I LOVE tasting menus. I love the idea of multiple course dinners. I love to try dishes that I wouldn’t normally order. And I love when the restaurant pairs the menu with drinks! Not surprisingly, Stockholm has a lot of restaurants offering tasting menus, some costing as much as $1,000 US a person (!).
I decided to find one more reasonable for my trip (and have Dan take me there for my birthday dinner! ). Doing some research, I came across the winner – Pubologi! Pubologi is a hip gastropub right in Gamla Stan. Pubologi offers 5 or 7 course tasting menus of “modern nordic food” (plus complementary amuse bouche and tasting treats post dinner) and it pairs the food with either beer or wine. Sold! We made reservations online before we left (recommended). The cost of the 5 course tasting menu was 550 Swedish Crown and the beer pairing (beers from the Pang Pang Brewery) was an additional 355 Swedish Crown when we were there.
For our meals, we both went with the 5 course tasting menu. That was a good choice. The portions were LARGE for a tasting menu. There is no way that I could have finished the 7. For my drink pairing, I opted for the beer pairing! Dan went with the wine. Both were good and a substantial amount of alcohol.
Dan and I stayed at the historic Victoria Falls Hotel when we visited Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
The Victoria Falls Hotel is an old historic hotel located right in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The Grande Dame of Victoria Falls if you will. The nightly rates at this hotel are more than Dan and I usually spend on hotels, but I just could not come all the way to Victoria Falls and not stay here! So we bit the bullet. I thought it was quite luxurious and a worthy splurge!
The hotel is set in a dramatic location, with views of the spray from the Falls, the Victoria Falls Bridge and the Second Gorge from the main terrace. Truly stunning!!
Tourists have two options when visiting Victoria Falls, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World: Zimbabwe or Zambia. The Falls straddle the border between the two countries, and the famous border is marked but the photogenic Victoria Falls Bridge!
Zimbabwe has historically been the tourist favorite, offering the best views of the Falls and the closest accommodations. In recent years, however, political turmoil and crazy-inflated currency have lead many tourists to visit the Falls from Zambia, rather than Zimbabwe. Dan and I decided to visit both sides and started our tour in Zimbabwe, and I much preferred to Zambia!
Old and new Zimbabwe ads! I just love travel ads!
The good news is that Zimbabwe is steadily returning as a tourist destination. The politics largely avoided Victoria Falls in an effort to keep tourist dollars flowing into the country, and Dan and I really saw no sign of it on our trip. The people were very friendly and we felt totally safe. The only lingering effect of the past troubles is Zimbabwe’s lack of currency. As of April 2015, Zimbabwe uses the US dollar.
Dan and I had a brief, overnight layover in Johannesburg (“Jo’Burg”) when transferring between Victoria Falls and our safari near Kruger. We were hoping to go strait from the airport to Kruger, but the only flight from Livingstone, Zambia (one of the two airports near Vic Falls) got in too late to make the 5-hour drive, and we just made a night out of it!
Unfortunately we did not have enough time to see the city – and I really want to go back and explore more – but we did have enough time to enjoy the luxurious hotel 54 on Bath and have a delicious, delicious meal at Cube Tasting Kitchen.
Our afternoon started with 54 on Bath sending a luxury car to pick us up from JNB (private transfers are about $65 US…there is a cheaper train). Upon checking into the hotel, we were taken straight to our room, which was so lovely! The entire hotel is done in black and white theme and it is super nice! Our room was very large with a king bed, luxurious bathroom and included snacks and coffee! My favorites were the complementary sweet treats!
The hotel also has a Champagne bar with outdoor seating and some FABULOUS wall paper!
The wall paper. LOVE.
We spent the afternoon outside overlooking the pool and croquet course with a bottle of South African sparking wine and South African fried cheese. And I can’t forget, the flowers were beautiful!
After, we changed and went to a delightful 10-course tasting menu at Cube Tasting Kitchen, a BYOB restaurant about 10-minutes from our hotel that has freshly prepared meals by about 10 chefs. Its ranked very highly and you can make reservations online. We brought one bottle of wine for the two of us, but many tables brought two for two people given the large number of courses.
First course: light salad from the garden. Tomato, basil, garlic, olive oil, aubergine, mozzarella, mint, chili, vinaigrette film. This was simple, but so, so tasty!!!
Second course: antipasto interpretation. Artichoke, asparagus, cucumber, apple, elderflower. That arancini was awesome!
Third course: fish pie. Trout, white anchovy, spinach, pastry, lime. The anchovy (wrapped in the thing reminiscent of a birds nest) was surprisingly delicious!
Fourth course: dissolving textures. Pomegranate, sherbet, caviar. Woah. This was such a crazy combination. The chef suggested taking it like a tequila shot, with sugar on your hand, a shot of pomegranate and finished with the caviar sherbet. Mind blown.
Fifth course: pork. Smoked eisbein pie, slow cooked belly, crackling and onion, dehydrated bacon, leeks. How can you go wrong with pork?
Sixth course: beef. Braised flank, bone, herb moss, olives, mushroom, dried onion, fennel. Even with marrow, this was my least favorite course. Perhaps I was stuffed at this point.
Seventh course: refresher. Horseradish, celery.
Eighth course: cheese. Pasteis de queijo. Very Portuguese.
A “closed-door” restaurant, or “puerta cerrada”, topped my “must do” list when planning our trip to Argentina!
What is a closed door restaurant you may ask? Is it safe? Why a puerta cerrada? Based on my experience and research, closed door restaurants are part restaurant, part private dinner party, typically hosted in the chef’s home. Some are legal, some or not (apparently to save on taxes), but most are rumored to be delicious!
Doing research on Argentina, I came across the “closed door” idea in a number of food blogs and knew I must to try one. Next question, how do I make a reservation at a private restaurant in Argentina? Well, some are difficult to find and make reservations I am sure, but there are a number that are touristy friendly and highly rated on travel websites (TripAdvisor, food blogs, etc.). Some of these have online reservation systems. Others you can call a few days before and make a reservation.
We ended up choosing Casa Coupage in Palermo, primarily based on its ability to take online reservations. We booked our reservations about two weeks in advance online and arrived the night of at the “restaurant,” which was not in the chef’s home but rather what seemed to be an apartment-turned-large dining room. Casa Coupage was more restaurant than dinner party, but it was delicious nonetheless.
Besides the easy online booking, I appreciated the hosts’ attention to wine pairings. The dinner menu was a set 9 course tasting menu – all enjoyable! While set, the hosts did come out and ask about allergies, dislikes, etc. and were happy to tailor the meal to our palates. The dinner also had a optional add-on of a 5 or 7 course wine tasting. We went with the 7 course wine tasting. Brilliant choice! Like the menu, the hosts asked us why types of wine we liked and gladly exchanged any that we did not like at no cost.
Now on to the food!
Here’s the “closed door.” Not that exciting, although there is no sign and we did have to ring the bell.
First course: Appetizer – something foie gras based. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I do remember loving it! And it was so pretty!
Second course: confit rabbit wrapped in Param-style ham with dehydrated cherry tomatoes. Rabbit confit is surprisingly tasty!
Third course: baby squid stuffed with ground corn and red sausage, with a red hogao tomato sauce. My least favorite course.
Fourth course: deer tartare, crispy egg yolk, hazelnut cream. Side note – deer tartare must be all the rage in the culinary world, as I just had another deer tartare on a tasting menu in Stockholm!
Fifth course: marinated sirloin beef, peppers and onion marmalade, potato fritters OR sautéed trout, pasta salad, asparagus and string beans, strawberries. We both chose the beef, and YUM!
Sixth course: Argentine cheese tasting. I love Argentine cheese! And the accoutrements that come with it!
Seventh course: pre-dessert. Who doesn’t love a pre-dessert !? This was more of a palate cleanser than a dessert.
Eighth course: tasting of suspiro limeño, lavender, orange, chocolate and aguaribay. The lavender was my favorite!
And it ended with another dessert:
This came to a total of $490 AR per person, not including the 7 course wine pairing.
NOTE – Know that many closed door restaurants are only open a few days a week, most often Wednesday or Thursday through Saturday, with only one or two seatings a night. That being said, this is definitely something you will want to look into before arriving in BA if it tops your “must do” list.
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