Krakow – City Break

Last weekend saw me, my sister and my mum take our first trip abroad together, just the three of us. It’s crazy that in almost 30 years, we have only ever been to London together on a mother/daughter break. We wanted to go somewhere different and a few of mine and my sisters colleagues mentioned how good Poland, in particular Krakow was. With the help of dad, we managed to get a good deal on flights on a hotel. The hotel, Queen Boutique was in a good location, 15 minutes walk from the Old Town and 5 minutes walk from the Jewish Quarter. The train station was 20-25 minutes walk away and was how we got to the centre from the Airport. 9 zloty each and a straightforward journey and walk (if I can work out how to buy tickets and which stop to get off at, anyone can).

Beer Hall

Bierhalle – Pork Crackling and Lard, Sour Rye Bread Soup, Pierogi, Beef Stew with Potato Pancake

Groats

Gruzinskie Chaczapuri Restraunt – Georgian Dumplings, Breaded Pork Cutlet with Roast Potatoes, Goulash with Sauerkraut and Groats

Milk Bar

U Babci Maliny – Mixed Pierogi. Peramin Chill Out – Cocktails and Gin

We stayed there for four days (Saturday to Tuesday) and planned two days of activities before we got there. The difficulty was deciding which to do. If you’ve ever been away with me, you’ll know that I love food and when I’m abroad (especially somewhere for the first time) I like to try as much of the local cuisine as I possibly can. I probably ate more in these four days than I do normally in a week! A unique way of doing this is booking onto a food tour. I was able to find one with the help of Trip Adviser. Eat Polska offered a small group tour around Krakow sampling local cuisine. In four hours you would visit four different establishments and sample 12 different foods (plus a shot of vodka). We did this tour on the Monday and was worried that we would be repeating foods that we had already tried as we were having our meals in restaurants that did local cuisine (think goulash, beetroot soup, pierogi and sauerkraut). But we needn’t have worried. Our tour guide took us to places that we wouldn’t have considered (or I turned down as not authentic enough), very informative on the history of Polish cuisine and a true foodie. We were learning from each other on food trends, behaviours around food and I picked up some recipes. I surprised her with my knowledge on Polish cuisine (all learnt from my Polish Meat Free Feast). I strongly recommend booking a place on this tour (or look for food tours on your next city break). It’s not only about trying local cuisine but also about learning about the history and culture of the country. We visited one of the numerous food markets and the amount of seasonal fresh produce available was good. Made me envious of how much we take for granted having produce available all year round. We struggled with the cheeses and meats but still managed to eat all our cake 🙂 Our eyes may have been bigger than our bellies as we then stopped of at E.Wedels for a trio hot chocolate taster. You’ll be pleased to know that we were then in food comas for the rest of the day.

Food Tour

Eat Polska Food Tour (plus a Trio Chocolate Sampler)

Our tastings were:

  • Zapiekanka – Polish Street Food, pizza
  • Zalewajka – sour rye soup
  • Barszcz z pierogiem – red borscht / beetroot soup with dumplings
  • Obwarzanek – Polish pretzel
  • Sliwka wędzona – smoked prunes (yes…that is correct)
  • Śledź maties z kwaśną śmietaną, gryczano grzybowym poppingiem i dymką – matjes herring with sour cream, buckwheat popping and spring onion (a modern twist on traditional cuisine)
  • Stek Hanger na ziemniaczanym racuchu z boczkiem z sosem z boczniaków i pieczonego czosnku – Hanger steak on potato pancake with bacon and oyster mushrooms and baked garlic sauce (a modern twist on traditional cuisine)
  • Biała kasza gryczana smażona z warzywami, słonecznikiem i boczniakiem – Fried white buckwheat with vegetables, sunflower and oyster mushrooms
  • Puree ziemniaczane – Potatoe puree
  • Warzywa z czosnkowo – ziołowym masłem – Vegetables with herbs & garlic butter
  • Wódka Baczewski – shot of Baczewski vodka
  • Polish cheeses: – twaróg – quark, oscypek – smoked sheep’s milk cheese, koryciński – cow’s milk cheese, klagany – mild cow’s milk cheese, homiłki – cheese balls with mint
  • Coldcuts platter: schab – pork loin, salceson – brawn, boczek – pork belly, kiełbasa – sausage, pasztetowa – spreadable pate
  • Vodka chasers : smalec – lard, chrzan – horseradish, ogórki kiszone – sour pickles, sour dough bread
  • Kremówka – cream cake

Our second booked activity was a visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Although my mum was a bit reluctant to go on this tour, we felt we needed to as it is part of our history. Although very emotional, the tour and attraction have been done in a respectful manner. It is something that you would need to do if visiting Poland. It does take a day to visit and I would suggest that you only do the one trip in the day. Some tours offer both this and a visit to the salt mines but personally, I think that it is too much for one day. However, I would like to go back and visit Krakow again to go to the Salt Mines and visit some of the other attractions that we were unable to do. We managed to walk around the Castle and visit the Underground Museum. 

Sights

Before getting to Krakow, I had a mental list of the different foods that I wanted to try and I managed to sample them all. On our first day we had lunch in a beer hall where I got to try sour rye bread soup with white sausage. In the evening I tried Georgian beef stew with groats and sauerkraut. I learnt from the food tour that groats is buckwheat and is a well used grain in Poland. The following evening we visited a milk bar which was different. The menu consists of cheap, traditional foods. The room is set up with long benches and stools and is more of a self service. Orders are placed at the till and you then wait for your number to be called. I tried to re-create my homemade Polish feast and tried the beetroot soup and the peirogi three ways. Another thing I learnt from the food tour was that the beetroot borscht I’d made is known as Hungarian borscht in Poland (explains why the beetroot soup was more of a broth in the milk bar). Our final meal in Poland was in the Jewish District where we enjoyed a set menu. I finally got round to trying the last item on my mental food list, bigos stew!

Momo

Momo Cafe – Pumpkin Soup, Bigos (Hunters Stew), Mama’s Tea.

Has it really been a year?

A few weeks, Mr W and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. We can’t believe that it has been a year since we said ‘I do’. It’s crazy. Although it has only been a year, I am starting to feel like ‘an old married woman’. Only because I was the first of my group of friends to get married and now I have one friend who has passed the 100 day countdown for her wedding (the hen party is in five weeks!!!!) and I have another friend who has recently gotten engaged (congratulations!!). It seems like ages ago when I was doing this and now I’m offering the advice (the bride is always right).

Mr W and I spent our ‘actual’ anniversary in the Lake District. Mr W proposed to me in Keswick and we decided to spend a couple of days back there enjoying the ‘country life’ (enough to feel like we were having a relaxing break away from the city without feeling stuck in the middle of nowhere). We’ve always loved going to Keswick and this time we made a point of eating at and drinking in places we’ve never been to. The highlight for us was a first night meal at The Square Orange. A very small bar that serves tapas and pizza. We didn’t realise until the next morning (after talking to our B&B owner) that we had stumbled across a local hidden gem. Well worth a visit if you are ever in Keswick. They don’t take bookings so you have to hang around and grab a table as soon as it is vacated.

But the highlight of our anniversary celebrations was a meal at Manchester House. This is somewhere I’ve been wanting to go for ages and couldn’t think of a better excuse to go. We went for lunch on a Saturday and was given the option of two menus, a 14 course taster menu or a 10 course taster menu (which can then be broken down into a two course menu). We both decided to go for the 10 course taster menu. Although it is still a lot of courses, we figured that if this was our only visit, we wanted to experience as much as possible (without being sick). You also get the option of having a wine flight with it but I felt I wouldn’t be able to finish the meal so stuck to the one glass of wine. Below is the menu we had.

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The first three courses were served to us on one board which made the fact it was 10 courses a little less daunting. The Razor clam was served with a mushroom consommé which was presented in a champagne flute. Of these three, the nori rice cracker was our favourite. The poached scallop was one of the ‘starters’ and was lovely. The crispy texture of the chicken wing skin complimented the soft, velvety scallops. The rose veal tartare was the last of the ‘starters and was probably our least favourite of the two. Mr W and I have never had tartare before and we found the texture too chewy but we loved the fermented turnips. The next two courses were the ‘mains’ and were both delicious. As we were eating the poached turbot, we both agreed that it was our favourite course so far. Then we got the lamb, which was cooked three ways and was a close contender. The next course was the first of the desserts and was a winner for me. It was a small piece of sweet potato cake and sweet potato crumb with different flavours of orange, in the form of a parfait, a jelly and a gel with some sugar decorations. The next dessert was flavours of vanilla, chocolate, lychee and caramel with milk crisps. The final course of macaroons and madeleines nearly finished us off but we were determined to eat everything (which, I’m not afraid to admit, we did).

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If you are a bit of a foodie, I would definitely recommend a visit to Manchester House. I was worried that we were going to one of the few tables in there but by 2pm, the restaurant was nearly full. The kitchens are open plan and Aiden Byrne was helping plate up the starters. Although the service was very good, I liked that it wasn’t in your face. You could see that the different members of staff were there to help different areas when needed.

Prague (and maybe some baking)

The other week, Mr W and I were lucky enough to have a week off work and spent a few days in Prague. It was nice to have a break from work (we hadn’t had more than a few days off since our wedding in May) and it had been on my list for cities to visit for a while. We spent our days walking round the city and taking in the sights. On our first full day we spent the morning walking along the river and taking a stroll through some of the parks before heading to Prague Castle and tackling Petrin hill. We were lucky we chose a clear day to do this as the views were amazing (the weather turned after this).

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The view from Petrin Hill

The next day, as it was raining, we decided to tackle some of the museums. We had three in mind, a couple were mentioned in our guide and the other Mr W had found on the internet. Our first museum was Muzeum Karla Zemana, a film special effects museum. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what to make of this when Mr W told me he wanted to go but I actually quite enjoyed it when I started wandering round the building. It was interesting seeing how he was able to achieve what he did before computers. Next on our list was a Gastronomy museum that Mr W had seen mentioned on Trip Advisor. Turned out, this no longer exists and is currently a building full of rubble. I was slightly disappointed by this as a museum about food sounded like my idea of heaven (well, to an extent). The final museum on our list was a beer museum. Considering beer is so cheap and plentiful in Prague, we felt like it was a tourist thing we needed to do. We went to the address and stepped into the pub (we had read there was a pub as well). We decided to sample some beers before we ventured into the museum. I chose two fruit beers and Mr W chose some more ‘traditional’ beers. It transpired that Mr W preferred my fruit beers, which is a first.

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After drinking up, we ventured next door to what we thought was the museum. Turned out there was no museum, just the pub. Let’s just say, we weren’t feeling inspired to try and find any other museums with our current success rate. But that didn’t put a dampener on our city break. We visited a number of cafes/restaurants and pubs where we tried food , beer and home-made lemonade. I have come back with dishes that I want to try and re-create (potato soup and carlsbad dumplings). We got the chance to visit one of our friends from University who took us to his favourite cafe and suggested a brewery near his work that made the ‘best beer in Prague’. Now, I’m not a big beer drinker but even I managed to have two glasses. One thing we didn’t manage was learning any of the language (no matter how hard we tried).

Over the last couple of days, I have managed to fit in a little baking. On Wednesday I made some Peanut Butter Oreo Brownies to take into work. I’ve been wanting to make these for a while after buying some oreos that had a peanut butter filling but wanted a reason to make them. One of our managers was leaving on Thursday so that seemed a good reason to get them made. If I was to make them again, I would consider making actual peanut butter brownies and adding the oreos to that. In this instance, I followed a Cookies and Cream Brownie recipe from one of my Lorraine Pascale cookbooks. Here’s a link to the recipe online.

I also made another batch of the stem ginger flapjacks as I still had some stem ginger in the fridge (I also gave the pearl barley recipe another go. I love the heat and flavours. It’s becoming a go to recipe when Mr W is out and it’s tea for one). I omitted the dark chocolate topping as I wanted to give some to my mum and dad to try. I cut the flapjack into 12 pieces this time which meant the size was a lot more manageable. I was also able to get a picture of them before Mr W got his hands on them (considering he doesn’t really like them….)

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