are so perfect it seems wrong to bite into one.

Olives de Sant Agata

There’s a tray overflowing with Olives de Sant Agata; small, green, marzipan olives to commemorate Catania’s patron saint and the olive tree she sheltered beneath.  Saint Agatha was a chaste young virgin who resisted the advances of an ardent suitor, a magistrate. As punishment he had her horribly tortured including the severing of her breasts and her body rolled in hot coals. Minni di Sant’ Agata are individual Cassata cakes made to resemble breasts (complete with cherry nipple) alluding to Saint Agatha’s tortuous fate.

Minni di Sant’ Agata

Minni di Sant’ Agata

Don’t let the gruesome tale put you off, they’re actually delicious sponge cakes laced with liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese and a chocolate or vanilla cream.  A large savoury selection is also available at Prestipino Boutique and I hear their Pasta Alla Norma is a winner.

Minni di Sant’ Agata

Minni di Sant’ Agata cakes in Sicily

Organic Ice Lolly

Not strictly a café but a tiny shop with a counter onto Via Etnea sold me the best ice lolly I’ve ever had.  Sublime, natural, organic fruit ice-lollies and crushed ice drinks were on sale in every fruit flavour imaginable. I chose my favourite fruit – raspberry.  A really healthy way to keep cool. Well, until you have it dipped in white chocolate! That lolly was Out. Of. This. World.

Raspberry Iced Lolly dipped in White Chocolate

Raspberry Iced Lolly dipped in White Chocolate

Aperol Spritz

Catania Cafes have a very welcome savoury tradition which we discovered on ordering a late afternoon drink. Aperol Spritz is a bright orange aperitif made with Prosecco, Aperol (a bit like Campari) and soda water. Gin can be added for extra kick.

Aperol Spritz

A Refreshing Aperol Spritz, Catania

The Spritz cost about €7 each and came with a host of tasty nibbles; potato crisps, tomatoes, mini pizza dough balls, savoury biscuits and, of course, the Sicilian speciality Arancini (meaning ‘little oranges’ due to their colour and shape). Arancini are deep-fried rice balls stuffed with meat or mozzarella and tomato sauce or cheese and ham and are totally yummy. When we ordered we thought the drinks were a little pricey but with all those tasty treats thrown in they turned out to be great value.

Aperol Spritz and Snacks

 

Aperol Spritz and Snacks

Catania Hotel

Our Catania hotel was the Una Hotel on Via Etnea which, along with many of the bars in the city, offer a whole buffet of nibbles which you could help yourself to during the 2-3 aperitivo hours. In fact you could have skipped dinner altogether with the amount of food on offer; heaps of different canapés, salads, salami and cheeses. Perfect with a glass of Prosecco and the fabulous view from the hotel’s roof top terrace.

Check rates and availability for Una Hotel in Catania

Prosecco & Buffet at Una Hotel, Catania

Prosecco & buffet at Una Hotel, Catania

So, there you have it, Catania’s bar and café culture on a plate and there’s lots to like.  Are you a cafe person?  Which country’s café culture is your favourite?

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two cups of Italian coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many thanks to Celebrity Cruises for hosting my visit to Catania.  All views, opinions and new found love for cannoli are, as always, entirely my own.