La Piazzetta – Los Cristianos

We had a lovely time on Saturday night, but it very nearly didn’t happen due to total confusion.

After parking in the harbour, we walked up to the corner of Avenida de Suecia to La Piazzetta Brasserie and I said we have a reservation for 5 people at 8.00pm.  The waiter said NO we are fully booked unless I set up a table but it is inside.  I said, I am sure we have a reservation and we both looked in the diary.  Nothing!

We ordered a drink and were given a menu which looked lovely, but expensive and I whispered to Jim, there isn’t a single pizza listed here and pizza is why we have chosen this place.  So Jim walked outside to see if there was a pizza place close by and sure enough, Olga, Lidija and Larry were sitting next door, they had been there 20 minutes and were wondering what had happened to us.  So we picked up our drinks and joined them.

It turns out that both restaurants belong to the same group and while the Brasserie is on the corner the pizzeria where we were meeting is next door.

It has to be said that the location while central is next to a busy roundabout and I can’t imagine sitting outside during the day when a ferry has just landed, but at night it was only the local traffic and taxis that passed by.

A waiter came for our order which took a while as there is a huge choice and while a normal pizza is 33cm they also do an 80cm with up to 3 different toppings for groups to share. These are priced between €20 to €25 so would make a cheap night out for 3 or 4 people.

As it turned out we all wanted something different.  And because the Kew’s don’t have enormous appetites (must be an age thing) we brought home half a pepperoni and half a hierro because they were so delicious.  Mine, the Hierro was mozzarella, gorgonzola, pear and nuts. Larry had some sort of veggie pizza, Lidija also vegetarian went for a parmigiana and Olga had a tasty pasta with tomatoes.  Everything was delicious, except the Sangria which for €16 only had apples and no other fruit. And those drinking it said it tasted better at the end of the night when we poured in our freebie Lemoncello shots.

There was a large choice of puddings, I don’t have a sweet tooth and have to be in the right mood for a pudding so stuck with a barraquito while the others had profiterole, cheesecake, panna cotta and tiramisu.  They all agreed they were very sweet but still ate every scrap.

The whole time we were there the waiters and waitresses rushed around, tables emptied and were filled immediately and there was a constant queue lining the street to get a seat.  So while we had not heard of this place, others certainly had and it is extremely popular.  I can see why.

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Harriets Tea Rooms Los Cristianos

This week I thought it was cold (I know tourists think the weather is fantastic) but we locals have changed to the winter duvet, are digging out boots and I even heard someone say they wished they could get winceyette sheets. Personally, I wouldn’t go that far but you get the picture, for those of us who live here, winter has arrived and we feel the need for familiar, warming, good old British grub.

With that in mind, I suggested to the Gang that we check out Harriet’s English Tea Room and Restaurant near the bus station in Los Cristianos.  Christine wasn’t ecstatic as like me she remembered it from years ago when we used to do K9 fundraising events there and everything was brown and none too clean, you had to fight buckets and mops when you visited the ladies’ loo and the entertainment was provided by the guy fluent in nonsense who has a column in Euro Weekly and has lived on the reputation of a hit song back in 1968 which didn’t even get to number 1.

But getting away from the back story, we decided to give it a try and I booked a table and had a nice reply from Stuart who I believe is the owner.

We arrived and were greeted by two waitresses, Karen and Danielle. One checked our booking and the other showed us to our table. The inside was nothing as we remembered but bright, spotlessly clean and although there were TVs around, the sound was turned down and all we had was the eye candy of Alvin Stardust and David Essex (no complaints there). ✔️

Andrew headed to the loos and said they too were very clean, so all our preconceived perceptions had been groundless.  Now for the food. ✔️

We are an awkward lot, so ordering our drinks, it was… Can I have a big glass as I don’t like highball glasses?  Can I have no ice but I do want lemon. Can I have one ice cube and no lemon? Oh, and can I have a straw?  Nothing was any trouble and our order was exactly as we wanted. ✔️

We placed our food orders, and once again I was awkward.  I fancied the Cheese and Onion Quiche but not hot as I don’t like hot pastry I chose the boiled potatoes to go with it and Danielle suggested instead of mixed veg maybe I fancied a salad. That was a good choice and I scoffed the lot which as anyone who has read my restaurant write-ups knows I always leave half to take home for Tito. But this time he was unlucky! ✔️

Christine opted for the Scampi and asked for extra mayo.  Apart from it being huge, there is no way she could eat it all, so Andrew helped out! She was given a pot of mayo so she was more than happy.  She has been known to take her own mayo and ketchup with her rather than fight with those silly sachets but even those on this occasion presented no problems as scissors are provided. What a great idea! ✔️

Andrew went for bangers and mash and I swear they must know him as he was asked did he want extra gravy.  Again if anyone knows him he likes his food swimming in gravy so he was a happy bunny and Jim chose the cottage pie with cheese topping.

For pudding I had a barraquito, Christine had another vodka and the boys had Sticky Toffee Pudding with ice cream and Rhubarb and Apple Crumble with, of course, custard.  It has got to be a first but the portions were so huge that Jim brought half of his home and will be having it again tonight as it was so good. ✔️

Overall we had a brilliant night, everything just hit the right spot.  Service was warm and friendly and outstandingly efficient. The food was tasty, fresh and tasted homemade and prices for what we had were no more than we are used to paying.  So after what we thought may be a bit of an iffy night out we all declared Harriets was certainly going on our MUST RETURN list, which only a few places manage to get on. ✔️✔️✔️

I really would recommend a visit if you are in Los Cristianos and want good quality food, but please leave room for our little gang to get a seat when we fancy someone other than us women making real homemade food.

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Las Tablas de San Andrés, Icod de los Vinos

Las Tablas de San Andrés is a crazy tradition that is celebrated every year on 29th November in the town of Icod de los Vinos, in the north of Tenerife.  Whilst it leads up to the celebration of when the bodegas open their doors for visitors to sample the new wines of the region, by comparison, the wine tasting is quite a staid event even though vast quantities of vino can be involved.

In essence, the “tablas” is a celebration of the customs of ordinary folk in years gone by, which has been adapted to present day and involves sliding down the town streets on your bum and hoping you reach the end in one piece.

The name San Andres might sound religious but the celebration itself has nothing to do with the church or religion and is just an easy way to remember when it takes place.

To understand the origins of the “tablas” it helps if you know that the terrain of the municipality like many on the island ranges from high up in the mountains all the way down to sea level and Icod is typical. It is also worth bearing in mind that shortly after the Conquest, the first vines were planted in Tenerife in 1497 and wine production commenced.

Tenerife became the largest producer of quality wines in the Canary Islands and there was a huge demand in Europe. To meet this demand, winemakers would take wood from the forests to the workshops where casks would be made. For decades the barrels were cleaned with seawater as the salt neutralised the acids present in the wood.

In the absence of adequate transport, the wood travelled down the steep streets either by rolling or fastened to a large plank. To avoid accidents branches were used to steer the precarious route and as brakes.

With this chaotic picture in mind, it is easy to see how many of those involved in accompanying the barrels found it amusing and exciting. And so the tradition was born…

Despite the passage of time and improvements in transport, the ritual is repeated on the same date and just gets crazier with each year that passes.  Everyone joins in. They start them early in the north and little kids make their first intrepid attempt as they slide carefully with mum and dad close to hand in case of an accident. The pre-teens move to the steeper streets getting braver as they get older until you are finally left watching the teenage boys as they career faster and faster down the twisting streets until they end up, hopefully in a pile of tyres and with no bones broken or macho pride bruised.

This fiesta takes place not only in the village of Icod de los Vinos but also in La Guancha, where the street along which people slide down is winding and provides even more of a spectacle.

All the excitement makes you hungry so it is fortunate that the local bars have set up stalls and braziers selling roast chestnuts.  For me, a reminder that winter has arrived and Christmas is just around the corner. So if you are on the island, make sure you add the event to your diary as this unique tradition should not be missed.

Roasted-Chestnuts

Images courtesy of Ayuntamiento de Icod de los Vinos
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Meatballs in Pasta Sauce

These old-fashioned meatballs are garlicky and have a rich, meaty flavour. A generous helping of breadcrumbs helps them stay moist and succulent as they fry.

Meatballs
2 slices of bread
2 tbsp milk
500g minced beef
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, chopped fine
Grated nutmeg (about ¼ teaspoon)
Good pinch salt
Dried mixed herbs (optional about ¼ teaspoon)
Olive oil

Rip the bread up, crust and all, into smallish pieces and toss into your food processor. Blitz to make breadcrumbs.

Soak in milk for 5 minutes. Squeeze out excess moisture and place in a bowl with beef, garlic, onion, nutmeg and dried herbs if using. Season with salt and pepper, then, using your hands, knead the mixture until smooth.

Form into balls and place on a tray. Cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook meatballs, turning until browned. You want to fry them on all sides over relatively high heat to form a good crust. By the time all the sides are brown, they should be just about cooked on the inside. Transfer to a plate.

The meatballs can be made in advance and frozen, so you can cook them whenever you like. They go great with pasta sauce topped with parmesan cheese.

This is my recipe for a tasty sauce

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tin tomatoes
Good squeeze tomato puree
100 g Mozzarella cheese
A good sprinkling of Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a frying pan over low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.

Pour over the meatballs and scatter with the mozzarella, then top with Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted and is golden. Serve with garlic bread.

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Winters here – Start Baking!

Although the weather is still lovely here in Chayofa, having lived in the UK for so long I think it is inbred that winter months to me, mean hot puddings. Once I start baking, because I hate rummaging in the back of my store cupboard for something just to use a small amount, I make several puddings and biscuits to store in the freezer.

Flapjacks

Ingredients
4 oz Margarine
3 oz Golden Syrup
3 oz Sugar (brown if you have it)
8 oz Porridge Oats

Combine the margarine, syrup and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the ingredients have melted and dissolved.  Stir in the oats and mix well. Turn into a well-greased shallow cake tin and press down and level with a palette knife

Bake for approx 25 minutes in a preheated oven at 175 degrees for chewy or 190 degrees for crunchy.  Leave to cool for 5 minutes then mark into fingers.  Once cold cut and remove from tin.

I believe these freeze well for up to 4 weeks. I have never managed to find out as ours rarely go beyond one week.

Flapjacks

Syrup Sponge

Ingredients
3 tablespoons golden syrup
6 oz self-raising flour
1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder
6 oz margarine
1 large egg
6 oz sugar

If you are going to steam this, you will need a 2-pint pudding basin, well-buttered, greaseproof paper and foil.  I can´t be bothered with all of that so I bake my puddings.

First butter the basin, then add 3 tablespoons of golden syrup. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder, softened margarine, egg, and sugar.  Using a whisk or a large fork and lots of elbow grease, beat the mixture until it’s thoroughly blended. Then spoon into the basin on top of the syrup.

Syrup Sponge

Syrup Sponge

Place in a preheated oven at 175 degrees for approx 20 minutes or until brown on top and firm to the touch.

Syrup Sponge

If you are going to steam, place the sheet of foil over the greaseproof paper, make a pleat in the centre, and place it on top of the pudding. Tie with string and steam for 2 hours, checking the water level halfway through.

Upside Down Cake

Ingredients
4oz golden syrup
Pineapple rings, or Peach Halves or any other fruit of your choice.

For the cake
4oz margarine
4oz sugar
4oz self-raising flour
1 egg

Lightly butter a gratin dish. Spoon the golden syrup over the base. Arrange the fruit in a pretty pattern.

Upside down cake

Beat together all the cake ingredients until light and fluffy, then spoon the mixture over the fruit and level the top.

Preheat the oven to 180C and Bake for 20-30 minutes. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out.

Upside down cakeI like to serve with cream

Upside down cake

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