Eat Street, Street Food, Poble Sec

L1103226Yesterday I went to the inaugural ‘street food festival’ organised by BCN Mes and held at CREC in Poble Sec. The reason I am using inverted comas is that the majority of the food stands have a bricks and mortar location in Barcelona.  Which is unlike street food at say Broadway Market (London) or Street Food Thursday (Berlin). All this is relevant because the line of people waiting to get into Eat Street is 3 people wide and two blocks deep (Barcelona blocks are big). It’s epic.L1103221Which is what I am thinking when I approach the girl with the worst job in the world (explaining to the sweaty hungry people that “No, she can’t let them in because there is a crowd control issue.”) I’ve got two hours before the twins are up from their afternoon nap, tentatively I explain that I write a blog and could I please get in to take some pictures? “Press was at 13:30.” she turns away. I bite my lip and hover a moment until an actual photographer turns up, towering above the both of us, pointing his massive lens menacingly at her and waving his press card – “your choice, let me in or you don’t get covered.” He’s obnoxious, he wears her down, I duck in behind him.
Eat StreetAnd so it is, sometimes another person’s hard time is another’s lucky break. Good thing too. I am amazed at the turn out. At how ready everyone seems to be for something just like this. And why wouldn’t they be, everyone else has been doing the food truck thing for ages?  (I get the impression that setting up a food truck or a temporary stand at one of the many markets may be difficult?  And perhaps the food culture in Barcelona is too ingrained compared to that of Berlin which in the last few years has exploded in the most impressive way?) Read more of this post

Somewhere, Cafe, Sant Cugat del Vallès

Somewhere CafeMy Jordanian father once told me a story; we were visiting Vienna when I was a toddler and we were refused service at a restaurant because of me. Because I was a child. “But there is a dog in here!” he protested (Remember I said he is Jordanian, so letting in a dog and not a child is kind of carazy!). “Yes, dogs are allowed. Children are not.” Discussion closed.  Although children at mealtimes can still be a contentious issue in Northern Europe, in Southern Europe and Spain in particular it’s no big deal.  Where are your children supposed to be if not with you?  And no, you are not expected to wait until they are 18 before going out to eat.  Which means there isn’t really this niche of “children friendly” restaurants.  All people, of all sizes and ages are welcome in all restaurants.

SomewhereEvery now and then though, there is a place that makes special accommodations for little people.  Like Somewhere Cafe in San Cugat.  They’ve gone ahead and made a small corridor full of windows and stacked with colouring print outs and tubs of crayons.  From the moment I walked in with all my three, that’s where they remained.  Poking their faces through the windows when they needed to be fed before getting back to the business of colouring in. Read more of this post

American Baking at Espai Sucre, Born-Ribera,

Kitchen Aids at Espai SucreMichelangelo purportedly said: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to release it.” That is how I feel about discovering a new city. I know that my city is somewhere in there but I have to set about discovering it, teasing out the locals that will stand out for me.

In Berlin, I could set out onto its wide streets to discover it.  Barcelona is infinitely more complex.  It’s congested with independent shops and restaurants, the constantly new vying for attention with the old (take Can Culleretes , opened as a pastry shop in 1786 and still listed in Frommers with 3 stars).  All this to say, I’ve been spending considerable time trawling the internet to pin down a starting point for my explorations.

That is how I found myself on Espai Sucre’s website.  I didn’t think I could manage an evening sampling (no babysitter yet) their dessert only menu but – Hello? What’s this? An American Baking Course? Was my Spanish good enough? – My thought barely had a chance to form before it was abruptly (is there any other way?) interrupted by twin 1.  I impulsively clicked “buy”.

Betina's Fondant CakesI’d signed myself up for a 10 hour course in American Baking (which I know), in Spanish (which I insist I understand).

On the day, I’m 15 minutes late (of course, I think this may be a genetic problem).  I join the rest of the punctual group who are already immersed in the business of taking notes and asking questions.  Our teacher, Betina Montagne, speaks rapidly and with visible passion.  She is still excited by pastry after more than 20 years in the business and if you don’t believe it, the dangling cupcake earrings she wears bear further proof.

Mirella at Espai SucreBefore I’ve had a chance to cease perspiring (summer’s still going strong here, even at 8:30 in the morning) we are invited to the kitchens.  Where an army of red Kitchen Aids man the counters. Betina asks us to turn our attention to the brownie recipe…and we are off!  We are asked to double up with the person closest to us.  My partner is Mirella, a girl from Barcelona who is studying to become a chef.  She is vibrant and bubbly.  If she is annoyed at being paired with the foreigner, she doesn’t show it, instead she gives me her apron when she notices I haven’t brought one and that in the war of cocoa powder and Suzy – the cocoa is winning.

Kitchen Aids at Espai Sucre Read more of this post

New! Bite Club, Street Food Party on the Spree

Bite ClubThe upcoming Bite Club Berlin has prompted me to do something I’ve yet to do on Foodie in Berlin – write about something I haven’t been to yet.  But I have a feeling… “The way you know about a good melon.”

It’s logical really, think what a success Street Food Thursdays at Markthalle Neun has been (4,954 likes on Facebook!).  Now add a body of water, music, balmy weather, ropes of naked light bulbs and the persnickety tweaking (in a good way) of Tommy Tannock and ‘fireball’ Miranda Zahedieh and you are bound to get something really really good.  That you wouldn’t want to miss!

I’m travelling and won’t be able to make the first one but you better believe that when I return to Berlin – this is where you will find me. Read more of this post

The Thai Market, Outdoor, Wilmersdorf

Nose to tail eating Thai styleBerlin is a city of extremes. On the one hand, you’ve got bureaucrats, trying to out best each other at making you squirm.

Even postal workers are in on it, you should have seen the maniacal happiness in the eyes of the postal worker while I ruffled around in my wallet to find my driver’s license.

“You’re not getting that parcel without your passport. No point looking in there – I need your passport – that’s the only way.”IMG_4128

I don’t take the bait (any more). I calmly (kind of) step out of line and take my time, without the heckling. Find it and line up again. Nor do I take (visible) offense when the same postal worker peers at the license – then me – repeatedly as if I am buying a gun, rather than picking up my Amazon book.IMG_4124

So in this context, I am dumbfounded – no other word will do – to find a place like the Thai Market. Where women (I didn’t see a single man cooking) sit cross-legged and cook. Where everything is either €5 or  €2.50.  Where dishes are washed in pails of water.  Fried chicken languishes in the sun.  Hands don’t get washed for the 5 hour duration that the women are cooking.IMG_4123

Of course if the horse meat scandal in Europe and the rat meat scare in China have taught us anything, it’s that we are  not as in control as we would like to believe, no matter all those inspectors going around swabbing door handles.  (Did I ever mention that fending off said health and safety inspectors and bribing her with brownies and granola was one of my jobs in my other life?). Read more of this post

Big Stuff Smoked BBQ, Arte Sucre (Macarons) & More, Markthalle Neun, Kreuzberg

Big Stuff Smoked BBQSylee suggested we meet at Markthalle Neun on Saturday.  “I’m obsessed with the place!” she enthused.

It’s evolved considerably since my last visit.  The USP’s of the stands are distinct from one another and reel the Markthalle Neun consumer mercilessly hook, line and sinker.The pulled pork sandwich At Big Stuff Smoked BBQ, there is a line of hungry punters wrapped around the corrugated shack, as tinny Charleston music blares from speakers located somewhere behind the chicken wire that makes up a big part of the shop.  The Italian girl at the cashier is wearing a flat cap, her sweater sleeves are pushed to the elbows exposing a full arms worth of shirt sleeves – she looks like she should be hitching a ride on the back of a Ford Model T truck circa 1920.  I inch ever closer to the guy with the black latex gloves pulling pork apart for the sandwiches.

Sadly for me, Big Stuff has had a good day and they have sold out of everything except the pulled pork sandwich, so I miss out on the matt aluminum tray loaded with mounds of sauerkraut and squirts of bbq sauce (€12 for the regular, €16 for the large).  I get the pulled pork sandwich (€5.50) and a side of smoked potato (€1).  It’s good.  Not shredded to the point of resembling candy floss the way I experienced at Pitt Cue in London but delicious in a less complicated way.  My mother has her sandwich with a glass of ale from Heiden PetersA beer from HeidenpetersI appreciate that the brains behind Markethalle Neun have been considerate enough to provide ample seating, with feisty coloured plastic chairs so I don’t have to scan the hall long before finding somewhere to sit.Mini macarons from Arte SucreLayla choses to get her sugar fix from Arte Sucre in the form of mini macarons (heaven preserve us from trending sweets: whoopie pies, cake pops, marshmallows – I mean you!). As I try to identify and retrieve the perennial coffee flavoured one, the French woman selling them begins to rattle off flavours: lemon, cassis, chocolate, mandarin mint…

Mandarin with mint? I think, intrigued as I immediately commandeer that flavour and take half a bite.  The other half I hand to Sylee.  “These are good right?”.

Her eyes grow round. “Really good.” she agrees. I turn on my heel and return to Arte Sucre, this time to buy a pretty box of choux buns (6 for €7.80) to go with our excellent coffees from Kantine 9.

Choux pastry buns Read more of this post

The Walk, Dubai


The Walk, Dubai

I’m in Dubai.

The winter made me do it. Not that I mind winters, in fact I used to like them. The lazy dark days, over-eating, watch some TV, take in some shows. It was good. But it isn’t anymore. Not with 3 kids, two of which are babies that have to be dressed up like Michelin men to brave the weather then stripped down completely to cope with the central heating.  And not with the hypochondria I’ve developed on their behalf, every time I dropped Layla off at kindergarten I would look at the other kids, coughing, wheezing, like a geriatric ward on uppers.  Emirati mall

So Dubai. 24ºC and sunny.

You would think it was a no brainer decision but I had my doubts.  I always thought of Dubai as coarse.  A male centric blemish on the earth (you can see The Palm from space.)

But who can argue with 24ºC and sunny?IMG_1417

We land in Abu Dhabi because there is no direct flight to Dubai from Berlin (No surprise there then).  Passport control is staffed entirely with women, wrapped in black, their pinned up hair making their  shrouded heads look conical and alien.

Avocado tartine at Le Pain QuotidienThen there are the feet and the big man toes.  In Europe if you’ve seen a man’s toes, it goes without saying you’ve seen a lot more of him besides. Not in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Dishdashas swish this way and that, backless sandals scrape against the pavement (Arabs are famous for the shuffle walk) exposing toes the size of limes, tufts of hair sprouting generously beneath the nail beds.  Their magpie nature means that the sandals are adorned with all manner of shiny accessories. Read more of this post

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