What and where we ate in Santa Maria on Cape Verde’s Sal Island

The country of Cabo Verde, or Cape Verde in English is a small group of islands (10 that counts), situated approximately 450 kilometers from mainland Africa. The country gained independence from Portugal in 1975, and hence you’ll find a few Portugese influences in the local food. Since we visited Santa Maria on the island of Sal, the article will only cover that area of Cape Verde.

The local fare is quite hearty. The national dish is catchupa, a stew with vegetables, sweet potato and for instance, fish, pork, chicken, chorizo or all, or some of them. The national cocktail is, as in other former Portugese colony Brazil, the utterly delicious caipirinha. But instead of cachaca liquor, the local spirit “grogue” is used. The result however, is equally delicious. Since Sal and especially Santa Maria has a lot of tourists visiting, many restaurants are quite international in their offering, and you’ll find Italian restaurants, British pubs, Indian restaurants in addition to the local Cape Verdean food.

Below is what we had during our week in Santa Maria.


Leonardo Cafe

An Italian restaurant in Santa Maria town, quite close to the pier. We went there after craving pizza and red wine for our Sunday dinner. Leornardo Cafe delivered just that for decent prices, about €9/900 CVE for a pizza, and €4 for a glass of wine. I tried their pizza diavola with spicy salami.
Website (with menu)


La Tortue at the Morabeza Hotel
Since we stayed at the Morabeza Hotel, we visited La Tortue, that is located within the hotel a couple of times. Food quality is actually quite good with for instance a nice take on the local Catchupa stew as well as grilled meats and fish, international and local dishes, and desserts. Try their local cheeses with papaya jam if you want something local.
Website with menu


La Tortue tapas
La Tortue also have a tapas menu which we found was the best they served. Delicious mini burgers, Canary Islands “papas arugadas” potatoes, coconut prawns and a nice cheese board. Bonus tip: visit between 6.30-7.30 pm for a 50 percent discount on house wine, local beer and delicious caipirinhas. Added bonus is the tasty fried dough snacks that are served complimentary with drinks.


Les Palmiers at the Morabeza Hotel
The other of Hotel Morabeza’s main restaurants. Menu similar to that of La Tortue above. Prices are slightly higher. We had the catch of the day, which actually were four different choices of fish, including tuna. Prices were around €12. When you select a grill item from the menu (this also applies to the Morabeza Beach Club below) you will get a ticket that you bring to the grilling station where you will get your meat/fish/lobster and where you also pick your condiments such as rice, fried potatoes, veggies, sauces and mayo by yourself. The other a la carte dishes are brought to the table by the service staff though. Food quality is good, but nothing out of the ordinary, what you can expect from a 4-star resort.
Website with menu


Chez Pastis
The fancy restaurant on the island according to most people we met and what we also read about in advance. Since the restaurant is tiny – it’s located in an alley a block from the main street in Santa Maria, Chez Pastis is a place where you actually need a reservation. Numerous people walked in and were sent away since they hadn’t reserved a table during our visit. We made our through our hotel three days in advance. The restaurant is run by an Italian man and has both Italian dishes as well as a focus on Brazilian premium beef. We tried both the pasta as well as the steaks and everything was quite delicious. The food is rustic and not very refined, so it’s nowhere near a Michelin star kind of place, but tasty and quite reasonably priced compared to other restaurants in the area.
Website (no menu)


Morabeza Beach Club
The third place owned by Hotel Morabeza and only open for lunch. They serve quite straightforward food such as pasta, salads, club sandwiches and also the local grilled lobster. As mentioned above, you’ll receive a ticket when you order grilled food to pick up yourself. The lobster is quite pricy at about €35, but for that you’ll get a whole lobster and there was no problem to split it on two persons. Condiments for both was included. The other dishes are priced around €10.
Website (with menu)


Caipirinha bar
Situated on the beach, between Morabeza’s Beach Club and the Santa Maria pier, the feeling is quite Copacabanaesque. It might have something to do with the Brazilian flag, the guys playing volleyball nearby and that you sit down on plastic chairs in the sand and drink tasty caipirinhas (€3) and fried salty dough snacks.


Cretcheu
At the beginning of the Santa Maria pier, Cretcheu is situated. They serve both lunch and dinner featuring stunning views (from the second floor) of the Santa Maria Beach and serve a local Portugese:ish fare. We went for lunch and had the lobster club sandwich which was decently tasty, but not great for the price (€15). We also went for dinner and had a tasty filet mignon with Portugese style chips. Cretcheu does also serve the volcanic Fogo island Chã wine by the glass which is the only place we visited doing that. Since it’s quite pricey for Cape Verde (€6,5 a glass), this is a good chance to try it without having to order a bottle.


Odjo D’Agua restaurant
This was a pre-booked “Cape Verde night” through our tour operator Ving. I mention this though, since the food was really good. Probably the best we had on Cape Verde. I also heard that Odjo D’Agua run standard (open for anyone) Cape Verde buffets that I guess feature pretty much the same food. Despite the bad quality pic, everything was so tasty with fresh grilled tuna, chorizo, rice, sweet potatoes, grilled chicken and pork, salads and catchupa.
Website (with restaurant menus)

Recipe for homemade truffled spaghetti carbonara

The other day I went to have dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in Stockholm; Urban Deli. There, I found that they sold fresh Gotlandic autumn truffles. The lady working the deli part of Urban Deli kindly allowed me to have a sniff before I decided to go ahead and buy the tiny but great smelling truffle.

When that was done, the mission was to figure out what to cook with it. I was craving carbonara, and since truffle is good with eggs, and sort of mild flavours, I’d thought I give a truffle spaghetti carbonara a try. Below recipe is my go to for a ‘normal’ carbonara. So it’s very much usable without any truffle. :)

What you need for the carbonara (2-3 portions)

300 grams Spaghetti (I used Martelli)

4 good quality eggs (I only use the yolks)

About 100 grams of guanciale, pancetta or bacon (preferably in quite thick slices)

Cooking water

1 deciliter of grated pecorino cheese, or parmesan cheese

Olive oil

Salt and black pepper

1 black truffle (optional)

How to cook

1. To start with, add quite a lot of salt to water in a cooking pan and set to boil.

2. Combine the four egg yolks with about 3/4 of the grated pecorino/parmesan cheese. Add a bit of salt and some black pepper (but not too much so the truffle is overpowered). If you’re not using truffle, go wild with the pepper though. 

3. Slice guanciale/pancetta/bacon in to quite thick cubes. 

4. Cook the spaghetti al dente, before draining the pasta reserve a deciliter/half cup of the cooking water in a cup or similar.

5. Put the cubed pork in a cold pan before putting on heat. This will make the fat render, which you’ll need to make the creaminess. Fry until crisp and set aside.

6. Gently combine spaghetti, egg-cheese mix, cooking water and fried pork, including the fat from the frying, over low heat, continously folding/stirring so the eggs won’t set. When the spaghetti is coated with creamy sauce and most liquid’s gone, immediately remove from heat and serve.

Top with grated or shaved truffle if using, and an extra sprinkle of the remaining cheese. Enjoy!

Chips with dip 2.0

I’ve heard about versions of this chip and dip ‘dish’ throughout the years, but haven’t got myself to try it until recently. 

The flavours of this decadent little nibble are very Swedish – it’s sort of like a small condensed version of Midsummer. When you, after a day of schnaps and singing realise that there’s only leftovers remaining after the herring feast, and you’re having cravings after something nourishing. You find chips, you find some leftover sour cream, “oh, there’s löjrom (vendance fish roe) in that half empty bucket”, and you also find dill and chopped red onion. What to do? You scoop everything up with the chips you found, of course.

There you have it, (Swedish) chips 2.0. Below is a guidline recipe for a slightly less brutal version.

You need:

Kalix löjrom (Vendance roe from Kalix)

Finely chopped red onion

Sour cream/creme fraiche/smetana

Finely chopped dill

Salted potato chips (preferably a bit thicker)

Place a bit of every ingredient on nice sturdy potato chips (see picture above). Enjoy with a glass of bubbly or a good quality beer. 

Thomas Cook Airlines’ Sun Class (sort of a review)

Just got back from our trip to Cape Verde. We traveled there with Swedish tour operator Ving, which is part of Thomas Cook Northern Europe. Hence, we flew with Thomas Cook Airlines for our 7 hour trip (actually 6 hours, 40 minutes) to Cape Verde.

I will write more about the actual Cape Verde trip (and the food) in a separate post. UPDATE: Here it is – a guide to what to eat in Sal’s Santa Maria.

Anyway, as the cost for upgrading to Thomas Cook Airlines’ Sun Class was quite affordable (600 kr or about €60) return, we opted to go for it. What it gave us was basically another 10 cms of space and our own front of the plane-cabin. Otherwise food, personal tv screens and service was the same as regular economy. So this “review” pretty much covers that as well, for the interested.

Seats
The whole plane, an Airbus A330-300 felt quite new and clean. The personal screens were HD and was one of the best I’ve seen on any flight. You had to pay to access movies (35 kr/sek) and some of the other content. However using the inflight map, listening to music and viewing some of the other content was free. You could also plug in your own headphones and charge your USB-device through the screen which in my mind is a huge plus.

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Food and drink
I eavesdropped to a conversation about the food between one of my fellow passengers and one of the flight attendants. Apparently Swedish pre-fab food company Dafgårds handles the inflight food catering for Thomas Cook Scandinavia. The food was quite good for being on a plane actually. Everyone was served the same dish which on the outbound trip was chicken salad followed by pannbiffar (Swedish burger patties) with peppercorn-cream sauce and mash as well as a standard airplane dessert. Warm, really fresh (best on a plane I’ve had I think) bread was also served. On the return we had Skagen mix (it’s supposed to be shrimps in mayo – this was more likely surimi or something similarly awful), followed by a really (for an airplane) tasty beef stroganoff. The finale was a tasty but very sweet chocolate mousse.

Drinks were sold, and you could get a small bottle of Pommery Champagne for 90 kr, or a glass of nice New Zealand Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc (3 Wooly sheep) for 65 kr. There was also a less expensive wine as well as a couple of drink packages. We opted for the “Bon Voyage” with one bottle of Pommery Champagne, one bottle of whatever wine you prefered as well as snacks and water for 150 sek.

This meant we got pretty much a Intra-Europe business class experience (with more legroom) at the cost of roughly 1000 kr or €100 extra per person. It was surprisingly nice to be honest and for a total of almost 14 hours in the air, quite a bargain according to me. Now they just need to install wifi, and I’d be thrilled to fly Thomas Cook Airlines’ Sun Class again. :)

Stockholm’s best cinnamon bun (kanelbulle)?

Kanelbullar or cinnamon buns is probably Sweden’s most famous contribution to the world of sweets. A buttery cinnamony creation that at its best can elevate the simplest fika to something great.

So, you wonder where to find the best version of the kanelbulle in Stockholm. Well, of course opinions will be divided, and I feel slightly bad for recommending a chain. But the kanelbulle at Fabrique (a Swedish bakery chain even available in London, UK) is in my mind among the best I’ve tried. Buttery, soft yet firm and just plain delicious. They make good coffee too, which is the classic drink paired with a kanelbulle. 

Other great places for a kanelbulle

Magnus Johanssons Bageri in Hammarby Sjöstad. Haga Bageri at various places around town. NK department store’s bottom floor sells (at least used to) great kanelbullar.

Any other suggestion for a good quality kanelbulle in Stockholm? Let me know!

Fabrique’s website

Meatballs at Kvarnen

Just got back from a visit to Kvarnen, a classic Stockholm beerhall and restaurant situated on Södermalm. My expectations weren’t that high, but I actually got pleasantly surprised with my meatballs.

Swedish meatballs with cream sauce, mashed potatoes, pickled cucumbers and lingonberries. Four out of five meatballs were juicy and tasty, one was dry. Still probably the best meatballs I’ve had in a Stockholm restaurant. Tasted like homemade. A solid four out of five, to quote my cousin who also had the meatballs.

Isterband. A Swedish sausage made of pork, barley groats and potato. This one was quite good too. Served with beetroots, dijon mustard and mustard from Skåne, parsley and chives creamed potatoes, according to the menu.

(Excuse the bad lightning phone shot pics.)

Kvarnen’s website

Autumn weekend in the archipelago

Spent last weekend in the archipelago, probably for the last time this year, since Sweden’s getting a bit too cold for country home life during Autumn and Winter. For me that is.


As per usual, food was eaten. Above is a very tasty pork roast that we slow-roasted for almost three hours and served with a creamy risotto topped with fresh shaved truffle from Gotland. Almost mandatory charcuterie was enjoyed as well.


 Walking, champagne drinking and sauna on the island of Gåsö, a short boat ride from Saltsjöbaden or Älgö just outside Stockholm.


Dinner day two: a 9-hour cooked Bolognese with chipotle chilli, giving the sauce a smokey rich flavour. Buttered fusilli pasta and parmesan cheese too. So good.


A final eggs and bacon before heading back to the city.

One of the best burgers I’ve made

As you may or may not have noticed, I am (oh well, I guess most people are) a big fan of burgers. This weekend I made a really good one.

The best thing is, you too can do this at home. The workload’s pretty easy, what matters is the quality of the ingredients. I only used five different items: store bought brioche buns (from Garant if you’re in Sweden), store ground chuck roll, truffle mayo (splash in a few drops of truffle oil in a store bought or homemade mayo), finely sliced yellow onion, sliced pickled cucumber and cheese. I used Reypenaer, a Dutch cheese, to get that yellow melted burger cheese without having to resort to “plastic cheese”. Substitute it with eg. Cheddar if you can’t find Reypenaer.

How to make the (delicious) cheeseburgers

Form the beef patties, I made them quite thin – about 100 grams each, since I served it as a double burger. Add a generous sprinkle of salt on both sides.

Slice cheese, pickled cucumbers and onion. Make mayo. Toast brioche buns.

Grill or fry the burger patties until prefered doneness, I went for medium (check with grocer if meat can be served slightly undercooked first though if not cooking it through). Add cheese 

Smear mayo on a toasted bun, add onion and pickles. Add two burger patties on top of each others, cover with another mayo-smeared bun. Eat. I had it with fries and a glass of Zinfandel.

Bratislava, Slovak wine country and Vienna

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Bratislava’s beautiful Old Town, close to the decently good and well located Crowne Plaza Bratislava where I stayed.


Last weekend I visited the Slovak capital of Bratislava. I’ve been wanting to visit the city for quite a while, and finally it was time. The easiest way to get there, at least from Stockholm, is to fly to Vienna in Austria, situated about 70 kilometers from Bratislava. Bratislava actually have its own airport, but there aren’t that many flights, and no direct ones from Stockholm. So instead we flew Austrian Airlines, which was a nice airline with free drinks and friendly staff.


Bratislava castle. The Bratislava weather in mid September was in the high 20’s Celcius with about 28-29 degrees and great clear blue skies.

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Bryndzové Halušky is the national dish of Slovakia and consists of gnocchi like potato dumplings served in a creamy sauce of bryndza sheep’s cheese. The dish is additionally topped with fried bacon and in our case chives. A surprisingly delicious dish. We tried it at Zylinder restaurant in central Bratislava that was very nice.

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The second day we went to L’Olive at the five star Arcadia Hotel. This was supposed to be the highlight of the trip, but unfortunately the food was quite bad. It tasted like it had been kept warm for a couple of hours, and the experience was borderline disaster even though the staff were friendly, the wine good and the restaurant itself nice. But it all comes down to the food for me, and it wasn’t good, at all.

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One day we took a day trip to the small city of Modra in the foothills of the “Small Carpahtian” mountain range. The area is a wine region and we visited the Ludvik Winery for lunch and a wine tasting. We were also able to visit the vineyards, situated a couple of kilometers from the vineyard on a hill overlooking Modra.

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Hearty but delicious lunch at Ludvik Winery. Pumpkin puré, slow-cooked beef cheeks, vegetables and jus.


We tried five different of Ludvik’s wines. All were delicious, but the cabernet sauvignon rosé and the pinot gris were extra good. Had to buy all of them except for the grüner veltliner (also good, but not as spectacular as the others) with me home. Slovak wines were surprisingly delicious in my mind.



A quick visit to the mini-cellar at Ludvik (they have their big one outside of the winery).
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We also had time to try the delicous ice cream at Luculus in Bratislava.
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Last dinner in Bratislava. Another hearty but quite nice meal at Modra Hviezda. A large piece of deer served with purple potato mash and a cognac-caramel sauce. Not very refined, but totally edible, and a very nice atmosphere in the restaurant.

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Then a quick hop over to Vienna, Austria. A very nice thing in Vienna is that if you’re using the airport train, you can check your bags in at the train station (like in Hong Kong for instance), and then you won’t see your bag before you’re back home again. We had a couple of hours to spare before our flight from Vienna and was happy to not have to drag our bags around while exploring the Austrian capital.
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When in Vienna, eat Wienerschnitzel. We tried it at the famous Figlmüller that’s been serving up schnitzels for the last 110 years. The veal schnitzel was delicious, but I actually liked the cheaper pork schnitzel more. It was juicier and had more taste. Shame on me, I guess. The schnitzel came with no condiments, but we ordered the field potato salad that was really good.

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Another must do for me in Vienna is pastries. We had the above creation, a raspberry white chocolate cream sort of thing, and a delicious cappuccino at Vidoni, close to were the airport express leaves at Wien Mitte. It was really good and pretty much everything I hoped for in a Viennese café.

So, that was a weekend of eating in Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna, Austria. Both were very nice cities, and I can really recommend Bratislava. Inexpensive, beautiful and easy to navigate.